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

No. 1568

Sir: Referring to my confidential despatch No. 1567, of November 30, 1929, I have the honor to report that in spite of great concessions offered by the Government to the striking students, no settlement has been reached. It appears that on Saturday, November 30th., the student committee failed to keep its appointment with the Minister of Public Instruction and it is obvious that the students therefore do not wish a settlement.

The strike of the students has rapidly spread throughout the country and the entire faculty at Damien, following the leadership of a Mr. Nicolas, a member of the Haitian faculty and a graduate of an American school, has walked out. At Port-au-Prince, the entire Service Technique is practically on a strike, including garage and chauffeur employees.

The student committees have been trying to obtain a sympathetic strike on the part of the other Government services and such a strike was scheduled for this morning in the custom house, the Financial Adviser’s office, Public Works, and Public Health, but, fortunately, conditions in those organizations are normal and I am reliably informed that the strikers were met with a curt reply when they approached the members of these organizations. The striking students are still endeavoring to obtain the cooperation of the other government departments. It is now understood that they hope to be able to induce them to strike on Wednesday next. Jacmel has, as the Department knows, always been a hot-bed in the South and last night there was a manifestation at that place. …

This morning, President Borno informed me that he thought drastic action was necessary and that he desired to arrest some twenty of the political leaders and put them in jail incommunicado. He stated that their papers could be gone through and he felt certain evidence could be obtained of their plotting against the Government. I strongly objected and informed President Borno that my policy was to allow those to strike who wanted to strike; to allow no picketing outside of government offices, to suppress promptly any disorder, and not to take back any strike leaders; that I felt that starvation alone would [Page 187] soon bring them to terms and that all the Treaty Officials other than those of the Service Technique and the Garde, had informed me that their organizations could carry on in spite of a strike. President Borno stated that it was his desire to avoid blood-shed and I told him that I thought his method was just the one to lead to it; that it was my strong desire to avoid blood-shed, and that I had strong hopes that if the Garde did not become involved, that drastic action would not be necessary. President Borno replied that he had information that some of those interested in the strike had stated that they were willing to go to any extreme to attain their ends.

I have given instructions to have the Marine organization stationed here show itself more than it has done in the past. It has been the policy not to pass through the streets, for example, with our machine guns, but in taking them to the range for practice to take them in trucks more or less concealed, but now they will march through the streets and other means will be taken to let the people see a show of force, with the hopes that it may have a beneficial effect.

I have [etc.]

John H. Russell