837.00/3915: Telegram

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

266. At the meeting between the political leaders and Grau San Martín which commenced last night at 6 o’clock and with a recess terminated at 3 o’clock this morning, Colonel Mendieta acted as principal spokesman and had at all times the unfaltering support of Dr. Martínez Saenz of the A.B.C.; General Menocal on behalf of his own party; and the delegates of the O.C.R.R. Dr. Miguel Mariano Gómez pursued his usual policy of taking neither one side nor the other but made it very evident, however, that he realized that the present government could not continue in power. Colonel Mendieta stated to Grau San Martín that the sole hope remaining to save Cuba was the cooperation in the national government of all of the important political groups and factions in the Republic. He stated that the present government represented nothing except the students; that it had the opposition of all the principal parties as well as financial and commercial interests; and that its continuation was meeting with increasing hostility in all of the provinces of the Republic. He concluded by saying that Dr. Grau San Martín must present his resignation as President and that then by common agreement a government of national concentration could be set up. He made it clear that none of the opposed parties intended to designate any specific person for the Presidency or for any other office but were willing to enter discussions with an open mind.

Grau San Martín assumed his usual attitude of insistence that his government was supported by an enormous majority of the people but stated that he would consider the proposals offered and meet with the political leaders tomorrow, Sunday, to deliver his reply.

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In my conversation with the members of the student group last night I gained the very distinct impression that the three or four real leaders of the Directorate were weakening materially in the uncompromising attitude they had heretofore taken. They are gravely worried by the fact that the soldiers are no longer inclined to obey any orders issued and that the labor agitation seems to have passed beyond the control which they had deluded themselves they possessed. After having left the meeting, perhaps the most prominent of the students stated to me that he felt a solution was necessary and could be arrived at. The Department will understand that Grau San Martín is entirely under their orders and whatever decision they reach he will be forced to abide by. The student directorate contains 30 members of whom about 4 are girls and the rest men ranging from 20 to 30 years of ago. The general impression I gained was one of complete immaturity, of a failure to grasp even in a rudimentary sense the grave dangers which the Republic confronts and a feeling of almost impermeable self-satisfaction. I am having Berle explain to three or four of them today who have some slight grasp of economics just what the Cuban financial and economic picture really is; that the American companies—public utilities, importers and sugar mills—can not and will not do business under present conditions; that the situation of the Cuban Treasury is such that it will be empty within a period of between 2 weeks and a month; that the food supplies in Habana and the other ports are barely sufficient to last for 10 more days; that the Communist wave is spreading with the utmost rapidity and facility throughout the country. Once they [realize?] these very obvious and simple facts, I am inclined to think that the already shattered morale of the student leaders will be further weakened and a more patriotic and conciliatory attitude will be adopted.

As an indication of the fact, which is presumably not grasped by the_ American public, that the actual control of the government of Cuba is today vested solely in the hands of this group of immature students the following incident which occurred yesterday is illuminating.

The American Electric Company refused to shut off the light and power connections of the National Hotel without a written order from the government, which was not forthcoming. A group of the leading students thereupon proceeded to the office of the Secretary of War and demanded an escort of soldiers in order that they might go to the office and the power plant of the company and either take control themselves or wreck the buildings. Upon the refusal by Colonel Aguado to agree to their request they broke up the furniture in his office and told him to leave his office and not return. The Secretary immediately resigned. Incidents of this character, which are taking place in Habana, are, of course, occurring in every part of the Republic.

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In conversation with me last night they were both courteous and deferent and the students responsible for the sending of cables both to the United States and to Latin America accusing me of various crimes and misdemeanors apologized profusely for the action they had taken which they said was due “to the excitement of the moment”.

They feel that recognition by us is not something which we are entitled to determine for ourselves but that it is on the contrary their right to be accorded recognition and that by our failure to recognize we are defrauding them of something to which they are legitimately entitled. On this feature, of course, I merely reiterated the statement issued by the Secretary 2 days ago and emphasized the fact that in my judgment the present government had not demonstrated that it counted upon the support of the Cuban people nor that it was maintaining public order.

The surprisingly friendly attitude shown towards me was in part due, in my belief, to their realization that recognition by the United States Government is essential to any government in Cuba and further to a desire to express a feeling of regret for the unwarranted and unjustifiable criticism directed against this Embassy.