8. Editorial Note

On January 23, Ambassador Smith informed the Department of State that he was planning to meet with President Batista that evening. Smith believed that because he had mentioned at his Washington press conference that constitutional guarantees would be restored on January 27, Batista would probably change the date “to regain the psychological advantage”. Smith thought it possible that the suspension of guarantees might be lifted in all provinces, except Oriente, sometime after his meeting with Batista. Smith also noted his understanding that if Batista agreed to announce publicly, when guarantees were restored, that he would take other conciliatory measures, the Secretary of State “will publicly signify approval of Batista’s attempt to restore normalcy”. (Telegram 397 from Havana, January 23; Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/1–2358)

Later that day, Edward S. Little, Officer in Charge of Caribbean Affairs, telephoned Ambassador Smith in response to this telegram. Asking Smith to refer to the record of his recent conversations in [Page 15] Washington (see Document 5), Little passed on Assistant Secretary Rubottom’s view that if “sufficient conciliatory measures” were taken to warrant Smith’s recommending the issuance of a public statement in Washington, “we would do the necessary here”. Little said the Secretary of State would not make the statement, but that it would be handled in the way described in the memorandum regarding his conversations in Washington. Smith replied that his question was answered and said that he did not want to issue any statement in Havana “since the people there might think he was no longer impartial”. (Memorandum of telephone conversation by Little, January 23, 6:40 p.m.; Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/1–2358)

When Smith met with Batista that evening, Batista said he would restore full constitutional guarantees, except in Oriente province, on January 25. He planned to include in a speech to be given to a convention of his own political party on January 24 a number of points suggested to him by Smith aimed at restoring conditions to permit free and open elections on June 1. In reporting this conversation to the Department of State, Smith did not specify which suggestions he had made, but he told Batista that if these points were included in the speech, “appropriate cognizance would be taken by the Department in a public statement”. (Telegram 402 from Havana, January 24; ibid., 737.00/1–2456)

On January 26, Smith reported that Batista had restored guarantees, except for Oriente province, and had publicly announced that the Cuban Government would enforce the law of the land. According to Smith, Batista also stated publicly that he would turn over the presidency to whomever the people elected. Smith remarked:

“I hope Department will take cognizance these important actions by promptly issuing statement welcoming such actions. Apart from their great significance for coming elections, they are of utmost importance to restoration of normal conditions in Cuba”. (Telegram 410 from Havana, January 26; ibid., 737.00/1–2658)