Policy Statement Prepared in the Department of State



a. objectives

Our objectives with particular reference to Haiti are: 1) to obtain the Haitian Government’s support in efforts to promote inter-American and worldwide peace and prosperity; 2) to encourage developments in Haitian national life and internal affairs which will contribute to Haiti’s becoming a more stable and effective democracy; 3) to raise living standards and improve economic conditions in Haiti, where such conditions are particularly bad; 4) to encourage the maintenance of internal order and the ability of Haiti to contribute to Caribbean defense in a future military emergency; 5) to promote mutual understanding and friendship between the peoples of Haiti and the United States in, the light of the history of United States military intervention in Haiti and racial attitudes in the United States; and 6) to improve relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

b. policies

United States relations with Haiti have special significance because United States intervention in Haiti was more prolonged that in any other country, because Haiti is the only Negro republic in the hemisphere, and because Haiti has probably the poorest economy and the lowest living standards of any of the American republics. Haiti was one of the Caribbean countries whose weakness and political immaturity prompted United States’ “benevolent intervention”, with Marine occupation from 1915 to 1934, to prevent irresponsible financial management, disorder, and violence which might have impelled some other power to intervene on behalf of its nationals. The United States’ attitudes and policies toward Haiti are therefore peculiarly susceptible [Page 1455] of being construed as a test of our adherence to democratic ideals and to the principle of juridical equality of states.

With a density of population not exceeded elsewhere in the other American republics, mountainous terrain, eroded and leached soil, a retarded economy and culture, and a history of chronic political instability, the prospects for notable progress and improvement in Haiti are not very encouraging. These conditions afford a potential opportunity for a communist minority to create chaotic conditions or a diversionary disturbance in a possible future emergency.

Almost twenty years of tutelage left Haitians with the feeling that Haiti’s problems should be of special interest and concern to the United States and that we should feel a moral responsibility for their solution. Haitian authorities have frequently criticized the United States for not giving more financial and technical aid to Haiti, but when financial aid has been given they have on occasion alleged that its results have been ineffective, if not harmful to Haiti. The tendency of most Haitian administrations has been to endeavor to modify or nullify commitments made by their predecessors, and the Haitian Government has at times requested that Haiti be relieved of all or part of the financial obligations incurred in connection with United States assistance. While the United States has arranged substantial debt moratoria or extensions for Haiti, we have felt that consideration of exceptional measures for cancellation or reduction of debts should be resisted in principle in order gradually to encourage development of Haitian national responsibility.

The problem of development of reasonably responsible self-government in the Negro republic is complicated, paradoxically, by an always present and at times intense social and political hatred between the mulatto minority, which is the traditional economic and cultural elite, and the black majority, which has recently developed an elite of its own. There are racial complications in US-Haitian relations. Many black and mulatto Haitians of the elite groups regard United States Negroes as inferiors because Haitians have a traditional inheritance of French culture and because they won independence for themselves instead of being liberated by others.

In endeavoring to achieve the first stated of our objectives vis-à-vis Haiti, it is our policy to make known to the Haitian Government our international objectives and our views on specific international problems demanding action. Haiti has in general collaborated with the United States in the Organization of American States, as well as in the United Nations. In the latter organization, Haiti has displayed particular interest in questions involving human rights and dependent areas. The views of Haiti with respect to problems affecting dependent areas are similar to those of other Latin American countries who have extreme anti-imperialistic views on colonial matters. Liaison between [Page 1456] the Foreign Office and delegations to the General Assembly has at times been bad, resulting in conflict between the views of the Haitian Government, and the position taken by the Haitian delegation. However, some improvement has been effected recently, and the attitude of the Government of Haiti on major international problems ordinarily coincides with that of the United States.

At the request of the Haitian Government, a United Nations Economic Mission visited Haiti in 1948 to study its over-all economic situation and make recommendations. While we were interested in this project and its findings, particularly in connection with Point Four activities in Haiti, we refrained from sponsoring or in any way becoming actively associated with it. Haiti has since demonstrated an active interest in obtaining technical assistance from the UN and there is a UN resident commissioner for technical assistance in Haiti. UNESCO has also undertaken a pilot project in fundamental education in Haiti, in the success of which we are interested, despite the great difficulties which have impeded its progress to date. It is our policy to refrain from endeavoring to enter those fields of technical assistance in which Haiti prefers to have such assistance from the UN, and to avoid duplication and overlapping of functions.

