838.51 Cooperation Program/11–946: Airgram

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


A–389. (1) Following is text of confidential memorandum, dated November 7, signed by Williams and Pearson and submitted to me for my information:

“Yesterday, November 6, Mr. Pearson and I were advised by the Minister of Finance that the President72a desired to see us. On our arrival, he opened the conversation by saying the Bank seemed to be blocking every proposal of his Government, and he had come to the conclusion that it was evidently following a definite policy. The President then opened up the question of using free balances (or surplus at the end of the last Fiscal Year) in the Treasury for agricultural projects, etc. He then went on to say that it was his understanding that after the Board of Directors of the Bank had set up the reserve to meet seasonal variations in revenues, that any additional amounts would be available to the Government for new projects. I told him the reason the Bank Board had suggested a delay in the spending program was that the expenditure budget for the present Fiscal Year had not been definitely established, nor could it be until the amount of the debt payments had been agreed upon by the two Governments.

“This brought on quite a bitter reply, that he was doing everything to cooperate, and not getting any results. He continued, sometimes I ask myself if it is the policy to keep this country as it is, and that you are carrying out that policy. He stated he was the rampart holding back the tide of Communism, and again inferred he was receiving no assistance. He had taken office with the determination to do something, but that if he could not, he would go to the Legislature and the people, and tell them that he could not accomplish anything, and the reason for it, meaning no assistance from us. He further stated that the Bank could help if it desired, etc.

“He seemed irritable, hostile, emotional, and inclined to blame the United States and the Bank for his inability to make a complete change overnight. With regard to the debt payment, which he again brought up, he said while he himself felt that they were entitled to ask for a complete moratorium, the Council of the Secretaries had felt they should make some payment; hence the counterproposal. He said he had had no reply, and regretted that he had made the offer, and added that it wasn’t their fault that Haiti was in the Western Hemisphere. The impression we gather is that he is in the frame of mind where, if he cannot get some help to accomplish what he has set out to do, his reaction is unpredictable.”

/signed/ W. H. Williams Thomas Pearson

[Page 938]

(2) Williams and Pearson called immediately to report the interview, and appeared considerably upset by President’s attitude, since they did not feel that he had been altogether play-acting. They told me further that Estimé had also intimated to them that he was convinced Williams was under orders from United States Government to withhold funds needed by the Haitian Government for agricultural projects. Margron later confirmed this to Williams, adding that the President felt that we were endeavoring to exert pressure in this way in order to obtain changes in the proposed 1946 Constitution73 desired by us. Incidentally, on the same afternoon as Estimé interview, and apparently as result thereof, Bank Board ruled to release additional 2 million gourdes from budget surplus to Haitian Government for projects mentioned, the first million for this purpose having been released by Bank Board several weeks before.

(3) Pettigrew,74 who is here for SHADA meeting, saw Estimé November 8, and reports same impression Williams and Pearson, namely, that President is in highly emotional state. During interview President told Pettigrew that workers on Plantation Dauphin, in which Pettigrew is interested, would have to be paid one dollar per day minimum wage, and that two thousand of the unemployed presently in Port-au-Prince would have to be transported immediately to the plantation and put to work there. Pettigrew stated requests were presented as kind of an ultimatum, with immediate reply demanded, etc.

(4) Both Margron and Estimé have informed Pettigrew that it is the intention of the Haitian Government to ask for the cancellation of the entire SHADA debt.

(5) I saw the President today, and found him composed. I took the occasion to correct any misconceptions that he may have had regarding the functions of Williams, and he seemed to be convinced by my statements.

  1. Dumarsais Estimé, elected President of Haiti August 16, 1946.
  2. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 912 ff.
  3. Robert L. Pettigrew, President and General Manager of the Société Haitiano-Américaine de Developpement Agricole (SHADA).