General Enoch H. Crowder to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received April 8.]
My Dear Mr. Secretary: I arrived in Havana on Tuesday, March 18, and this is the preliminary report I promised you at the end of two weeks of my study of the electoral situation in Cuba. Offices were not available for me immediately upon my arrival and I lost some time in securing suitable quarters, but was able to inaugurate my work on Friday, March 21 and have been proceeding, since that date, in a halting way—that is, with many obstructions—in my attempt to secure data and give definition to the electoral situation which I came to investigate.
Practically coincident with my arrival in Havana, the Supreme Court of Cuba handed down its decision in the contested Santa Clara election cases growing out of the last general elections of 1918, decreeing the nullity of the elections in three hundred and nine out of the four hundred and sixty-six colleges (electoral precincts) of that Province. It seemed to me tactically wise to take advantage of the findings of fact of the Supreme Court respecting frauds in Santa Clara Province, and pursue my investigations along the lines indicated by the Court, until I was able to give definition to the electoral situation in that Province; and then to establish by analogies to be drawn the electoral situation in the five other Provinces developed by the biennial elections of 1918. I have deemed this course tactically wise because those political parties and groups in Cuba who would be disposed to dissent from my findings of fact will be at the disadvantage of dissenting also from the findings of fact of their own Supreme Court.
I have only commenced my work. Much remains to be done in the way of investigation if the facts which will enable me to define the situation here are to be ascertained and stated. My investigation promises to extend itself over a longer period than I anticipated. I know that you do not want a half-way job and I have in mind, always, your final injunction to cover in my report all matters necessary to a complete understanding by the State Department of the situation here, to the end that the report I submit may aid the State Department in understanding situations and deciding questions which arise or promise to arise in connection with the general elections for President to be held in 1920.
I have proceeded far enough with the investigation to know that in Santa Clara Province alone the registration lists have been so inflated with fictitious names that the total number of electors [Page 12] inscribed in that Province for the elections of 1918 closely approximated the total number of electors entitled to be inscribed for that election in all six Provinces. Of course, this could not have happened except through collusion among the political parties, for the Law, as it now stands, furnished the most ample safe-guards against such a padding of the Registration Lists.
The elections of 1918 resulted in giving Menocal and the Conservative Party a majority in Congress, but of course this was not the motive for the padding of the lists. That motive, as I now see it, was to give the Conservative Party and the Zayista faction of the Liberal Party the representation upon the electoral boards for 1920. This padding has gone on in all of the Provinces and with similar motives. There are some reliably reported instances where the registration in certain municipalities exceeds the total population.
The mandate of the Supreme Court for new elections in three hundred and nine colleges of Santa Clara Province should be sent to the Provincial Electoral Board in the next few days in order that the new and special elections may be proclaimed by that Board. But I am confidentially advised by the Secretary of State that there may be some delay in the ordering of these new elections in the interest of the grinding season which is now on. If, however, the elections are not delayed, there is this situation to deal with. The new elections in these three hundred and nine colleges must, under the requirements of the law, be held under the old and grotesquely fraudulent registration, and no candidate can be voted for at the new elections who was not a candidate at the old and fraudulent elections; this, unless the Congress, which is now in session, steps in rather promptly and enacts a special Law for the conduct of the new elections. I have no doubt that this would be a proper course, for you will, without difficulty, proceed with me to the conclusion that a new and honest election in those three hundred and nine colleges, super-imposed upon the fraudulent elections in the remaining one hundred and fifty-seven colleges, would produce about as absurd a result as can well be imagined, and more dissatisfaction within the Province than the new elections were intended to compose.
I think the Congress of Cuba is undoubtedly competent, on the basis of the findings of fact of the Supreme Court, to annul the elections throughout the Province, decree a rectification of the registration lists within that province, and direct a new and special election establishing a new and special procedure, looking to the reconstitution of the college boards along non-partisan lines; and this is what ought to be done. Of course, I shall not intervene in [Page 13] this matter, but I shall, without awaiting your further instructions, have a preliminary conference with President Menocal and hear what his views are, if he chooses to impart them to me, so that I may further advise you in the premises.
Prior to my arrival in Havana, the Camara had appointed a special committee on elections, consisting of four conservative and three liberal members, to study the electoral law and report back to the Camara a revision thereon; in other words, to undertake the same task that I was sent here to perform. I sought immediately to establish contact with that committee and then to have a meeting with it at an early date, of which they would give me notice, when we can confer on the general situation. It would expedite results if I could bring the committee to work in harmony with the views I come to entertain as to the more essential amendments to be made to the electoral law.
You can well understand how anxious I am to return to the United States, but I see no way to complete this task with that expedition that would permit me to contemplate an early return. The meeting of the Bar Association to consider amendments to the Articles of War, and the forthcoming hearing, upon the reassembling of Congress, of the Military Committees, are of the greatest importance to me, and I do not like to think of them closing their meetings without an opportunity to appear before them.