General Enoch H. Crowder to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received April 8.]
My Dear Mr. Secretary: In my letter of April 1, I gave you notice of my intention to confer with President Menocal respecting the new elections to be held in Santa Clara Province under the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Cuba. The conference took place yesterday, April 2, and developed the following:
- That the decree of the Supreme Court declaring the nullity of the elections in three hundred and nine out of the four hundred and sixty-six electoral colleges of Santa Clara Province was mailed to the Provincial board on Saturday, March 29, with a view to the issue of the Proclamation calling for the new election; which Proclamation by the provincial board must precede the elections by twenty days. No information has reached the President that the proclamation has as yet been issued. Presumably the provincial board will act promptly and about the twenty-fifth of this month [Page 14] we shall find ourselves engaged in holding these new and special elections.
- In response to my further inquiry, President Menocal expressed the view that the electoral machinery would, upon reassembling for these special elections, enact precisely the same procedure as in the old elections of November 1, with one exception—that is to say, few, if any, electors will present themselves at the polls, and the college boards will make up and cast the ballots of the individuals named on the registration lists to elect the candidates heretofore agreed upon between the political parties, except that this time they will mark and fold the ballots so that the Central Electoral Board and the Supreme Court can entertain the presumption that the individual elector did cast his ballot. President Menocal seemed to contemplate this with equanimity.
I ventured to express to him the view that the spectacle of the boards in three hundred and nine colleges reenacting this fraud was not a pleasant one to contemplate and could not help but be somewhat embarrassing to me in the work that I had to do; further, that if the same college boards were continued for the new and special elections as had conducted the old and fraudulent elections, it would look like the Government itself had ratified their prior fraudulent acts. He asked me what suggestions I had to make and I told him it was quite beyond my province to make any suggestions; that I was only trying to discover what action would be taken by the Cuban authorities in order to shape my own course; that I did not regard it as within my authority to suggest any extraordinary but legally justifiable course to meet the present rather acute situation.
We discussed in detail the requirement of the existing law that new and special elections in the three hundred and nine colleges of Santa Clara must be held under the old and conspicuously fraudulent registration which governed in the election of November 1 declared null and void by the Supreme Court; and that no candidate could be voted for in the new elections that was not on the official ballot in the old. This led to an exchange of views as to the propriety of submitting the whole matter to the Cuban Congress in a special message—a course which I suggested tentatively in my letter to you of April 1. President Menocal was of the opinion that if Congress were addressed on the subject it would have to consider the elections in the other five provinces which he said, with considerable emphasis, were equally fraudulent with those held in Santa Clara, and I felt inclined to agree with him. He asked me if I would attend a conference with him, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Fiscal, further to discuss the situation. I replied that I would respond to any request of this character that he might make with the full understanding, on his [Page 15] part, that his invitation and not my official instructions would be the reason for my presence.
When this conference has been had, I shall advise you further. I cannot help but think that the re-enactment, in the new and special elections in Santa Clara, of the frauds committed in the old elections of November 1, 1918, in that province, while I am here investigating, would prove somewhat embarrassing in my work, as it could then very well be said that the Cuban electoral agencies flaunted their defiance of the penal provisions of the electoral law and of the courts in the face of the representative of our Government engaged in investigating the old frauds.
From this time on I hope to write you much shorter letters.