The Ambassador in Cuba (Guggenheim) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 761

Sir: I have the honor to report that the Cuban Supreme Court yesterday rendered decisions rejecting three recourses of unconstitutionality seeking to establish the illegality of the present executive and legislative branches of the Government.

In the first case, which was an appeal brought by Dr. Herrera Sotolongo against the constitutionality of the Emergency Tax Law of January 29, 1931, the Court held that the complainant had not proved [Page 65] any concrete injury. The other two appeals, also directed against the Emergency Tax Law, had been defended by Dr. Cosme de la Torriente, and were rejected on the ground that the Court was not competent to determine the illegality of the constituted powers of the Government. The texts of these decisions have not yet been made public, but they are reported by the newspapers to contain interesting dicta regarding the legal status of the amendments to the Constitution adopted in 1928. According to the press only one justice, Juan T. Edelmann, dissented from the Court’s decisions.

While by no means unexpected, the refusal of the Supreme Court to declare the Government unconstitutional deprives the opposition elements of their last hope that the Machado administration might be supplanted by peaceful and legal methods. The only alternative would be for them to wait for the enactment of the proposed constitutional reforms and the elections in November, 1932. This, however, they have repeatedly announced that they will not do and it therefore seems likely that there will be a resumption in the near future of the anti-Government activities which caused so much uneasiness during the early months of this year.

The actions of the Government already indicate that this is what it expects and the strong measures it has adopted may reasonably be interpreted as a challenge to its adversaries. It has announced that its tolerance has reached its limits; censorship of the press has been established in apparent violation of Article 25 of the Constitution, and arrests on a large scale of suspected conspirators are once more the order of the day.

Yesterday the newspapers announced that the police had discovered a nation-wide plot for a rising against the Government on July 1. In order to frustrate this conspiracy the government agents arrested Horacio Martínez Tranque, President of the Unión Nacionalista in Matanzas; Sebastian Iturralde, brother of Rafael, former Secretary of War, who is well known to the Department; six supposed communist leaders in Habana, six students in Pinar del Rio who are alleged to be leaders of the so-called Caribbean Army, a radical student organization, and eight more or less prominent Unión Nacionalistas. Other arrests are also reported to have been made but the names of the prisoners have not been made public. The Secretary of Government announced yesterday that all of these persons had been confined in the Cabañas military prison and that they would be brought before the civil courts within the prescribed period of ten days.

The relations of the political parties now appear to be more clearly defined. The obstructionist tactics pursued by the Conservative groups in the Lower House in endeavoring to prevent the passage of [Page 66] the budget aroused the ire of the Liberal-Popular majority which, in turn, did not hesitate to employ steam roller methods in order to expedite a vote on the measure. The resulting resentment of the Conservatives has apparently led to a partial reconciliation between the “official” and “orthodox” factions, both of which have declared that they will not resume their seats until they have received ample guarantees that what they consider to be the rights of the minority will be properly respected in the future.

The price exacted by the majority members for their loyalty to the administration on this occasion was a promise by the President that he would henceforth govern with the Liberal-Popular coalition. The President yesterday issued a formal announcement to this effect. As a consequence, the Conservatives are definitely forced into opposition. While their numbers in Congress are not sufficient to block ordinary legislation they can easily obstruct the passage of constitutional reforms requiring a two-thirds vote of all the members of each House.

Respectfully yours,

Harry F. Guggenheim