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

No. 1178

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 1173 of May 23 and to my telegrams Nos. 59 and 60 of May 23 and May 24,17 I have the honor to express the opinion that the events therein reported have still further retarded the reestablishment of normal political conditions in Cuba.

Once more the jails are filled with hundreds of political prisoners, including those of the principal opposition leaders who were unable to evade arrest. Ignorance of the exact reasons which prompted these wholesale arrests has created a feeling of insecurity and alarm in the minds of thousands of persons whose innocence of designs against the Government is probably beyond doubt, but whose business or social relations with those accused of guilt may, they fear, suffice to bring them under suspicion.

The Government has offered no public explanation which could be considered as entirely adequate of its repressive measures. Its [Page 549] most obvious justification is the sending of infernal machines by express or parcel post to important military officers. It is, however, difficult to believe that responsibility therefor is so widely distributed as to include both communists and such responsible members of the community as Colonel Mendieta, General Menocal and Colonel Méndez Peñate.

Official statements also refer to the discovery on May 18 and succeeding days of a wide spread conspiracy to overthrow the Government on May 20. This alleged discovery resulted from police raids on the headquarters of a well known athletic organization and upon the homes of its members. The police aver that they found evidence that this organization was used as a cloak for the operations of … the “A. B. C.” However, unbiased observers appear to agree that the police have greatly exaggerated the importance of this detail.

As reported in my telegram of May 24, the Assistant Chief of Staff of the Cuban Army informed the Embassy’s Military Attaché that the Government’s precautionary measures were adopted partly on the basis of information indicating that adversaries of the Government were setting on foot hostile expeditions from Mexico and possibly from Canada. The Government has not, however, made public its apprehensions in this regard, and although the General Staff has issued secret orders to the armed forces for repelling any invasion that may occur, I do not find it easy to believe that the opposition leaders, after the ignominious failure at Gibara last August, are seriously contemplating another enterprise of the same nature.

If then, as appears to me to be the case, the Cuban Government is deliberately exaggerating the importance of the known factors in this situation, the reason for its actions must be sought elsewhere.

It may be that the President’s dependence upon the Army determined him to authorize reprisals against the opposition leaders on account of the assassination of one of its officers and the attempted assassination of several others. This seems to me to offer the most logical explanation.

Another possible explanation, which I admit to be somewhat farfetched, is that the Government seized upon the bombings and other recent incidents to enable it to circumvent the effects of that part of the Supreme Court’s decision of May 12 which declared null and void the retroactive provision of the Law of Military Jurisdictions. Compliance with that decision would require the Military courts to return to the civil courts all cases involving the infraction of the Law of Explosives committed by civilians prior to February 17, 1932, But new charges brought against the same persons and, of course, charges brought against other persons for new offenses would be [Page 550] affected by the Supreme Court’s declaration of unconstitutionality only in each individual case and upon request of the attorney in such case addressed to the appropriate Military court. There are few if any lawyers who would in the present state of affairs have the courage to formulate the requisite petition.

Ex-President Menocal continues to find asylum in the Brazilian Legation where he sought refuge in company with one of his nephews and an Orthodox Conservative deputy named Martínez Fraga. The granting of asylum to these gentlemen by the Minister of Brazil naturally evoked considerable comment. However, the Acting Secretary of State, Dr. Averhoff, soon put an end to rumors that something was amiss in the relations between the Governments of Cuba and Brazil and that the Brazilian Minister had rendered himself persona non grata. He gave out a newspaper interview in which he explained that the action of the Brazilian Minister was entirely proper and justifiable under the provisions of the Inter American Convention in regard to Asylum, signed at Habana February 28 [20], 1928,18 to which both Cuba and Brazil are parties.

The Government announced today that Mendieta, Méndez Peñate and several other political prisoners had been sent to the Isle of Pines for incarceration in the prison there. Colonel Aurelio Hevia, another prominent opposition leader, is reported not to have been molested up to the present time, due probably to the delicate state of his health.

Respectfully yours,

Edward L. Reed
  1. None printed.
  2. Sixth International Conference of American States, Final Act (Habana, 1928), p. 166; or League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cxxxii, p. 323.