837.00/3716: Telegram

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

185. My 184, August 24, 5 p.m. In view of the urgency of the situation President Céspedes yesterday evening decided to carry out the policy indicated in my telegram under reference. He was advised to adopt this course by all of the members of his Cabinet and by all of the political leaders that have now returned to Cuba. During a Cabinet meeting which the President held last night the following decree was drafted which was handed to me at 4 o’clock this morning. The decree reads as follows: [Page 374]

[“]To the people of Cuba.

Whereas the Congress of the Republic in the exercise of the powers established in article 115 of the constitution resolved by the law of June 21st, 1927 to amend certain provisions of the constitution;

Whereas in the call of the election for delegates of the constitutional convention the laws by virtue of which the reorganization of political parties had been prohibited remained in force as well as that prohibiting the organization of new parties and other laws were enacted prohibiting the presentation of independent candidatures all of which legal provisions had no object other than to carry into effect the amendment to the constitution with absolute disregard of the popular will inasmuch as the electors opposed to said amendment were not able to elect delegates to aforesaid constitutional convention in manifest infringement of article 38 of the constitution which recognizes the right of suffrage to all Cubans over 21 years of age;

Whereas, the constitutional convention elected to that effect did not limit its acts to the approval or disapproval of the amendment voted by Congress in accordance with the provisions of article 115 of the constitution above-cited but overstepping its authority proceeded to change certain provisions of the law which contained the amendment;

Whereas, one of the provisions which was the one of modification was that by virtue of which the presidential term of office which should have expired on May 20, 1929, was extended for two years to May 20, 1931, and which, furthermore, prohibited the reelection of the President of the Republic then in office, the change consisting in permitting said chief executive to be reelected for the next presidential term;

Whereas, on May 11, 1928, the amendment of the constitution was promulgated by the President of the Republic, the same containing as has been said important changes in the text of the law which had been voted and passed by Congress;

Whereas, in the emergency electoral law of July 20, 1928, a series of provisions were included tending to assure the reelection of the person who at that time held the Presidency of the Republic and at the same time to prevent the presentation of other candidates for the same office which objects were achieved with absolute disregard of the popular will;

Whereas, the Supreme Court of Justice en banc in several decisions handed down in writs of unconstitutionality has recognized that the constitutional convention in altering the text of some of the provisions of the amendment law infringed the provision contained in article 115 of the constitution so often cited;

Whereas, all the illegalities and overriding of authority which have been mentioned constituted a coup d’état against the popular sovereignty and gave rise to an intense revolutionary agitation which obliged the Government constantly to maintain in suspense the individual guarantees and to appeal to all class of violence in order to appease the protests of the people;

Whereas, the good offices of the Ambassador of the United States of America to procure a solution to such an intense political crisis having been offered and accepted and the President of the Republic having refused to give performance to the essential obligations acquired by the [Page 375] parties within the negotiations which were being carried on, the revolutionary state became more acute to such an extent that he was forced to resolve the abandonment of the power and withdraw from the national territory in use of a leave of absence at the same time leaving a full resignation of his office;

Whereas, by virtue of said leave of absence I have provisionally assumed the Presidency of the Republic;

Whereas, a large number of Senators and Representatives have presented the resignation of their offices and others have left the country without requesting a leave of absence;

Whereas, in view of everything that has been set forth above and with the object of reestablishing constitutional legality and restoring tranquility to the country, interpreting the popular will which is clearly manifested at this time throughout the country, conscious of the national conventionalities and of the transcendency of the measures I am adopting, with my thoughts placed on the founders of the nation and on the welfare of the Republic, and having heard the opinion of my Cabinet, I proceed to issue the following decree:

The text of the constitution of 1901 is reestablished in its full force and effect and consequently the constitutional amendment promulgated on May 11th, 1928, remains null and without any value or effect.
Therefore, the mandate attributed to citizen Gerardo Machado y Morales as President of the Republic is hereby terminated.
The present Congress is declared dissolved and as a consequence the mandates of the Senators and Representatives as well as the rights of their substitutes to take their places are terminated.
The offices of Justices of the Supreme Court filled after May 20th, 1929, are hereby declared vacant.
The mandates of all the other officials of popular election are hereby declared at an end, nevertheless, those holding such offices at the present time shall remain in the discharge thereof until the Government shall order what it deems proper in each case.
On February 24th, 1934, general elections shall be held for the filling of all offices which have their origin in popular suffrage, the new Presidential term of office to be inaugurated on May 20th of that year.
An advisory commission shall be created charged with the proposing of the modifications considered indispensable to carry into effect the measures contained in this decree, and the recommendations of the said commission once approved in whole or in part shall be promulgated by the Executive.
The Government shall respect and give fulfillment to all international obligations contracted in the name of the Republic even though they may be dated after May 20th, 1929.
All the Secretaries of the Cabinet are entrusted with the fulfillment of this decree insofar as it may be pertinent to each of them.

Given at the Presidential Palace in Habana on August 24, 1933. Signed Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, President. Signed Carlos Saladrigas, Secretary of Justice and Acting Secretary of State.”

[Page 376]

For the reasons set forth in my telegram above referred to, I consider that the action taken by the Government is in the best interests of the Republic of Cuba. Furthermore, I believe that under the circumstances now existing it is calculated to promote stability and to quiet opposition.

Owing to the fact that three members of the Supreme Court were appointed during Machado’s second term and that their appointments are consequently held to be illegal; that the President of the Supreme Court has resigned; and that one of the remaining members is seriously ill a quorum of the Supreme Court cannot meet for the time being. The Government has decided consequently to take upon itself the responsibility of declaring unconstitutional Machado’s second term of office and not refer the constitutionality of that regime to the Supreme Court.

The eighth clause of the said decree which specifically announces the intention of the Government to comply with all of the international obligations entered into by the Cuban Government from May 20, 1929, until the present date should relieve anxiety on the part of American banks which have made loans or extended credits to the Cuban Government during that period.

The President will issue within the next few days a further decree containing the electoral code under which the national elections are to be held 6 months from now. It is the intention of the Government to adopt Professor McBain’s suggested reforms in their entirety.