The Chargé in Cuba (Reed) to the Secretary of State

No. 1169

Sir: I have the honor to report that the Cuban Supreme Court by a decision rendered on May 12 in the case of the student Antonio Mendieta, who had been indicted on a chargé of having placed a bomb in La Salle College last November, declared unconstitutional Article I, section 1 and Article IV of the so-called Military Jurisdiction Law of February 17, 1932, and null and void the transitory provision of that law which purported to give it retroactive effect. A translation of this decision is being prepared and will be forwarded in the near future.

The law in question was the subject of despatches Nos. 1048 and 1050 of February 18 and 25, 1932.13 Among other things it transferred from the civil to the military courts jurisdiction in all pending and future cases arising out of infractions of the Law of Explosives. The first such cases involving civilians to be tried under this law were those of Ruben Leon, Ramira Valdez Daussa and Rafael Escalona who, as reported by despatch No. 1140 of April 26, 1932,14 were each sentenced to serve 8 years in the penitentiary.

[Page 548]

The Supreme Court’s decision has not been published in the Official Gazette,15 as is customary, nor has any notice of it been permitted to appear in the Cuban press. The Government is apparently apprehensive of a recrudescence of terroristic activities, should it become generally known that the military courts are not competent to try civilians accused of violating the Law of Explosives.

This is the second instance within a month that the Supreme Court has exhibited an unwonted independence in dealing with cases which may be characterized as having major political significance. As reported in the Embassy’s recent despatch on General Conditions prevailing in Cuba, the Court, in April, admitted two appeals against the constitutionality of the Executive Decree of July 1, 1931, ordering the closure of the University of Habana.

I am enclosing a memorandum16 prepared by Dr. Gonzalez which contains an analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Mendieta case, together with comments regarding its possible legal effects.

Respectfully yours,

Edward L. Reed
  1. Latter not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See Official Gazette, May 19, 1932.
  4. Not printed.