The Ambassador in Cuba (Welles) to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received 8:45 p.m.]
69. I had a long interview with Machado in this matter yesterday afternoon.
I told the President that the time had now come when I felt it possible for me to offer my friendly and unofficial mediation between the political groups supporting his administration and the political groups and independent factions comprising the Opposition. I said that this offer was conditional on my services being welcomed by him and by the majority of the Opposition leaders.
The President assured me that not only were my services in this capacity welcome to him but that he felt confident that in no other manner could any adjustment of the political problem be brought about.
I told the President that in my judgment there was only one satisfactory manner of solving the present political situation and that was through compromise on the part of all concerned. I felt that such compromise must be worked out in accordance with the structure of the existing constitution and through the existing Congress. I said that the solution proposed by the Opposition which called for the immediate resignation of the President and his substitution by an impartial Secretary of State was not satisfactory to me; that if this were done under the present constitution, national elections would have to be called within a period of 60 days to elect a successor to the President to fill out the latter’s unexpired term; that under present conditions only one party was organized and that was the President’s own, the Liberal Party, and the result would necessarily be that any candidate of that Party would be elected and so far as the Opposition was concerned the situation would remain exactly the same as at present save for the fact that there undoubtedly would be so much unrest and agitation in the country that it is doubtful whether the same control could be exercised by the next executive as was now exercised by the President himself.
I said that to my own mind the proper solution was an immediate reform of the electoral code based upon the recommendations of the [Page 300] electoral expert whom we would obtain for the Government; that such reform must envisage complete liberty for reorganization immediately of the existing political parties and for the organization as political entities of modulate groups or factions so that public opinion could make itself felt in every proper manner in the next national election and need not attempt to express itself solely through the existing political parties which are under the complete domination of old-time political leaders. As a subsequent step I proposed the reform of the constitution to comprise the election of a Vice-President who must be an individual of outstanding reputation and regarded by all important factions or groups as absolutely impartial; the limitation of the term of the next President to a term of 5 years with no immediate reelection; a decrease in the existing number of Congressmen and a shortening of the terms of such Senators and Congressmen as have had extended the terms for which they were originally elected. All of these steps could be taken under the present constitution within 6 months.
The President agreed with these suggestions. He then told me of his own initiative that he would be willing as a patriotic gesture to retire from the Presidency after the election of a Vice-President who possessed the qualifications above indicated as he stated he would have been willing to do at any time these past 3 years if there had been a Vice-President.
Should this program be carried out it would be possible for the President to retire in favor of the new Vice-President at any time after the selection of the latter. I did not indicate in my conversation with the President the time when I thought such retirement on his part would be desirable but limited myself to saying that I did feel that it was essential that the Vice-President should be in control of the Government during the next national electoral period. To this the President agreed.
In concluding my conversation with the President I told him that I did not feel that any one phase of the existing Cuban problem could be dealt with separately but I thought on the contrary that the political, the economic and the financial aspects of the situation should be dealt with as parts of a whole. To this view the President gave his complete assent.
I believe that a solution along the lines above proposed is the only proper solution. It would safeguard the Government of the United States from the obligation to undertake any direct official intervention in Cuban affairs. It avoids a bad precedent for Cuba in that no provisional nor unconstitutional form of government is set up. Finally it provides a hope for the future in the reforms to be made both in the electoral code and in the constitution.[Page 301]
I shall today continue my conversations with prominent members of the Opposition and I am hopeful that during the coming week I may receive more ample and definite assurances of their support in these negotiations than I have as yet secured.
In order to maintain his control of the situation and in order to refrain from appearing to concede to the Opposition any right to demand his resignation, the President will continue until a definite agreement has been reached in all public statements to insist upon his determination to remain in office throughout his term. I am in entire accord with his belief that this attitude on his part is desirable under present conditions.
I beg to request that a copy of the above be sent to the President for his information.