The Secretary of State to the High Commissioner in Haiti (Russell)

No. 425

Sir: Your strictly confidential despatch No. 1375 of March 14 has been read with interest and has received the most careful consideration.

The Department was most gratified to learn from your telegram of April 15, noon, that President Borno would not be a candidate nor permit his name to be considered for reelection as President in April of next year. While it is noted, as stated by your subsequent communications, that President Borno does not entirely concur in the Department’s view of the interpretation to be given to the pertinent provisions of the Haitian Constitution in connection with his possible candidacy, it may be said that the Department is still convinced of the soundness of its views as set forth in its telegram of April 11, 5 p.m., and it also feels that, in the light of those constitutional provisions, it would not be to the best interests of Haiti from the standpoint of policy, for one man to remain in office as President of Haiti for three consecutive terms.

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The Department would find itself equally unable to acquiesce in an interpretation of the Haitian Constitution which would extend President Borno’s term for an additional two years. It does not believe that Article 72 of the Haitian Constitution could properly be so interpreted and it believes that an attempt so to interpret it would give rise to well justified criticism both in Haiti and abroad.

The Department has felt constrained to express its views regarding the interpretation of the pertinent provisions of the Haitian Constitution with regard to President Borno’s present tenure of office. The situation with respect to the calling of congressional elections, however, is somewhat different, as the selection of the date for these elections is not determined by the Haitian Constitution but is a matter left by the Constitution to the discretion of the President. While this Government, in view of its obligations under Article 14 and other pertinent provisions of the Treaty of 1915, must reserve the right to extend at any time to the Haitian Government such friendly counsel and advice as may seem appropriate in connection with this subject, it is not disposed at present, in view of the representations made by President Borno regarding the inadvisability of such action, to insist that he go against his better judgment in ordering general elections next year. It feels that the primary responsibility in this matter rests with the President of Haiti and that any action which he may take must, therefore, be taken upon his responsibility.

With reference to the other recommendations made on the last page of your despatch of March 14 above referred to, the Department is not prepared at this time to state definitely its views regarding the action to be taken by the Haitian Government in 1932, nor regarding the possible elimination of one branch of the Haitian legislative body. It believes that the initiative in this latter proposal should come from the Haitian Government, if the latter desires to propose such an amendment to the Constitution.

I am [etc.]

Henry L. Stimson