Haiti has on several occasions contributed to a testing and strengthening of OAS peace machinery, by referring to it disputes with the Dominican Republic, with resultant positive action by OAS peace agencies. Haiti’s action and policy in this connection is in line with our objective of strongly supporting the OAS as a regional security system within the UN.

To encourage the development of democratic practices and institutions in Haiti—our second objective—it is our policy: 1) to make informal efforts to encourage the Haitian Government to respect constitutional practices, democratic principles, and human rights: 2) to bring to the Haitian people an understanding of the democratic way of life through the program of International Information and Educational Exchange; and 3) to cooperate in projects for the improvement of economic and educational conditions, in order to provide a foundation on which effective democracy can be based.

One of our policies in the effort to promote the economic development of Haiti—our third objective—is to encourage the Haitian Government to provide a favorable climate for foreign private investment. There has been a tendency in recent years for the Haitian Government to enact legislation which if fully implemented would bring about active and direct participation of the Government in the production and distribution of certain commodities. To date, laws affecting coffee, bananas, and tobacco have been enacted. It is our policy to encourage private enterprise as distinguished from state control in the production and distribution of Haitian staple products. All appropriate protection [Page 1457] is given legitimate American business interests when the enactment or application of such legislation would adversely affect them.

In accordance with the same general objective, it is our policy to encourage private United States investors to give full consideration to Haiti as a field for investment, but at the same time to provide frank information on a confidential basis to potential investors on the circumstances affecting the security of investments in Haiti. We are not averse to the investment of non-United States private foreign capital in Haiti. The present value of United States private investments approximates $50,000,000.

It is also our policy to encourage the Export–Import Bank within its regulations and general loan policy to consider sympathetically those of Haiti’s requests to the Bank which appear economically sound and likely to enhance the long-run economic development of the country. In accordance with this policy, the Bank has over the past 12 years approved three loans to the Haitian Government totalling $14,500,000 for development purposes, two of which have been entirely disbursed and are being repaid. No disbursements on the third have as yet been made, pending completion of plans for the project it is to finance—a large scale land reclamation, irrigation, and drainage project in the Artibonite River valley.2 The Haitian Government has at times expressed dissatisfaction with the results of the two previous Export-Import Bank loans and has requested a scaling down of the principal amounts outstanding. Although the $5,500,000 so-called J. G. White public works loan of 1938 has now been almost entirely liquidated, the question of repayment of the balance of almost $4,000,000 due on the 1941 $5,000,000 development loan to the Société HaΪtiano-Américaine de Development Agricole (SHADA), a Haitian Government corporation, might again be raised by the Haitian Government. Payments on both interest and principal are now being made regularly. The view of the Export-Import Bank and the Department has been that no justification exists for canceling any portion of the unpaid principal on this loan.

[Page 1458]

In implementation of another policy directed towards our third objective, field parties of the IIAA 3 have been cooperating with the Haitian Government for a number of years in developing basic food production and improving health conditions. A three-year program conducted by the same agency in basic education terminated in 1947. At the request of the Haitian Government and apart from their official duties, the agricultural and health parties have acted as de facto technical advisers to the Haitian Government in their respective fields. In addition, under the program of the former Interdepartmental Committee for Scientific and Cultural Cooperation4 and the present TCA, numerous technical experts in various fields concerned with improvement of living standards and economic conditions have been made available to Haiti over the past 13 years, and numerous Haitians have received training in the same fields in the United States.

We encouraged Haiti to become a party to GATT 5 and to this end conducted trade negotiations with her, resulting in her accession to GATT in January 1950. It is our policy to cooperate with Haiti in all appropriate ways to increase her exports and trade between the two countries.

Haiti desires an increased quota for entry of Haitian sugar into the United States, particularly since it is expected that production will be expanded. Under existing US sugar legislation and US legislative policy, there is little likelihood of Haiti’s desire being fulfilled to any appreciable extent. It is our long-run policy, however, to eliminate tariff preferences on sugar and other commodities, and thereby put Haiti and all other foreign producers of these commodities on an equal footing. Some progress has already been made in this regard with respect to Haitian products.

