837.00/3706: Telegram

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

184. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that my original hope that the present Government of Cuba could govern as a constitutional government for the remainder of the term for which General Machado had himself elected must be abandoned. If the solid and unwavering support of the Army could be counted on, and if the groups and parties represented in the present Government were unanimous in their support of the administration, it might be possible for the existing Government to maintain itself, pass the necessary legislation of all kinds required, and hold the general national elections in November 1934 as originally anticipated. As a matter of fact, however, a general process of disintegration is going on. The Army is by no means in a satisfactory condition and the relapse in the health of General Sanguily, Chief of Staff and the one ranking officer in the Cuban Army who can command the support of his subordinates, has delayed the taking of the measures necessary to enforce discipline within the Army which he alone could have undertaken satisfactorily. The presence of General Menocal in Cuba is as always an exceedingly disturbing factor. His insatiable ambition and his unwillingness to recognize that he no longer can count on the support of any but a small group is causing him to attempt to undermine the authority [Page 372] of the Government and I am reliably informed that he is trying to promote dissidence among the Army officers.

The inability of the Government as yet to enforce the maintenance of public order has permitted an almost anarchic condition throughout the country as the result of which groups of so-called students and radicals of every shade are breaking into houses, promoting lynchings, forcing resignations from Senators and Congressmen and other public officials and only this morning forced the resignation of the sub-Secretary of Communications recently appointed by President Céspedes. The labor situation is of course disquieting and while the most serious strikes in the cities have been settled, conditions on the large sugar plantations are very grave and it was only through the acceptance of all the demands presented by the strikers that collected on the Punta Alegre sugar estate this morning that destruction of the property and possible loss of life of the American manager and of his family was averted. If conditions such as this continue a general state of chaos here is inevitable.

The only alternative to such a result that I can now see is for the program of the present Government to be modified in order that general elections may be held approximately 3 months from now so that Cuba may once more have a constitutional government in the real sense of the word, that is, supported by an evident and overwhelming majority of the Cuban people. In order to accomplish this the Supreme Court will have to declare that the existing constitution under which General Machado was reelected is unconstitutional in that the constitution of 1928 came into being through illegal and unconstitutional methods as the result of which the country would once more be governed by the original constitution of 1901. I have every reason to believe that the Supreme Court will so hold. Once such a decision is rendered the existing Congress, to which public hostility is so intense that I doubt if it could meet even with military protection, would be ipso facto abolished. The President would then by decree convoke national elections to be held 3 months from such date and at the same time issue a decree declaring that the electoral law under which such elections would be held would be the Crowder code of 191939 as amended by the recommendations formulated by Professor McBain, in his recent report. The parties, under the terms of this law, would then be afforded the opportunity of organizing and presenting their lists of candidates and the entire Government, executive and legislative, would be replaced as the result of such elections. After the installation of such government a constitutional convention would be called to adopt the constitutional reforms agreed upon during [Page 373] the mediation proceedings which reforms represent unquestionably the desire of a great majority of all elements of public opinion.

Yesterday I consulted with Colonels Mendieta and Mendez Peñate, Dr. Torriente, General Menocal, leaders of the ABC and other opposition organizations and with President Céspedes. There is not one of them who believes that the Congress as now constituted can again function. These leaders are now meeting with their own groups and I think will reach the conclusion that the program above-indicated is the one solution which offers a reasonably safe outcome for Cuba under present conditions. The President will call them into session with him tomorrow and will try and reach a unanimous agreement as to the program which his Government should carry out and the manner in which it is to be put into effect.

Conditions in the country of course are not ripe for general elections. I have likewise every reason to believe that during the electoral period, if the above program is carried out, disturbances will take place in many parts of the Republic. I feel, however, that a change in the policy which I had originally hoped to carry out is inevitable. I do not believe that the present Government can maintain itself in power for an indefinite period and I think that nothing would be more likely to prevent a further attempt at revolution than the prospect of elections in the near future. A solution of this character has the added advantage that it offers the hope of a constitutional and stable government in the near future rather than in the remote future and furthermore that negotiations for the commercial treaty can continue with the authorities now in power and that the individuals taking part in the next constitutional government will undoubtedly be willing to ratify beforehand any measures of financial relief that we may decide to suggest to the existing Government of Cuba.

  1. For assistance of Maj. Gen. Enoch H. Crowder in the revision of the Cuban electoral laws, see Foreign Relations, 1919, vol. ii, pp. 1 ff.