The Minister in Haiti (Munro) to the Secretary of State

No. 73

Sir: I have the honor to report that I have recently been holding long conferences three or four times each week with the Minister for Foreign Affairs in an effort to work out final details of a plan for the Haitianization of the Treaty Services. At the Minister’s request, these conferences were at first held at the Legation, but they were subsequently transferred to the National Palace because of popular criticism of the Minister’s being seen so often at my office.

We have now nearly concluded the discussion of the plan for the Public Works Service, although there are details in which we are not as yet in agreement. The tentative agreement which we have reached follows closely the plan set forth in my note of February 6, 1931, a copy of which was transmitted in my despatch No. 59, of February 7, 1931.

Mr. Sannon was especially desirous that Mr. Jeannot be given the title of Assistant Engineer in Chief. I explained that I had no objection to this title, provided it was clearly understood that the [Page 420] principal American Assistant would always be Acting Engineer in Chief in the absence of the head of the Service. I pointed out that it would be contrary to our practice in Haiti and in other countries where American officials were serving under foreign governments, to place these officials under the direct administrative control of a native superior and that the United States Government must retain effective control of the Treaty Services through its own officers so long as it continued to be responsible for their efficiency and proper conduct. In order to obviate any difficulty on this point, we have tentatively agreed to give the American Executive Officer also the title of Assistant Engineer in Chief, with the understanding that he would assume responsibility for the conduct of the Service in the absence of the Engineer in Chief. Mr. Jeannot, when consulted informally by the Government, said that he himself would prefer this arrangement as he felt that a Haitian Acting Engineer in Chief would be at a great disadvantage in dealing with other Treaty Services.

We have had more difficulty in connection with the Haitianization of the various Services in the headquarters of the Direction Générale des Travaux Publics. Mr. Sannon, after some discussion, accepted the principle that these Services should not all be turned over to Haitians at once but insisted that the periods mentioned in my note of February 6th were too long. I said that the periods represented a maximum rather than a minimum and that it would doubtless be possible to shorten them if the Public Works Service received better cooperation and support from the Ministry of Public Works. I pointed out that the unsatisfactory relations now existing between the Service and the Government made the proper conduct of the work exceedingly difficult and that I was, therefore, unwilling to risk the disorganization of the Service by agreeing to relieve so many of the American engineers within a period which might prove too short. I pointed out also that the attitude of the Haitian engineers as evidenced by their recent strike illustrated the difficulties which an American Engineer in Chief would doubtless encounter if he did not have adequate American assistance. The Minister is not yet satisfied on this point, but I do not feel that it would be advisable to agree at this moment to a further reduction of the very short period in which all of the principal divisions of the. Public Works Service will be placed under Haitian direction in accordance with the plan which I have submitted.

In connection with the appointment of Haitian departmental and district engineers, the only difficulty has been due to the fact that Commander Duncan has been unwilling for disciplinary reasons to appoint Mr. Sales immediately as District Engineer at Jérémie. It appears that Mr. Sales has on several occasions shown a spirit of insubordination and that he has been informed by Commander Duncan that his appointment as District Engineer would depend upon an improvement [Page 421] in his conduct. I have explained this situation to Mr. Sannon and have assured him that there was no question that Mr. Sales would be appointed District Engineer at Jérémie in the very near future if his conduct during the intervening period was satisfactory; but that I felt that it would be fatal to the discipline of the whole Service to make the appointment immediately for political reasons. As this was not entirely satisfactory to Mr. Sannon, we considered the possibility of transferring another engineer from the Port-au-Prince headquarters to Cayes as departmental engineer and appointing Mr. Martin, who is now at Cayes, as district engineer at Jérémie. This, however, seems impracticable because the man selected for the post at Cayes has expressed the greatest reluctance to leave Port-au-Prince and avers that he is unable because of the state of his health, to live at Cayes. I shall, therefore, have to inform Mr. Sannon that all departments and districts except Jérémie can immediately be placed under Haitian engineers, but that I shall not agree to the appointment of Mr. Sales until this appointment is recommended by the Engineer in Chief.

