The Chargé in Cuba (Beaulac) to the Secretary of State

No. 2692

Sir: Supplementing my despatch No. 2689, of January 10, 1940,3 I have the honor to report that the Senate last night approved the del Pozo bill to postpone general elections from February 28 to March 28. However, so much time has elapsed and so much remains to be done before the Constituent Assembly can really begin to function (the coalition forces continue to contest the elections in several provinces, and considerable mechanical preparations will have to be made) that it is now believed that the suggested date does not represent a sufficient postponement.

President Laredo Brú’s suggested solution of the impasse created by the controversy over the date of general elections and the terms of present members of Congress is as follows:

General elections will be postponed until May or June; and he will consent, if asked by both parties, to the extension of his term of office for a few weeks, provided that be necessary.
The constitution will be drafted freely by the Constituent Assembly, which will not resort to any device to eliminate Colonel Batista as a candidate.
If the Constituent Assembly decides that the structure of the present Congress shall be changed, a separate column will be inserted in the ballots at the general elections in which the voters will have the opportunity to say whether or not they wish the terms of the longperiod Senators and Congressmen cut down. If the vote is affirmative, the terms of these members of Congress will expire when the present Government goes out of office, and the new Congress will be composed entirely of newly elected members. If the vote is negative, the longperiod members of Congress will remain in the Congress, as additional members, until their terms expire. Any present member of Congress, of course, is free to become a candidate in the general elections.

The Department will have noted that the coalition, which originally supported the idea of such a plebiscite, has now taken the position that it is no longer a possibility because the opposition has turned it down. The opposition, on the other hand, states that it not only has not turned down the suggestion, but that it has never been officially advanced by the coalition.

The truth appears to be that the coalition favored the idea of a plebiscite until the opposition gave indications that it would agree to it. At this point the coalition backed down and is now endeavoring to place the onus for the failure of the plan upon the opposition, which, however, declines to accept it.

It is reported on excellent authority that Colonel Batista, himself, is responsible for the present attitude of the coalition in this respect, and that he was persuaded to take this attitude principally by Senators Casanova4 and Hornedo.5 It is reported that Colonel Batista is fully prepared to insist on his attitude and to prolong the present impasse indefinitely.

In contradiction to the attitude assumed by the coalition, the President takes the point of view that the matter of the plebiscite has not yet definitely been turned down, and he has expressed his intention to continue his efforts at mediation. He is reliably reported to have said that, rather than consent to continue indefinitely in the present situation, he will resign his office. The possible effect upon the Cuban situation of such a development is not difficult to conjecture. A condition would be created in which Colonel Batista, with the Army behind him, would be greatly tempted to impose himself upon the country by force. If this occurred, it is almost certain that some effort at reprisal would be made, and it is possible that the country would drift [Page 740] into a situation resembling—in some measure, at least—that which pertained prior to the downfall of President Machado.6

In this connection, Ambassador Martínez Fraga is being quoted as having said that he participated in a conference in Washington between the Under Secretary of State, Mr. Welles, the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Messersmith, and Senator Zaydín,7 in which the possible effect upon Cuba’s future relations with the United States of a failure to solve Cuba’s problems was pointed out.8 Ambassador Martínez Fraga is quoted also as having said that he had an interview with President Roosevelt before returning to Habana, in which the latter made it clear that unless the revolutionary cycle which began with the downfall of Machado was completed at this time in a satisfactory and legal manner, the Government of the United States would not be in a position to defend Cuba when sugar legislation should be under discussion in the American Congress. It is believed that these reports have impressed President Laredo Brú, who continues to be the most powerful factor working toward an adequate solution of the present very unsatisfactory situation.

Respectfully yours,

Willard L. Beaulac
  1. Not printed.
  2. José Manuel Casanova, member of the Liberal Party.
  3. Alfredo Hornedo, president of the Liberal Party.
  4. August 12, 1933; for correspondence, see Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. v, pp. 270361.
  5. Ramon Zaydín, member of Acción Republicana.
  6. No record of conference was found in Department files.