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

No. 1583

Sir: I have the honor to supplement with the following details my despatch No. 1582 of April 15, 1933, in which I cited the local correspondent of the New York Times as authority for the report that two brothers named Valdez had been shot and killed in Habana by persons in the employ of the Government.

Following the large number of bombings on the night of April 13, the investigations of the police led them to suspect the activities of certain persons residing in a house at Campañarío No. 103. This house was raided by the police on the afternoon of the 14th and in it were found several bombs similar to those which had been distributed the preceding night. Among the inmates of the house were the Valdez brothers, one of whom, it is said, threw a bomb at the police. The bomb failed to explode and the brothers were taken into custody.

These young men, one of whom was a lawyer and the other a physician, appear to have been closely identified with the more radical opposition element. A third brother was sentenced some time ago to serve eight years in jail after having been found guilty of participation in a plot to kill the President by means of a mined automobile.

Versions differ as to what happened following their arrest. According to the New York Times correspondent, who says he saw one of them killed, they were taken in an automobile to 29th and G Streets in the Vedado, told to get out and run for their lives and shot down as they fled by marksmen in civilian clothes who were posted at the top of a high bank overlooking the street intersection at that point.

The police tell a different story. As related to me by Secretary of State Ferrara, who had it from the Chief of the National Police, this version is that the brothers were taken to police headquarters where they broke down and offered to lead the police to a place frequented by their fellow conspirators. The police accepted their offer, placed them in an automobile under guard and set out in accordance with their directions. When the top of “G” Street had been reached, the prisoners endeavored to escape and were shot when they refused to obey [Page 277] the order to halt. This story is so thin that I doubt very much whether Dr. Ferrara himself believes it.

What probably occurred was that the police, feeling certain that they had captured two of the persons principally responsible for recent bomb outrages in Habana, took the law into their own hands and executed their captives. The alternative would have been to subject the prisoners to a protracted legal procedure in the military tribunals and subsequently in the Supreme Court, with the probability that any sentence commensurate with their offense would have been commutated [commuted?] by the next Administration. While this does not, of course, extenuate the reprehensible practice of the Cuban police in applying the so-called ley de fuga to their captives, it may at least offer a partial explanation of their conduct. It should also be borne in mind that a good many members of the police force have been murdered, that the police are working under considerable nervous tension and that they are exasperated because popular sympathy is alienated from them to the degree that criminal attacks against them arouse no indignation in the minds of the public.

It is persistently rumored that several other members of the A. B. C. or of the student left wing organization were also killed on Good Friday, but it has not proved possible to confirm these reports.

The Embassy has, however, obtained official confirmation of a story current last week that one private soldier had been fatally shot and another severely wounded when they resisted arrest at the barracks of Battery No. 5 in the Vedado. It appears that the communists had succeeded in establishing there a “cell” composed of a few members of the battery; that this was discovered by the commanding officer who ordered their arrest and that two of them refused to submit.

Respectfully yours,

Edward L. Reed