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

No. 1240

Sir: Referring to the Embassy’s despatch No. 1195 of June 3, 1932,21 I have the honor to report that, after thirty-nine days of asylum in the Brazilian Legation, Marío G. Menocal, former President of Cuba and leader of the Opposition, was permitted by the Cuban Government on July 2nd to leave the Legation unmolested and embark on a boat for Europe. He was accompanied by his wife and by his nephew, Martín Menocal, who had been with him in the Legation during his stay. The third member of the party, Martínez Fraga, member of the House of Representatives, is still in the Legation, but will leave on Saturday, July 9, also for Europe.

The final practical solution of the so-called Menocal asylum case was achieved sometime after the public had ceased to pay attention to the affair. On May 24, immediately after the report of the arrest by the Government of Colonels Carlos Mendieta and Roberto Méndez Peñate for alleged revolutionary activity, Menocal, his nephew, and Martínez Fraga took refuge in the Brazilian Legation, apparently in the belief that they were in imminent danger of not only arrest, but personal injury by the Government forces. The asylum was granted by the Brazilian Minister on the basis of his interpretation of the Convention of Asylum signed in Habana on February 20, 1928. The Legation was promptly surrounded by a guard stationed by the Government, and discussions between the Government and the Brazilian Minister continued for some time with no result except effectively to exhaust public interest in the matter. Upon my return to Habana from my leave of absence, the case was discussed with me by Secretary of State Ferrara, by the Mexican Ambassador who had been acting as dean of the diplomatic corps in my absence, and by the Brazilian Minister. I stated that, in my opinion, the problem was one which lay between Cuba and Brazil alone, and was not one which should be considered by the diplomatic corps as a whole; and I pointed out to both the Secretary of State and my Brazilian colleague the desirability from both their viewpoints of a practical and prompt solution of the case. On June 30, the Foreign Office issued what was, in effect, a joint declaration, stating that in the conversations sustained between the Cuban Secretary of State and the Minister of Brazil, it had not been possible to arrive at an interpretive agreement of the Convention of Asylum in force between Cuba and [Page 552] Brazil, but that an effective solution of the matter had been found: for its part, the Government of Cuba was assured that General Menocal would not be in the future an obstacle to the maintenance of public peace and would go to Europe to reside for one year, while the Government of Brazil was satisfied that the necessary guarantees would be given General Menocal for his unmolested departure from Cuban territory. On the basis of this declaration, General Menocal was permitted to board the steamship Karlsruhe on Saturday, July 2, after fairly elaborate precautions had been taken by the police to prevent any disorder or manifestation.

The status of Menocal’s two companions in the Legation, his nephew Martín, and Martínez Fraga, was peculiar and required special handling. The Government had at first refused to give the Brazilian Minister passports for them, stating that there was no order of detention against them and that they should come to the State Department for their passports in the normal manner. The Brazilian, however, feared that as soon as the two left the Legation, an order of detention would immediately be issued, and they would be arrested. A compromise was finally arranged whereby Martín Menocal, who had been acting as his uncle’s nurse, should accompany his uncle on the Karlsruhe, and Martínez Fraga should be permitted to leave the Legation a week later to journey to Europe.

Respectfully yours,

Harry F. Guggenheim
  1. Not printed.