837.00/3694: Telegram

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

180. With the arrival this morning of Colonels Mendieta and Mendez Peñate all of the old-time political leaders of the opposition have returned to Cuba with the exception of Miguel Mariano Gómez who is due to arrive by the end of the month.

A determined effort is being made now by certain of these leaders, notably Menocal, in conjunction with the extreme radicals to transform the present Government of Cuba into a purely revolutionary [Page 370] de facto government. It is their announced intention to abolish the Congress and the existing judiciary and to remove all local provincial and municipal officials throughout the Republic in order to replace them with their own henchmen. During the past 3 days I have repeatedly emphasized in all of my conversations with these leaders and with the leaders of the groups and parties represented in the present Government that only through the maintenance of a constitutional form of government in Cuba until the next national elections would it be possible for the Government to make effective the urgent measures required to improve economic conditions here as well as the financial situation of the Government itself and in addition thereto to take steps to ensure the satisfactory result of the next elections through the enactment of a new electoral code and through the passage of constitutional reforms to be submitted to a constituent assembly. Furthermore, I have made it clear that a de facto government governing solely by decree would not in my judgment be able to retain the support and the confidence of the people for any protracted period owing to the unstable conditions which obtain in Cuba and that insistence upon a revolutionary de facto form of government would in all likelihood result in general chaos.

In an interview which I had yesterday with General Menocal I stressed my own belief, as above-indicated, and further made clear that we had continued official relations with the present Government of Cuba in view of our belief that whatever the cause of the change in the Government the result had been merely a change in the persons entrusted with the executive power of the Government through methods provided in the existing constitution. I told him that I felt it essential, as I knew my Government did, that in this moment of crisis all important leaders, of whatever faction they might represent, get together in support of the present Government and assist it in making effective, at the earliest possible moment, the program of reform, both political and economic, which it had already elaborated in principle.…

A portion of the press is coming rather timorously to the support of the necessity of maintaining a constitutional form of government in Cuba. None of the real leaders of public opinion have, however, as yet had courage enough to come out openly against the popular agitation for revolutionary government and a resultant clean sweep of all of the former officeholders no matter whether they were legitimately entitled to the offices they were holding or not. Until I can persuade some of these leaders to come out positively against any such policy, I am afraid to urge the Government to take the stand because of the fact that the opportunity might then be used by certain self-seekers to attack the Government on that ground to their own advantage. [Page 371] I shall confer today and tomorrow with all of the outstanding leaders, including those recently arrived, and I shall hope to be able to persuade them of the necessity for prompt action along the lines suggested in benefit of Cuba.