History of Cuba: After the Spanish American war

General Wood was appointed Governor General at the close of 1899. General Wood's Cabinet consisted of the following Cubans: Secretary of State, Diego Tamayo; Secretary of Justice, Luis Estevoz; Secretary of Education, Juan B. Hernandez; Secretary of Finance, Enrique Varona; Secretary of Public Works, Jose R. Villalon, and Secretary of Agriculture, etc., Ruis Rivera.

A number of radical reforms were instituted. The prisons were overhauled and put into a sanitary condition. Many prisoners were released or had their terms shortened in proportion to the venial nature of their offences. A joint commission was appointed, consisting of American and Cuban lawyers, charged with the task of codifying the laws and insuring prompt trials. Inefficient public officials were removed and a working scheme devised by which civil and military authorities could live in harmony. A census was taken, showing a total poulation of 1,572,797.

The area of Cuba is approximately 44,000 square miles and the average number of inhabitants per square mile 35.7, about the same as the State of Iowa. The areas of the six provinces and the average density of population in each are as follows:

Area Pop. per Province. Sq. miles. sq. m. Havana.. 2,772 153 Matanzas.. 3,700 55 Pinar del Rio.. 5,000 35 Puerto Principe.. 10,500 8 Santa Clara.. 9,560 37 Santiago.. 12,468 26

Havana, with the densest population was as thickly populated as the State of Connecticut, and Puerto Principe, the most sparsely populated, is in this respect comparable with the State of Texas.

The President of the United States, in his message to Congress, December 3, 1900, in touching upon the relations of Cuba with the United States, stated that on July 25, 1900, he directed that a call be issued for the election in Cuba for members of a Constitutional Convention to frame a Constitution as a basis for a stable and independent government in the island. In pursuance thereof the Military Governor after citing the joint resolution of Congress April 28, 1898, said:

"Therefore, it is ordered that a general election be held in the Island of Cuba on the third Saturday of September, in the year 1900, to elect delegates to a convention to meet in the City of Havana at 12 o'clock noon on the first Monday in November, in the year 1900, to frame and adopt a Constitution for the people of Cuba, and as a part thereof to provide for and agree with the government of the United States upon the relations to exist between that government and the government of Cuba, and to provide for the election by the people of officers under such Constitution and the transfer of government to the officers so elected. The election will be held in the several voting precincts of the island under and pursuant to the provisions of the electoral law of April 18, 1900, and the amendments thereof." The election was held on the 15th of September, and the convention assembled on the 5th of November, 1900. In calling the convention to order, the Military Governor of Cuba made the following statement: "As Military Governor of the island, representing the President of the United States, I call this convention to order. It will be your duty, first, to frame and adopt a Constitution for Cuba, and when that has been done to formulate what in your opinion ought to be the relations between Cuba and the United States. The Constitution must be adequate to secure a stable, orderly, and free government. When you have formulated the relations which in your opinion ought to exist between Cuba and the United States, the government of the United States will doubtless take such action on its part as shall lead to a final and authoritative agreement between the people of the two countries for the promotion of their common interests. When the convention concludes its labors I will transmit to the Congress the Constitution as framed by the convention for its consideration and for such action as it may deem advisable."

The voters in whose capacity for self-government we are experimenting, number some 140,000 natives, and about 50,000 Spanish citizens. Native whites make up a little more than half the population, the negroes and mixed races being less than one-third.

A system of municipal government has been established, as the safest method of preparing the Cubans for home rule when we hand back the island for administration by them as an independent State. The municipal district is the political and administrative unit in Cuba. There are six provinces, thirty-one judicial districts and 132 municipal districts in the island. A municipal district is the territory under the administration of a municipal council, and may be established, increased, diminished, annexed to other municipal districts or abolished by the Governor-General. It corresponds, in a measure, to the American county or township, and as prerequisites to establishment must contain not fewer than 2,000 inhabitants and be able to meet the necessary expenses of the local government. Each district is divided into subdistricts, and the latter into wards, or barrios. These are further divided into electoral districts, and these again into electoral sections.

Each municipal district has a municipal council and a municipal board. The council governs the district, subject to the supervision of the Governor of the province and Military Governor of the island, and is composed of a mayor, a certain number of deputy mayors, and aldermen taken from the members of the council.

The census of the population determines the number of councillors to which each municipal district is entitled, as follows: Up to 500 inhabitants, five; 500 to 800, six; 800 to 1,000, seven; between 1,000 and 10,0000, one additional councillor for every additional 1,000 people; and between 10,000 and 20,000, one for every additional 2,000 people. For more than 20,000, one for every additional 2,000 inhabitants until the municipal council has the maximum number of thirty councillors.

