The Ambassador in the Dominican Republic ( Butler ) to the Secretary of State

No. 199

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s secret instruction no. 41, dated October 31, 1946,12 to the effect that the views set forth in the Embassy’s secret despatch no. 609 dated January 3, 1945,13 may be taken as constituting the terms of reference with respect to relations with the Dominican Republic, pending the receipt of recommendations based upon my evaluation of the Dominican situation.

The basic views expressed in despatch no. 609 are, in my opinion, sound and valid guides for the conduct of our relations with the Dominican Republic. As I interpret the policy outlined in despatch no. 609, we should insist upon fair and honest terms and upon reciprocal integrity in all dealings with the Dominican Government, we should seek respect from, rather than appeasement of, the Dominican Government, and we should avoid giving the false impression that our relations with President Trujillo are cordial. I have no recommendations for any fundamental change in this policy, and I believe that the suggestions made in the following paragraphs are consistent with it.

There has been little change in the nature of the Trujillo Government since despatch no. 609 was written. It is a regime based on fear [Page 810] and on the suppression of fundamental civil liberties. It is efficient, it does maintain law and order, and it has brought about material progress; but the price is too high from the point of view that democracy can and must work if world peace and security are to be attained. The situation in the Dominican Republic is not a direct threat to world peace; but the cumulative effect of the undermining of democratic principles in many parts of the world does seem to be a serious threat to the national interests and security of the United States.

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Personal relationships with Dominican officials also present problems. An American Ambassador does have to have working relationships with high government officials if he hopes to accomplish anything. Several of those relationships under present conditions in the Dominican Republic are personally very disagreeable. Even though an effort is made to be only courteous and correct, every action is exploited for political purposes. Officers of the Embassy are trying to maintain necessary official contacts in a natural manner, while exercising due caution to prevent as far as possible any misinterpretation of what they may say or do. There is no doubt about the fact that if President Trujillo’s personal displeasure is aroused the functioning of the Embassy is handicapped through all kinds of obstacles.

If such a situation develops to an unreasonable extent, one solution might be to have a Chargé d’Affaires instead of an Ambassador as chief of mission.

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I feel certain that President Trujillo could not make any substantial concessions to our concept of democracy and still retain power. There is little evidence of any inclination on his part to relinquish power. In spite of these facts, I believe that efforts to implement our policies should be continued along the following lines:

Strict adherence to the non-intervention policy, making it clear that in a political sense we neither support nor oppose the Trujillo government; that United States democracy is opposed to extremes of either the right or the left; that we insist upon mutual honesty and compliance in relations between our two governments; and that we are ready to cooperate to achieve, through deeds rather than words, the objectives agreed upon by the twenty-one American republics in their efforts to build a strong democratic system.
As long as Trujillo remains in power every assistance that we may extend to the Dominican Republic necessarily will be of at least indirect benefit to him. However, I believe that each case should be decided on its own merits, and that we should cooperate whenever there is a reasonable chance that the people and country will benefit. [Page 811] Examples are the various cooperative projects in the fields of public health and education; the establishment of a Dominican—United States Cultural Center; the furnishing of technical experts in many fields; and even the extension of the United States Naval Mission contract which, in spite of the obvious military disadvantages, is providing the basis for a satisfactory commercial aviation service of benefit to the country and to United States interests.
Continue to avoid any impression of cordial relations with or support of President Trujillo. We can honestly acknowledge Dominican cooperation during the war, emphasizing that it was of mutual advantage and not a favor extended by the Dominican Republic to the United States. We can try to make clear that the post-war period has brought new conditions and new problems; that we are ready for genuine cooperation based on accepted inter-American principles, but that we ourselves are going to make an honest effort to apply those principles. There will be no discrimination against countries and individuals as such, but only the natural difference in treatment accorded to governments and individuals in the light of their support of or failure to comply with inter-American principles and obligations.
Minimize to the greatest extent possible the element of personal likes and dislikes. This is no easy task in the Dominican Republic. While proof which would stand up in court always is difficult to come by, we do have to deal with people against whom the record seems so clear that a self-respecting person finds any association repugnant. However, we do have to deal to some extent even with this type under conditions such as those existing in the Dominican Republic.

In summary, my opinion is that the Department’s secret instruction no. 41 should govern our relations with the Dominican Republic; that it should apply equally to all countries where similar conditions exist. If we treat with the Dominican Government within the framework of firm general policies, we are on solid ground. I think that it is important that we be able to effectively refute charges of discrimination and of personal animosity as concerns our relations with President Trujillo and his government.

Respectfully yours,

George H. Butler