837.00/3848: Telegram

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

238. The sole motive, I presume, for the editorial published this morning in the New York Herald Tribune and reprinted here in the Cuban morning newspapers is for the purpose of making a political attack on the administration. The result, however, of course, of at tacks of this character in newspapers of influence in the United States [Page 427] is to weaken very materially the influence which I possess here and to impair the probability of a successful outcome of our policy. To the best of my knowledge no American correspondents have cabled any such reports as those alleged to have been sent in the editorial referred to. In any event the attitude which I have consistently adopted with reference to the Cuban Army officers who have taken refuge in the National Hotel has been fully reported to the Department. They had as much right to engage rooms there as any tourist would and the question of extraterritoriality was never raised by me nor could it have been except in so far as my own apartments were concerned. Moreover, far from delivering ultimata to the revolutionists now in control of the government, my contracts [contacts] with them have been limited to the one conversation I had with Grau San Martín which I reported at once by cable to the Department. It must be perfectly apparent that it would have been a far more agreeable course for me to have left the hotel as soon as the Army officers came there. If I had done so, however, I would at once have been charged with personal fear, which is of considerable psychological importance in these countries and I would moreover have been unable to have prevented the very real danger to the lives of the American residents who had congregated in the hotel, in the event that fighting between the officers and the soldiers had taken place within the hotel which upon two occasions at least appeared to be imminent.

In so far as the despatch of United States vessels to Cuban waters for the purpose of safeguarding American lives is concerned there are very few if any Americans resident in Cuba today who do not believe that they might be in jeopardy so long as this abnormal condition continues should the American warships be recalled. I believe that we have followed the only wise course and the one course that gives promise of any hope in an excessively difficult and complicated situation. We have taken the necessary precautionary steps to insure so far as may be possible the lives of our citizens. We have, on the other hand, not landed a man on Cuban soil nor have we threatened nor attempted to dictate the solution which the Cuban people themselves should bring about. The statement which you issued last night regarding our policy concerning recognition49 makes our position perfectly plain to the Latin American world and is heartily approved by all those representatives of the Latin American Republics with whom I have been able to get in touch. It is unanimously approved by all of the important Cuban political groups. Under these very trying circumstances it is impossible naturally to contradict every malicious and utterly unfounded falsehood that may [Page 428] be spread regarding my own official activities. They have emanated from the extreme radical group which is connected with the present regime here, just as similar reports were spread regarding the Embassy during the last few days of the Machado administration. I feel very strongly, however, that personal considerations are of no importance whatever where a matter of public policy is concerned. If the President and yourself believe for any reason that it would be advantageous to the administration to have [me] carry out my original plans and leave for the United States within the next few days I must of course do so. I suggested to you on the telephone that it might be preferable for me to remain here until the prospects seem clearer because of my belief that I had had, and still retain, the confidence of the leaders of all of the political groups, with the exception of the so-called student organization, and that for that reason it might be easier for the Embassy in an emergency to prevent sporadic and isolated outbreaks which would not tend to clear the atmosphere but merely complicate matters still further. I shall welcome a frank expression of the President’s desires and your own in this regard.

Owing to the fact that all of the servants in the National Hotel left the hotel last night, and that the electric light and water supply will be cut off in the course of the day, I and the Americans still remaining there were forced to leave the hotel this morning. No adjustment as to the situation of the Army officers in the hotel has been reached. Since I left the hotel the American manager telephoned the Embassy at 1 o’clock this afternoon to state that his life had been threatened and the destruction of the hotel property would be undertaken by the student group unless he promptly cut off the water, light, and telephone services. Under the conditions which now obtain there is no authority to afford protection other than nominal. I have, therefore, notified him and also the American manager of the American Electric Light Company that if they receive orders from some governmental authority in the sense indicated it would be wiser on their part to comply with the demand made. In view of the fact that the hotel manager has appealed to the Embassy for protection I consider that this was the only possible policy for me to pursue.

Welles
  1. See telegram No. 96, September 11, midnight, to the Ambassador in Cuba, p. 424.