The Haitian Government has been equally insistent on the withdrawal of the American inspectors from the Department of the North and the Artibonite-Northwest area. Mr. Sannon admits in principle that the Engineer in Chief must have full liberty to make such inspections as he deems necessary, but he maintains that the presence of American inspectors alongside of and apparently in control of the Haitian departmental engineers makes it appear that the Haitianization of the departments is more a matter of form than of substance. I have pointed out that the departmental engineers themselves appear very glad to have the advice and counsel of the American inspectors and to have their support in dealing with local politicians, and that it would be ridiculous to have the inspectors making the long trip between Port-au-Prince and the North several times a month simply to avoid having them live in the districts which they covered. I did not emphasize the other reason for maintaining the inspectors on the ground, which is that the Engineer in Chief feels that he could not possibly assume the responsibility for the conduct of work and the handling of funds by Haitian departmental engineers if he were not able to watch every detail of the work at all times. I explained to Mr. Sannon that the necessity for the assistance of inspectors would naturally diminish as the Haitian engineers became more familiar with their work and that when this occurred, it would be easier to withdraw the inspectors to Port-au-Prince, although I was unwilling to fix any period of time for this. The Minister indicated that he would at least like to have a “formula” which would meet a part of his demands on this point and that he would be satisfied with a formula which stated that the inspectors would be retained provisionally in their [Page 422] departments. I have, therefore, proposed a formula reading as follows:

“Inspectors will remain provisionally in the departments where there are Haitian departmental engineers, until the requirements of the Service permit their withdrawal to the main office at Port-au-Prince and the conduct of their inspections from there”.

As I have already informed the Department, I believe that it will be possible in the near future to embark on a more rapid Haitianization of the Public Works Service than was contemplated in my note of February 6th.21a I have considered it inadvisable, however, to discuss this matter under present conditions because any substantial concessions to the demands of the Nationalist element at a time when the Minister of Public Works is systematically trying to break down the Public Works Service would merely encourage the adoption of similar tactics against one or more of the other Treaty Services, and would thus increase rather than diminish the probability of further serious friction with the Haitian Government. I do not plan therefore, to take up the possibility of accelerating the Haitianization of the Public Works Service until after a satisfactory general accord has been reached, and until there has been a change in the general situation of the Service.

The Public Health Service has not yet been discussed in so much detail. We are in apparent accord as to the appointment of a Haitian co-director of the hospital at Port-au-Prince under the conditions outlined on page 5 of my note of February 6th. and I think that it will be practicable to agree upon the appointment of an Assistant Director General of the Public Health Service under the same conditions as in the case of the Public Works Service. Dr. Stewart, however, has indicated that he would like to give further consideration to questions of personnel before definitely recommending a Haitian doctor for this latter position and the matter is, therefore, still pending. Mr. Sannon has not fully accepted in principle the appointment of an American as well as a Haitian Assistant Director General, but I think that he will do so.

As the Department will have noted, the Public Health Service plans to retain American officials in chargé of the sanitary districts of Port-au-Prince and Cape Haitien throughout the life of the Treaty and to retain Americans in the districts of Gonaives and Cayes for two or three years. I arranged to have Dr. Stewart discuss with Mr. Sannon the special sanitary problems which still remain unsettled in these two latter districts and further information on these problems will be subsequently submitted for the Haitian Government’s consideration. While Mr. Sannon is still insisting in principle upon the most rapid possible Haitianization of all of the sanitary districts, I do not think [Page 423] that he or the Government will feel so strongly about this matter as about the Public Works, and I suspect that the strong reluctance of Haitian doctors to leave Port-au-Prince will make it more difficult for the Government to press any specific proposals.

