Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Charles C. Hauch of the Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs

Subject: Restrictions on foreign business enterprises in Haiti in proposed Haitian Constitution.

[Page 919]
Participants: Assistant Secretary Braden
Mr. Briggs—ARA 33
Mr. Barber—CCA 34
Mr. Hauch—CCA
Mr. Orme Wilson—former Ambassador to Haiti
Mr. Harold H. Tittmann, Jr., Ambassador to Haiti35
Mrs. Hood—CP 36
Mr. Wilson—CP 37

This meeting was held to discuss the above subject and specifically to permit Ambassador Wilson to comment on the various questions posed in the Department’s telegram 240 of August 21. Mr. Braden stated that Mr. Hasler of the Haitian Corporation of America had called and had expressed some concern regarding these provisions of the proposed Constitution. Mr. Hasler had added that Mr. Blackmon of the Standard Fruit Company appeared to be very much agitated by the situation.

With respect to the several questions raised in telegram 240, Ambassador Wilson’s comments on each of the points raised were as follows:

Articles 1–10 are in effect, subject to final approval of the new Constitution as a whole. They may be regarded as having been substituted for comparable articles in the 1932 Constitution, but they are subject to possible further discussion before final adoption of the new Constitution. The same situation is true as other articles of the new Constitution are proposed and adopted.
The 1932 Constitution is still in effect, except as it is gradually superseded by articles of the proposed Constitution. The ultimate effect will thus be that the 1932 Constitution will be completely superseded.
It is not clear whether Article 6 would be applied retroactively to foreign individuals and companies now doing business in Haiti, or would be applied to Haitian corporations owned and operated by foreigners. On this point Ambassador Wilson stated that the new President felt that the Article in question would apply in neither case, but this was merely his personal opinion. The former Foreign Minister, Major Levelt, had expressed an opinion directly to the contrary. The President had said that enforcing legislation would clarify this point.
With respect to Article 13, the same indefinite comments applied as regards the retroactivity of the Article, but on the second point the Article is explicit that retail business shall be confined to individuals of Haitian origin.
The reference to small industries in Article 13 is also unclear and subsequent legislation must be awaited before its meaning becomes clear.
It is apparent that by Article D of Title XI the Haitian Assembly is leaving the way open for questioning many of the acts of the former Lescot regime, but it is stated in such general terms and in such obscure language that its application in any individual case [Page 920] must be awaited before any further action by this Government can be taken.

It was agreed that there is no further action to be taken at this time vis-à-vis the Haitian Government, pending a reply from the Embassy to the Department’s telegram 240. It was decided that in the meantime a telephone call would be made to Mr. Hasler and he would be asked to come to Washington for a presentation of the situation as it exists at present. He would be received first by officers of CCA and CP and subsequently would talk to Mr. Braden.

  1. Ellis O. Briggs, Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs.
  2. Willard F. Barber, Acting Chief, Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs.
  3. Mr. Tittmann was appointed Ambassador to Haiti on July 12, 1946; he was in Washington for Departmental consultation from August 6 to September 12, when he departed for Port-au-Prince.
  4. Mrs. Amelia H. Hood, Division of Commercial Policy.
  5. Robert R. Wilson, Adviser, Division of Commercial Policy.