12. Telegram From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State1

443. For Rubottom. In all six provinces of Cuba press censorship has been lifted. In all but Oriente full constitutional guarantees have been restored. The reaction of the opposition press has been moderate since the lifting of the ban on news. The campaign waged by the revolutionary elements to overthrow Batista by attempting to destroy the economy has failed. The economy is good and general conditions are closer to normalcy than at any time since August 1 when guarantees were last in effect prior to the recent restoration.

Fidel Castro is losing prestige. More and more Cubans doubt the possibility of a successful 26th of July Movement. Although political exiles and refugees in the US continue to be vociferous, the revolutionary elements are disorganized, splintered and lack a program with public appeal. If Batista were assassinated, there is no responsible group able to take over the government. Vandalism, chaos and bloodshed would surely ensue.

Although the political opposition is also disorganized and up to the present is not known to have made any significant progress in uniting, interest in the election since the restoration of full constitutional guarantees is steadily mounting.

Some opposition leaders are planning a new political front. Pardo Llada and Suarez Fernandez2 are prepared to offer the presidential candidacy to Alfonso Pujol as standard bearer of a new political alliance of opposition parties and groupings.

There is also a plan to nominate Jose Pepin Bosch as presidential candidate of a new opposition movement known as the Fourth Political Front—which is to unite all opposition parties and groupings under the candidacy of Bosch.

One of the three principal leaders of the fourth front—Porfirio Pendas—has discussed these plans with me. Although they are doubtful of honest elections, they believe—as we do—that there is no other solution.

If the nucleus of a united front can be obtained, it would attract other opposition groups into joining with them.

I believe our present objective is for free and open elections. It is my intention to impress upon Batista at every opportunity our hope that the GOC will conduct free and open elections.

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If we can engender the thought amongst the political opposition that Cuba will have free and open elections on June 1, it will stimulate the responsible opposition forces to unite.

Andres Rivero Aguero will be the GOC candidate with Rafael Guas Inclan as his running mate, supported by the four coalition parties. At present the two leading opposition candidates are Dr. Grau San Martin and Carlos Marquez Sterling. Dr. Grau has the main support from the people. He is 75, recently broke his hip, and is not expected to live long.

Unless there is a new political alliance of opposition parties, the GOC has little to risk in holding free and open elections and could expect to elect their candidate, weak as he may be.

Two steps which I believe would be helpful in convincing the Cuban people of the President’s genuine determination to hold free and open elections would be for him publicly to invite the world press to send reporters to observe the elections or for him formally to invite the Organization of American States and the United Nations to send observers to Cuba for the same purpose. If the Department agrees, I would like to put this suggestion before the President now. If he is willing to extend this invitation, I hope the Department will do what it can to see that both invitations are accepted.

For the present I believe we should not try to persuade Batista to offer wider amnesty. He has already amnestied a number of political prisoners on his own, and will probably release others. The opposition is pressing him in this direction. It seems unlikely that Batista could be persuaded to offer amnesty to elements which are in open, declared rebellion against the Government, and it might be contrary to our own interests for him to do so.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/2–1058. Confidential. Sent by pouch and received on February 11 at 4:06 p.m.
  2. José Pardo Llada and Miguel Suárez Fernández.