838.51 Cooperation Program/7–1445

The Ambassador in Haiti (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

No. 887

Sir: With reference to my confidential despatch no. 860 of June 28, 1945 reporting that the Haitian Government had placed in my hands the text of its Five Year Plan for the improvement of Haitian agriculture and general economy, I have the honor to transmit herewith for the Department’s attention a copy of this document.10 Another copy has been received from the Haitian Government and will be retained for the Embassy’s use.

As I have stated in my despatch mentioned above, translation of this document would be a difficult task for the limited staff of the Embassy. If, however, the Department desires to have translations of certain portions, the Embassy will endeavor to make these as promptly as possible. I have read it and discussed it with Mr. Williams and with Messrs. Tanner and Hiern, the Agricultural Attaché and Senior Economic Analyst of the Embassy respectively. Messrs. Tanner and Hiern have studied the sections of the Plan relating to agriculture and road construction and have prepared memoranda expressing their opinions and suggestions, copies of which are forwarded herewith, together with copy of a memorandum dated July 9 of my conversation with Mr. Williams on the financial aspect of the matter.11

The memoranda prepared by Messrs. Tanner and Hiern merit the Department’s careful attention. Neither of them expresses himself very favorably on the intrinsic merits of the Plan. Mr. Tanner is [Page 1094] of the opinion that the irrigation projects will affect only a small proportion of Haiti’s peasant families and that an effort should be made to utilize more effectively those irrigation systems already in existence. He states that reforestation should not be commenced unless some quick growing trees are planted to solve Haiti’s critical fuel problem. He considers that the livestock program is unsuitable to a country of small peasant land holdings such as Haiti, a fact which also in his opinion renders impracticable the project to use tractor plows. Finally, he touches upon the delicate personnel problem caused by Haiti’s social conditions.

Mr. Hiern is of the opinion that the distribution of roads contemplated in the Five Year Plan is not well suited to promote the country’s agricultural production. He also believes that the contemplated highway from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien, although well conceived, should not be paved with a thin layer of asphalt, which would occasion considerable expense for construction and maintenance. Both Messrs. Hiern and Tanner recommend that the entire plan be subjected to the study and scrutiny of American, as well as Haitian technicians before it is put into effect.

It is my understanding from a statement made to me by Foreign Minister Lescot12 that a copy of the Plan was given to the Department during his recent visit to Washington. If so, the Department may wish to study it in the light of the views presented by Messrs. Tanner and Hiern, which are deserving of consideration. I have had no occasion to discuss the merits of the Plan with President Lescot and have limited my comments to the Foreign Minister to a statement that it is being carefully examined by the Embassy and that it might be necessary to discuss some portions of it with the Haitian authorities. In reply, he expressed the hope that agreement could be reached by October 1, the date on which the new budget goes into effect. I venture to suggest that after the Department has given appropriate attention to the matter I be authorized to approach the Haitian Government with an expression of the Department’s views on the intrinsic merits of the Plan and to enter into such discussions with the Haitian authorities as may be advisable, as it seems evident that no satisfactory arrangement can be reached providing for the postponement of amortization payments on Haiti’s foreign debt until an agreement is arrived at concerning the reasons for spending funds which the Haitian Government’s creditors can properly claim as owing to them.

It should be borne in mind that the disposition which will be made of the Five Year Plan may have an important bearing on President [Page 1095] Lescot’s political fortunes. He announced, probably unwisely, that the Plan would be drawn up and would have an important bearing on Haiti’s economic welfare. Consequently, should the project fail, there is little doubt but that it will have a harmful effect upon his political prestige and that it will be alleged that he is losing the support of the United States Government, with whom he has collaborated closely and upon whom he has depended. It is, of course, impossible to predict whether these circumstances would strengthen his political enemies sufficiently to enable them to drive him out of office, although I believe that this is hardly likely to happen. Nevertheless, one should be prepared for such an eventuality and bear in mind that it is not possible to predict who would become President in the event of Lescot’s fall. Notwithstanding his faults, Lescot has, although undoubtedly in his own interest, cooperated closely with the United States, and has thereby, however slightly, facilitated the prosecution of the war. Unless, therefore, it is the Department’s belief that it would be advisable to encourage a change in the chief executive of this republic in order to obtain the inauguration of a more democratic regime, it is difficult to see how such a change would greatly improve our relations with Haiti.

Respectfully yours,

Orme Wilson
  1. Not printed.
  2. Memoranda not printed.
  3. Gérard E. Lescot.