837.00/3767: Telegram

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

202. I had a further meeting at 11 o’clock last night with the political leaders mentioned in my telegram 199, September 5, 9 p.m. I told them that upon careful consideration the basis of the proposal outlined to me by them, as reported in my telegram referred to, appeared to me undesirable inasmuch as it required the Government of the [Page 391] United States to assume responsibility for the maintenance of order in Cuba through the presence on Cuban territory of American armed forces whose number would not be determined in advance and the length of whose stay in Cuba might be for a protracted period. I further said that in my judgment action of this kind by the United States would constitute intervention even though limited in scope and intention and would be considered as intervention by the Cuban people and by the other nations of the world. I concluded by stating that I felt that the Cuban people themselves should make every possible effort to solve their own problems through their own agencies and that if we landed forces here to help install a new government we would be justly accused of overthrowing the present regime.

As the result of my conversation the political leaders referred to had a further conference with Messrs. Grau San Martín and Franca. They then returned to see me at 1 o’clock this morning. They told me that they had advised these members of the revolutionary group in control of the government that in view of the fact that the group now in control had announced for government, program of government [sic] almost identically the same points as those agreed upon by the Céspedes government they and their followers would agree to lend support to the present government provided that the “revolutionary group was able to maintain order. They stated that in their opinion this was indispensable. Dr. Gómez and Colonel Mendieta further informed me that they had been assured that the revolutionary group desire to reappoint all of the junior officers of the Army up to and including the rank of Major in the course of the next 24 hours except in those instances where charges of crime had been preferred against them.

At approximately the same time the leaders of the ABC informed me that they had issued a statement announcing their intention to support the program of the revolutionary group but otherwise maintaining an attitude of “watchful waiting”. In this manner the leading political forces of the country have made clear their intention not to attempt for the present to overthrow the present regime and to support the program for a constitutional assembly and for national elections.

I feel confident that the policy we have adopted during the past 2 days is the correct one. The presence in the harbor of Habana yesterday afternoon of an American destroyer and the announcement which the local newspapers made much of that three other American warships were on their way to Cuban waters has had a very sobering effect and has been highly useful in preventing untrammeled disorder. I have, made it perfectly clear to the members of the present regime that my Government will insist upon the maintenance of public order and the protection of foreign life and property. At the same time I have stated emphatically that the United States had no intention of intervening [Page 392] provided life and property were fully protected. There is not one political leader with whom I have talked who did not of his own initiative suggest the despatch of American warships and for the Department’s confidential information the leaders of even so radical a group as the ABC urgently requested me yesterday afternoon to insist that the Department authorize the landing of American Marines both in Habana and in Santiago. The local press without exception is commenting favorably on the attitude assumed by the United States Government.

For the moment therefore the situation in Habana appears to be slightly more favorable than it did yesterday in so far as for the time being the early desire of the powerful political groups overthrow immediately the present regime has been avoided. As an indication of this intention yesterday afternoon at 2 o’clock a group of 1500 members of the ABC, fully armed, assembled in the headquarters of the organization with the intention of leaving immediately for Camp Columbia in order to take possession of the barracks there by force. They were only prevented from doing so by the personal influence over them of Dr. Martínez Saenz. If this action had been taken there would have been in all probability house-to-house fighting throughout a greater portion of the city last night.

The situation is such that in my opinion it is impossible at this time to attempt to lay down any specific policy other than the determination by us to avoid any act of intervention if life and property can be guaranteed. I feel that it would be decidedly prejudicial even to consider official recognition by the United States of this regime, certainly for some time to come. The government of Cuba today is an undisciplined group of individuals of divergent tendencies representing the most irresponsible elements in the city of Habana with practically no support whatsoever outside the capital. The attitude adopted by the major political organizations may keep things quiet for a time. For the moment I feel the only policy we can adopt is to solve each problem as it is presented in the light of immediate circumstances.