The President of Haiti ( Lescot ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Welles )


Dear Mr. Under Secretary of State: I am taking advantage of the mission to Washington of our Secretary of State for Finance, Mr. Abel Lacroix, to ask him to give you this letter in order to express to you the satisfaction I feel over the execution of the last Agreement17 which I had the happy pleasure of initialing with you, on my last visit to Washington, and for which I shall never cease to assure you of my deep gratitude.

There is, however, one point in this Agreement which is causing me some uneasiness as respects its execution and about which I would not have spoken to you, because of your constant and most important concerns, if the very rhythm of our national life was not threatened with suffering a stoppage which would be prejudicial from every point of view in these grave times.

It concerns the help with [which] the Republic of Haiti hopes to obtain from the United States in meeting its budget, 79 per cent of which is guaranteed by receipts coming from the collection of fiscal taxes on both imports and exports, since it is faced with the impossibility of carrying on its export and import trade.

You will remember that it was agreed that, in the clauses of the Agreement, there was to appear a suitable phrase to express this possible support which we might expect from the American Government. To this end, consideration was given to a possible decrease in the value of our gourde with respect to the American dollar, on account of the unparalleled difficulties experienced by Haiti, because of the war, in connection with its imports and exports, and to the duty of the Haitian Government of using every possible means to assure the carrying out of its budget, either through the creation of new taxes or by making certain economies.

Fortunately aided by the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti, my Administration has made every possible effort for the moment in [Page 471] both these directions. In addition, it proposes to apply other measures to these same ends for the new budgetary fiscal year which begins October 1 next.

Furthermore, it was agreed that the amount of the aid to be granted us by the Government of the United States through the Export-Import Bank of Washington would not be specified. A sum of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) was suggested by the Director of the Export-Import Bank, but we could not have agreed that such a sum be specified in advance, since we could not know the degree in which the war was going to affect our receipts. As a matter of fact, the amount was not specified in the agreement.

To my great astonishment, very shortly after my return from the United States, the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti forwarded to me a communication received from the Export-Import Bank in which it was stated that the sum of $500,000, previously suggested, had been placed at the disposal of the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti with a view to obviating a possible decrease in the fiscal receipts of the Haitian Government—and this on quite unexpected conditions, among which appeared the reduction of our beggarly budget, a budget of less than six million dollars.

Knowing the good faith and the responsibility of my Administration, conscious of our rectitude and assured by the word of the Government of the United States, I have not wanted to consider the proposal made to the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti, particularly since: (1) such an agreement was not made—no definite sum having been contemplated since we could not in advance estimate the decrease in our receipts, a decrease proportional to the entry and departure of ships; (2) the reduction of our beggarly budget is a measure with which we have had too much experience in the past and which, at the present moment, would be the surest way of lessening my Administration’s prestige with the Haitian people and, thereby, undermining the efforts of this Administration to guarantee the country’s total collaboration in relations with the United States which ought to be firmer and more unshakeable than ever; (3)the financial situation of the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti is excellent and it is not this institution which requests financial assistance. Since it is the Haitian Government which is faced with the problem of the daily increasing reduction in means of transportation, either for imports or for exports, it is not the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti which should be accorded the credit, but rather the Haitian Government.

Furthermore, in spite of the sharp difficulties we have with respect to our financial possibilities, we have religiously taken care of the execution of our budget since last October. Only a period of three months remains to be covered to complete the execution of the budget [Page 472] for the fiscal year which is ending but, because of the impossibility of importing and exporting, we are in doubt as to the receipts for the coming three months.

The situation which confronts us may be summed up thus: we would never have needed the financial aid requested if the war had not severely affected our means of transportation. The number of boats coming into our ports has been reduced in a way which is more than alarming. The warehouses are filled with our export goods and exporters have exhausted their reserve funds in the purchase of these unexported goods. And, in addition, the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti has reached the ceiling of advances which it has been possible for it to make to these same exporters.

If Haitian ports were only visited by fifty per cent more of the small number of ships which touch at them now, we could, by our own means, meet our obligations. Also, if it is not possible for us to have a few more ships to bring us goods and carry away our commodities which, from day to day, are piling up, we shall have to have financial assistance to guarantee the normal working of our Administration. It would be well, however, to remember that it is solely the impossibility of importing and exporting in a reasonable way which puts us into the present depression.

Such then, in broad outline, is the situation in Haiti.

Dear Mr. Welles, it is on you that I again count in aiding us with the competent services, in order that a better fate be arranged for Haiti in the effort which it is making to find a solution for its financial difficulties. We do not lack commodities to export. Our citizens’ purchasing powers are growing and will continue to increase, thanks to the work which the United States is helping us to undertake and imported goods could easily be disposed of; but it is the Haitian Government itself which is at its wits’ end to exist, since it is impossible for it to contrive receipts.

I have asked Mr. Lacroix to tell you about all these things, among others about the possible financing of the exporters who, on account of difficulties in exporting and storing, will soon no longer be able to purchase the commodities offered.

We are in the vacation period. Would it not be possible for you, with Mrs. Welles, to visit Haiti, if only for a few days? Mrs. Lescot and I renew to you and Mrs. Welles the invitation which I had the pleasure of giving you on my last visit to Washington.

I renew my respectful compliments to Mrs. Welles. Mrs. Lescot asks to be remembered to you.

To you, my dear Under Secretary of State and very dear friend, the assurance of my unchangeable and sincere feelings of gratitude.

E. Lescot
  1. Agreements covered in an omnibus memorandum initialed at Washington on April 6, 1942; see Press Release issued by the Department of State, April 13, p. 467.