Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Caffery)

The Mexican Chargé d’Affaires ad interim50 came to see me today at noon and said that he had had a telegram from the Minister of [Page 429] Foreign Affairs at Mexico City instructing him to inform the Department that, as it seemed that a stable government capable of maintaining order had been formed in Cuba, it did not seem necessary to go any further with efforts to induce other Latin American countries to make suggestions at Habana that a stable government capable of maintaining order be formed. The Chargé indicated that, following his conversations with the other Latin American representatives here in Washington, it was his opinion that this view was shared by the great majority of his colleagues. He indicated also that his Government, and most all of his colleagues, believed that we should remove our naval vessels from Cuban waters because they (he and his colleagues) feel that the opposition political leaders in Cuba will not cease their efforts to overthrow the de facto government as long as our naval vessels remain there.

Señor Padilla told me also that the real difficulty which the Mexican Government found in its efforts to secure general Latin American action at Habana arose from the fact of the Argentine Government’s failure to cooperate, many of his colleagues here fearing to take a definite position until they knew what the Argentine Government would do. As the Argentine Government had done nothing, his Government had found it impossible to proceed. His chief, Dr. Puig, had instructed him to tell me that, therefore, the Mexican Foreign Office would take no further steps in the premises.

I again expressed the Department’s appreciation for the Mexican Government’s friendly interest in this whole matter, and our appreciation of his (Señor Padilla’s) friendly efforts here in Washington.

I then said our position remains the same as it was in the beginning, that is, we have no interest in individuals and will express no opinion as to who should form a Cuban Government—we desire only to see a stable government capable of maintaining law and order formed. “Speaking very frankly,” I said, “I must invite your attention to the fact that all of the principal political leaders have come out in opposition to Dr. Grau San Martín. In the face of that, can you say that his government will be able to extend its authority over the Island and, especially, will he be able to secure the support of the army? Will the de facto authorities be able to secure the support of the mass of the Cuban people over the heads of the political leaders? It seems to me that the point at issue is important. Either the government of Dr. Grau San Martín will be able to exist notwithstanding the political opposition or the politicians will turn the government out.” Señor Padilla admitted that these questions were pertinent and indicated that he was not yet convinced himself that Grau San Martín will be able to count on the army’s loyalty, nor was he convinced that Grau San Martín would be able to gain the support of [Page 430] the mass of the people of the Island in the face of the opposition of the political leaders. He remarked, however, that Dr. Marquez Sterling* (the Cuban Ambassador here) had said to him this morning that he believed that none of the political leaders in opposition could now count on a large following in the Island; that the only wellorganized political party in Cuba was the Liberal Party, adherents of Machado, who are now dispersed. Perhaps the de facto authorities would be able to secure support from the erstwhile Liberal mass.

I said also (in effect), “no one is more anxious than we are to take our ships out of Cuban waters but we frankly do not yet feel that we can do so in view of the circumstances we have just discussed. Would not it be far worse for us to take them out and have to send them back than to keep them there a while longer?” “Yes”, said the Chargé, “that would be disastrous”. I said, “please explain that to Dr. Puig”. The Chargé said, “I will do so gladly”.

Señor Padilla then went on to talk at some length. He said that his Government, and other Latin American governments, understood our position thoroughly but that, owing to the efforts of the Cuban students, the students in other Latin American countries were becoming excited and they were charging their governments with sympathizing with American intervention. He said, “we know the charges are not true, but the matter might easily become a domestic political one for us.” He added, “it is almost miraculous how President Roosevelt has been able to change Latin American feeling towards the United States in a few months. We do not want to see that good feeling fade away now, especially since we are all interested in seeing something done at Montevideo next December.” I assured the Chargé that we understood their (Latin American governments) difficulties, as well as our own. We appreciated the Mexican Government’s frankly putting their ideas before us; we would be glad at all times to receive from Dr. Puig any ideas or suggestions he cares to make. I then repeated our position—”we have no interest in individuals or any desire to suggest names; we desire only to see a stable government formed in Cuba capable of maintaining law and order in the Island. We have no desire to keep our vessels in Cuban waters one minute longer than is absolutely necessary”.

Señor Padilla then said, “well, if you can not withdraw your vessels can you do something else to alleviate the situation.[”] I said, “what do you mean?” He said, “could not you make some sort of public declaration to the press here that you hope that Dr. Grau San Martín’s government will be able to establish itself solidly in the Island and be able to maintain law and order throughout the Republic.[”] I said, [Page 431] “that would be a partisan declaration, whereas we desire to remain neutral; that declaration would be construed to mean that we have decided to support the de facto authorities and we would be attacked for it by all of the Cuban political leaders. We can not commit ourselves that far yet.”

J[efferson] C[affery]
  1. Luis Padilla-Nervo.
  2. Appointed Secretary of State yesterday. [Footnote in the original.]