Thursday, September 28, 2006

Second US Military Occupation of Cuba: Untold Corruption

By Yoel Cordovi Nunez

Researcher of Cuba’s History Institute

ACN Special Service

On September 19, 1906, a US naval war ship accompanied by part of the Atlantic fleet made its way to Havana. On board was a peace commission, made up of War Secretary William Howard Taft and the Under Secretary of State Roberto Bacon.

The obstacles found in their efforts to negotiate with the government of Tomas Estrada Palma from the Moderate Party —and in his re-election bid and the consequent clash with the liberal faction of General Jose Miguel Gomez— set the basis for the second military occupation of the island. On the September 29, Taft announced in a proclamation to the Cuban people, the decision of his government to create a provincial government in Cuba. That responsibility was left for Charles E. Magoon, who had been minister in Panama and governor of the Canal Zone. He began his government in Cuba on October 13, 1906, almost 100 years ago.

By that date the treasury had significant surpluses from the Estrada Palma administration, yet after the US occupation of the island a debt of some 11 million dollars was left behind. Magoon’s administration was characterized as the most corrupt in history.

The so-called Petition Committees were famous, cradles of the most fervent public hunters, as well as what was called the “botella,” where people were given jobs without the proper qualifications. These were old colonial practice imposed by Charles Magoon. The public knew of the enrichment of the governor and his followers at the cost of the kilometers of poorly constructed roads with prices well above the market price.

Magoon took advantage of his executive position for a short period. He did not have much time, as President Theodore Roosevelt felt internal and external pressures that would affect his electoral interests and wanted to end the intervention. The president considered guaranteeing the control of the island to be unnecessary.

While he enriched himself without scruples; he was preparing for the re-establishment of the Republic of Cuba, addressing the contradictions among the political parties. We must highlight the work at the time of the Consultative Commission, headed by Colonel E. H. Crowder and prestigious Cuban figures like Juan Gualberto Gomez, Mario Garcia Kohly, Rafael Montoro and Francisco Carrera Justiz. The Commission was destined to draft a municipal law, an electoral law, the law for the organization of judicial power and the Civil Services law.

All these legislation was announced by the Magoon government throughout 1908, and as an electoral prerequisite a general population census was held in 1907. Once the electoral law was approved the struggle for the political power began between the parties with the victory going to the Liberal Party. That way on January 28th, 1909 the second military occupation ended and the four years of the government of General Jose Miguel Gomez government began.

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