The Chargé in Cuba (Beaulac) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10:05 p.m.]
2. For Under Secretary. Ambassador Martínez Fraga1 asked me to tell you that he considers the situation has two distinct phases. The first phase has to do with the Government’s willingness to postpone elections until March 28 in order to give the opposition time to name candidates and the opposition’s refusal to agree to name candidates even though under existing law the Congress must be renewed on April 1. The Ambassador considers that the Government’s position is strong legally and morally and that the opposition’s position is weak.
The second phase of the situation is the Government’s preventing by positive acts the inauguration of the Constituent Assembly and the opposition’s claim that the Constituent Assembly should be allowed to meet immediately. The Ambassador considers that the Government’s position in this matter is very weak and dangerous and that the opposition’s position is strong. He says he has warned Colonel Batista2 that he is permitting himself to drift into a position where he will be rightly accused of having thwarted the popular will and in effect of having committed a coup d’état.
The Ambassador considers that the first phase of the situation is bound to be settled but that the second phase presents great difficulties. He says that the opposition parties insist that general elections be postponed for an undetermined period say until July or August but that they decline to give any assurance regarding the kind of regime which will exist between April 1 and the inauguration of the new government. It is assumed the opposition has in mind that during the interim or during a part of the interim the Constituent Assembly will exercise executive and legislative powers. This the Government is [Page 738]unwilling to consent to until the opposition informs it in detail of its specific plans in this regard and meanwhile it is continuing successfully to obstruct the convening of the Constituent Assembly.
Martínez Fraga believes that the Government is mistaken in this attitude; that it should allow the Constituent Assembly to meet immediately and face the problem of being able to control it by obstructive or other tactics when that problem arises. He says that Colonel Batista is anxious to avoid the charge of having committed a coup d’état and desires an equitable solution. He says it is difficult to discuss these matters with the opposition because there is no real unity within it.
In reply to my question he said that he did not know what Colonel Batista’s attitude was toward the President’s suggestion that the question of the terms of office of the long period members of Congress be determined by plebiscite at the time of general elections (although this question has been a central point of the entire controversy). He said that he himself was opposed to it because it introduced a new complication.
The Ambassador said that he was pessimistic although less so than when he arrived. He said he would see me again Saturday noon and give me further details which I promised to forward to you.