The number of deputy mayors is determined on the same principle. Municipal districts of less than 800 inhabitants have no deputy mayors; between 800 to 1,000, one; 1,000 to 6,000, two; 6,000 to 10,000, three; 10,000 to 18,000, four; 18,000 or more, five. Up to 800 inhabitants there is but thereafter the number of subdistricts corresponds to the number of deputy mayors. Each deputy mayor is in charge of a subdistrict as the representative of the mayor, discharging such administrative duties as he may direct, but having no independent functions.

Up to 3,000 inhabitants there is but one electoral district; between 3,000 and 6,000, three; 6,000 to 10,000, four; 10,000 to 18,000, five; 18,000 or more, six.

The councillors are elected from the municipality at large by the qualified voters of the district, one-half being renewed every two years, the councillors longest in service going out at each renewal. They are eligible for re-election. The regular elections are held in the first two weeks in May, but partial elections are held when, at least six months before the regular election, vacancies occur which amount to a third of the total number of councillors. If they occur after this period they are filled by the Governor of the province from among former members of the council.

All male citizens over 25 years of age who enjoy their full civil rights and have lived at least two years in the municipality are entitled to vote, provided they are not disqualified by sentence for certain criminal offences, bankruptcy or insolvency, or are not delinquent taxpayers or paupers.

The mayors and deputy mayors are appointed by the Military Governor from among the councillors on the recommendation of the council. But while under the law the deputy mayors must be selected from the council, the Military Governor may appoint any person as mayor whether he belongs to the municipality or not.

Each ward has a mayor, who is appointed by the municipal mayor and discharges various minor duties. Each council has a secretary, appointed by the Governor of the island, and one or more fiscal attorneys, but the municipal mayor and the secretary are the only salaried officials, the offices of deputy members of the municipal board and mayor of a ward being described in the law as "gratuitous, obligatory and honorary." The duties of the municipal council do not differ materially from those that devolve upon similar bodies in European countries. The sessions of the municipal board are determined by the body itself, but they cannot be fewer than one in each week, at which every member is required to attend punctually or pay a fine. Neither the mayor, the deputies, aldermen nor ward mayor are permitted to absent themselves without permission, each from the next highest official above him.

A strong party in Cuba, headed by General Gomez, has been hostile to the military force accompanying the Governor-General, and much discontent existed throughout the island, but the fitness of the legislative assembly and of the voters could only be tested by time. There were 6,000 troops stationed in Cuba for an indefinite term.

The almost unanimous decision of the Cuban constitutional convention, as expressed in secret session in Havana to insert in the Constitution a clause providing for universal suffrage, brought the question of Cuba's future government into prominence again. It is believed that this particular provision was incorporated owing largely to the efforts of General Maximo Gomez's adherents, and that the proposed clause in the Constitution making eligible to the Presidency of the new republic not only native-born Cubans, but also any citizen who took part for ten years in the revolutionary war against Spain, was formulated for Gomez's special benefit. Some American sympathizers applauded this selection, on the ground that no less commanding and resourceful chieftain than he could have held the revolutionary forces together for half so long a time, and inspired them with courage and with hope. A very different view of Gomez was taken by others, who regarded him as the least fitted to hold the office to which he notoriously aspires.

The constitutional convention passed the universal suffrage measure on January 30, 1901. The clause in the Constitution providing for universal suffrage was finally adopted by the convention, after a keen debate. Senor Aleman said that suffrage was a constitutional question, and the undisputed right of all Cubans. Senor Berriel said if universal suffrage were granted an enormous number of naturalized foreigners would be given a right which would be a serious menace to Cuba.

Senor Sanguilly said without universal suffrage Cuba would be exposed to the domination of alien votes. There were 96,083 Spaniards and 6,894 other foreigners in the island, all of whom might have the right to vote against 112,000 Cubans who could read and write.

The third section of the constitutional project, dealing with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, was considered, and two additions were made providing that the laws dealing with these rights shall be null when they tend to restrict or diminish them. This was inserted to guard against a selfish and unscrupulous legislature or executive.

It was peculiarly unfortunate, considering our position as instructors of the Cubans in the art of good government, that a series of frauds was discovered in the post-office department at Havana, early in 1900. The postmaster, the chief financial agent, named C. W. Neely, and four other officials, were arrested for systematic thefts of stamps to the value of about $500,000. Neely managed to place himself in what he hoped would be the safe shelter of the State of New York. He was there charged before a court with the larceny and his extradition was demanded, that he might be tried where the offence was committed. Through his attorneys Neely set up a plea in opposition to this demand for extradition, which occupied the lower court for some time, and on its being decided against him, he took an appeal to the Supreme Court. The moral importance of the case was equalled by its legal and constitutional importance. The chief point at issue was, whether the special act of June 6, 1900, passed by Congress to cover this instance and extending the extradition law of this country to a foreign country, "occupied or under the control of the United States," was constitutional, and whether Cuba is a "foreign country."

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