We have thus far touched only in a very general way upon the Financial Service. The Minister indicated that the Haitian Government cannot accept our position that further extensive Haitianization of this Service is impracticable. He has argued insistently for the appointment of additional Haitian collectors at the ports and still more insistently for the full Haitianization of the Internal Revenue Service, and he has also taken up the question of the land title registry, where he considers the present situation thoroughly unsatisfactory from the point of view of Haitian law and procedure. I have promised to study any proposal which he may make with regard to this last item. In connection with the Customs and the Internal Revenue, I have told him that I had rather definite instructions from my Government and that I thought that there was little probability that these instructions would be changed. I have pointed out that an adequate consideration of the Internal Revenue question, where the Haitian Government advances legal arguments to support its position, would require further study by the Department of State and would thus be a matter of some weeks or months and I have suggested that it would be preferable to postpone for the present the consideration of questions affecting the Financial Services in order to reach a prompt agreement on the other Services where the problems involved were less difficult. If the Haitian Government accepts this suggestion, I shall go into the matter in detail with the Department at a later date. It seems apparent that the provisions of the Protocol of 1919 will have to be implemented by a specific agreement after the expiration of the Treaty, and I am inclined to believe that it would be possible at this time to work out a satisfactory agreement for this purpose.

Throughout our discussions, the attitude of the Minister for Foreign Affairs has on the whole been reasonable. We are apparently in full accord outwardly as to the desirability of an orderly and carefully worked out plan of Haitianization which will not interrupt the proper administration of the Treaty Services. Mr. Sannon, however, is under great pressure from some of his colleagues in the Government and from the more radical elements in the Nationalist party, to insist upon the most rapid possible plan of Haitianization and to demand everything which there is any possibility of obtaining. Because of this pressure, he has felt it advisable to keep the press and the people very fully informed not only of the general progress but of the minor details of our negotiations, including even such matters as the delay for disciplinary reasons in appointing Mr. Sales at Jérémie. Representatives [Page 424] of the newspapers appear to have seen the entire text of most of the communications which have been exchanged and they have commented freely on points involved in a manner designed to make it very difficult for the Government to reach a satisfactory understanding with the Legation. I am even inclined to suspect, although the suspicion may be an unjust one, that Mr. Sannon and his colleagues have deliberately encouraged such comment with a view to extracting further concessions from us, or at least with a view to impressing upon the Legation the intense public interest in Haitianization.

The Government finds itself in a very difficult position because the more vociferous and active political leaders and newspaper men and probably the mass of the Haitian elite in general expected and desired a much more rapid process of Haitianization than is likely to occur. The more extreme elements have violently criticized the Government for not repudiating the Treaty, or at least demanding its immediate abrogation, and even the more moderate ones have expressed keen disappointment that three months have passed since the inauguration of the new President without any evident decrease in the interference of the United States in Haiti’s internal affairs. There is unquestionably a very strong desire among the majority of people here, both in the elite and in the lower classes of the city population, that all Americans should leave Haiti at once, regardless of the effect upon public order or the efficiency of the Government, and there is a deep seated suspicion which I fear is shared even by the highest officials of the Government that we do not really intend to leave Haiti at all unless we are forced to do so. I hope that the dissatisfaction and agitation which now exists will to some extent be alleviated when we are able to announce that the two Governments have definitely agreed upon a plan for Haitianization, but, in the meantime, the situation is an exceedingly disagreeable one and contains possibilities of serious trouble.

I do not believe that these conditions would be improved materially by our making further concessions with regard to the rate of Haitianization. I have given much thought to this matter but I am inclined to believe that the Haitian temperament would simply see in any concession an evidence of weakness and that a concession on one point would merely encourage new and increasingly bitter attacks elsewhere. There appears to be no disposition whatever to appreciate the fact that a very great deal has already been done toward the Haitianization of the Treaty Services and that the Legation has to a great extent relaxed the control which was formerly exercised over actions of the Government, which seem to our representatives here unwise and improper. Our abstention from interfering in such matters as the President’s decree restoring the old prohibitions on trading in the interior or his action in giving a Haitian politician permission to operate a lottery, [Page 425] appears merely to have encouraged proposals to still more unwise governmental action. It is becoming clear that the process of withdrawing from the position hitherto occupied in Haiti will be an exceedingly difficult and disagreeable one and that it will very probably be accompanied by more friction and more evidence of discontent among the Haitians than a policy of strict control. I look forward to the meeting of the Congress in April with a feeling of dismay, which is only mitigated by the very evident terror with which the members of the Government anticipate this same event.

Respectfully yours,

Dana G. Munro
  1. Ante, p. 415.