Alarmed by events, the American Ambassador, Gordon Welles, cabled for the United States warship in Santiago to join two already in Havana, and telephoned Washington for authority to land 1,000 troops to maintain order in the city and protect the American Embassy. It was time for Roosevelt to step up and support the man he had sent to Havana to intervene. He stepped back.
Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, convinced the President that Welles was exaggerating the danger. Furthermore, intervention was rejected on the grounds that landing troops would be seen as partiality to one faction over another. The President and his Secretary of State feared that any Cuban administration receiving American support would be regarded as Washington's lapdog. However, the President did approve sending the warships to Havana as a necessary and reasonable precaution.
Under threat from the military, led by Batista, as well as student and workers' groups, de Céspedes resigned after just four months in office. He was replaced by Dr. Ramon Grau San Martín, a physician and National University professor. With labor problems closing the sugar mills, and Batista and his army pacing their camps like caged beasts, Grau turned his attention to appeasing the American Ambassador. The unrest grew, and Ambassador Welles quickly grew impatient. All he cared about was finding a chief executive who could bring law and order to the island.
When he realized the error of his focus, Grau implemented reforms. He established an eight-hour workday. He provided for minimum wages and compulsory arbitration in labor disputes. Certain large sugar plantations and public utilities were nationalized. Agrarian reforms were initiated. Unfortunately, all of these reforms were implemented by executive decree and they failed to alleviate revolutionary pressures.
Welles viewed Grau and his reforms as well-meaning but inept. The American Ambassador's critics castigated him for failing to support Grau's reforms. Welles sought refuge in the Platt Amendment, especially the right of intervention, pledging the United States to support a Cuban government capable of safeguarding life, liberty, and property. The Grau administration, he argued, had been unable to perform this task. Diplomatic recognition of Grau's administration, Welles reasoned, would be a breach of faith. Thus, Grau's overthrow by Batista in January, 1934, was as much the result of America's lack of support as well as the fact that his administration was unpopular with the Cuban people.