March 26, 1958
Revolutionary violence against presidential candidates and their supporters achieved its aim, scuttling the June elections. Two March proceedings resulted in a five month postponement.
The Supreme Electoral Court granted the request for postponement sought by all political parties in a joint action citing the violence preventing orderly campaigning or voting. In a parallel effort, at the request of the Cabinet, the Congress passed a law on March 26 adjusting the electoral code, statutorily establishing the new date for elections as November 3, 1958.
A confidential telegram to the US State Department from Ambassador Smith about the situation summarizes a conversation he had with the Prime Minister, Gonzalo Güell y Morales de los Ríos. This reported that the Batista government had honored opposition candidates’ requests to postpone the election. This telegram also mentions that Güell believed that constitutional guarantees had been restored too soon and were exploited by the revolutionaries to increase violence to a level that jeopardized preservation of law and order. Amb. Smith noted:
Guell continued, "It is true and unfortunate that police at times are over-zealous—I am against any sort of violence—I am against dictatorship—I believe in democracy. Batista would like a democratic policy. If Castro succeeds, Cuba will have a real dictatorship. With Castro's Communistic projected program, situation in Cuba will be worse than in any other Latin American country—and that includes Guatemala".
Guell continued, "No matter who is elected in the coming elections, Castro will continue to fight. We must weaken Castro to make him play ball. Castro will not accept military junta or any government that is not 'stained' for him. All you have to do is read Castro's platform (22 points) and his letter to junta in Florida and then draw your own conclusions. Batista wants to leave power on February 24, 1959, and leave a government headed by a president elected by the people, whether the candidate be from the government party or the opposition party. Batista wants to guarantee a normal and democratic development of the country."
|US Ambassador to Cuba Earl ET Smith, Havana 1958 (photo: Lester Cole/CORBIS)||Prime Minister Gonzalo Güell (R) and Batista, 1958 (photo: Joseph Scherschel/LIFE)|