Isle of Pines Tax Protesters Hope for U.S. Support

The Isle of Pines is an island tucked under Cuba. The United States ganked Cuba from Spain during the Spanish-American War, and the Isle of Pines was part of that package. When Cuba became independent soon after, however, it was not immediately clear whether the Isle of Pines was part of that package. Cuba’s government claimed sovereignty over the island, but some of the residents felt more loyal to the U.S., and weren’t having it:

Cuba Taxes Americans.

Residents of the Isle of Pines Prepare to Resist Payment

 Three hundred Americans, property owners and residents of the Isle of Pines, are preparing to resist forcibly, if necessary, any further exercise of sovereignty there by the Cuban Government. Formal demand has been made upon Minister Squiers for the protection due to American citizens on American territory, and Mr. Squiers is conferring with President Palma.

American residents on the island say they own and occupy more than two-thirds of the land there. They assert that the Cuban Government is levying oppressive and unlawful taxes in the Isle of Pines, and spending the proceeds in the Island of Cuba. Administration of justice in the Isle of Pines is said to be unreliable.

The protesting Americans say they have settled in the island with their families and mean to stay. Before investing their money in the purchase and improvement of real estate they received official assurances from Washington that the Isle of Pines was territory of the United States. They refuse to pay further taxes to the Cuban and ask that steps be immediately taken to establish a government in the island under American authority.

The situation is becoming serious, and an open rupture is likely to occur if President Palma sends rural guards to the Isle of Pines to enforce collection of taxes.

Will Not Pay Taxes.

Americans in Isle of Pines Defy Cubans.

 The Americans residing in the Isle of Pines deny the general assumption of the Cuban Government that the United States has no special interest in the island and that it is not likely to insist on the eventual ownership of it. In any event, they appear to be confident of having the support of the United States, if necessary, in their resistance to being governed and taxed by Cuban officials, pending a settlement of the question of the ownership of the island. The matter is expected to receive important consideration in connection with the settlement of the location of the coaling stations and other pending questions between Cuba and the United States.

Recently the American residents of the island as a body informed Alcalde of the Isle of Pines and the Cuban Government of their intention to resist by force if necessary the collection of taxes or any assumption of authority over the island by the Cuban Government. The taxes are now falling due, and every American has pledged himself not to pay them. The Americans’ contention is founded on the section of the Platt amendment which expressly omits the Isle of Pines from the boundaries of Cuba and leaves the title to it for future adjustment by treaty.

Some three hundred Americans have, since the war, made their homes in the Isle of Pines, and it is estimated that five hundred Americans have interests in the island. The American portion of the population is not of an adventurous character, but is largely composed of people of mature years, who have engaged in the business of fruit raising. Their desire that the island remain American is not purely sentimental, since, they say, as a Cuban possession, it would receive no more than 20 per cent tariff preference, while as a territory of the United States the islanders hope for free trade with America.

The government, while acknowledging that the matter of the ownership of the island is open, holds that it has de facto control over the island for the time being at least, and that it is therefore authorized to levy taxes and perform other governmental functions. It is believed that the United States will approve this position against the protest of the American residents, who refuse to pay taxes, although they avail themselves of whatever protection and privileges the present government supplies. During the American military government of Cuba the payment of taxes on the Isle of Pines was not questioned, nor were such payments opposed by the Cuban residents of the island, who constituted a majority of the population. Cuban officials are inclined to believe that the present anti-Cuban movement on the island has been instigated by the land companies.

Alas for the resisters, the United States did not show much interest in holding on to their island, and U.S. Secretary of State Elihu Root tried to make it very clear to the resisters that they should expect no help from the U.S. government.