With respect to our fourth objective, the Haitian armed forces have proved to be a deciding factor in domestic political upheavals, and they would be essential to the maintenance of stability in the event of an internal communist attempt to create a diversionary disturbance or gain a strategic foothold. The army of Haiti, which embraces also [Page 1459] police and naval functions, was organized under direction of the Marines during the occupation, and is a fairly efficient, compact force. We wish to see that Haiti is provided with a moderate amount of military equipment for maintenance of internal security. It is our general policy, therefore, to be guided by this consideration in responding to Haitian requests for purchase of arms from US Government stocks, or for approval of shipments from commercial sources.

A policy problem which may have to be faced shortly is the extent to which Haitian requests under MDAP, assuming physical availability of requested materials in NME stocks, should be met. No clear-cut program has yet been formulated to enable feeble Haiti to make a contribution to Caribbean and hemisphere defense, and the extent to which we should assist in supplying Haiti with arms to this end has not been decided by the Department and the NME. We have from time to time attempted to dissuade the Haitian Government from a substantial increase in armament, in order that its limited financial resources may be used for purposes of economic development, health, and education. At the same time we have acceded to Haitian requests for establishment of small air and naval training missions. Such establishment is in line with the general pattern for hemisphere defense, but in the case of Haiti resulted largely from the Haitian Government’s desire to demonstrate the close friendship of the US and from our willingness to accede to the Haitian request as a manifestation of our cooperating where feasible in meeting Haitian wishes. It should be noted that the small Haitian air force and coast guard should, as a result of the training they are receiving, better be able to contribute in a future military emergency to patrolling the Windward Passage, which separates Haiti from Cuba and is the channel for most shipping between the Panama Canal and eastern US ports.

In efforts to achieve our objective of promoting mutual Haitian-US understanding and friendship, we have pursued, in addition to policies already described, the policy of informing the Haitian people and Government about the United States and its people, through our program of International Information and Educational Exchange. This entails an active press, radio and motion picture program in Haiti. We also sponsor, with the Haitian Government, a Haitian-American Cultural Center in Port-au-Prince, which provides a meeting place for Haitians and Americans interested in learning more of each other’s culture through lectures, extensive library facilities, the teaching of English, and various other means. Our participation in the exhibits of the Port-au-Prince Bicentennial Exposition during the first half of 1950 also afforded us an opportunity to tell the US story. We have from time to time sent US professors and lecturers, some of them of the Negro race, to Haiti for the purpose of teaching their specialties and imparting to Haitians information about the US. Many Haitian [Page 1460] students, professors, and intellectual leaders have also been brought to the US to pursue their studies and specialties, and while here they have naturally become better informed about the US.

In conformity with our objective of improving relations between Haiti and its closest neighbor, the Dominican Republic, who have a long history of mutual suspicion, fear, and hatred, it is our policy to encourage the two countries to work towards such improvement. We have strongly supported such efforts by OAS bodies, and have also made direct bilateral approaches to the two countries for this purpose.

c. relations with other states

The foreign relations which present the greatest difficulty to Haiti are those with the Dominican Republic. These relations are perpetually strained due to historical and racial factors and population pressure from Haiti on the much less densely settled Dominican border areas. An additional strain since Trujillo’s6 advent to power in the Dominican Republic in 1930 stems from what the Haitians have frequently believed to be his hostile and aggressive attitude towards Haiti and Haitian governments. Trujillo, on the other hand, asserts that all he wants is a friendly government in Haiti, which many Haitians interpret to mean a subservient government. One of Trujillo’s principal motives in this connection has been his fear that an unfriendly government in Haiti would permit Haitian territory to be used by his enemies abroad as a base of operations for revolutionary activities against him. In 1937, the Dominican authorities perpetrated a wholesale massacre of Haitians who had settled in the Dominican Republic along the border.7 Early in 1950 Dominican officials were found by a special Investigating Committee of the Organization of American States to have been involved several months before in a plot to overthrow the then Haitian Government, which Trujillo believed to be unfriendly to him.8 The same OAS Investigating Committee was unable to confirm any factual basis for Trujillo’s fears that the Estimé9 Government was conniving with his enemies to permit Haitian territory to be used for a base for military operations against him. Following the overthrow of Estimé in May, 1950, from purely internal causes, there has been gradual bettering of relations, including meeting between Presidents Trujillo and Magloire10 and their joint declaration that they would work towards agreements on several [Page 1461] matters of common interest and a strengthening of economic and cultural ties between the two countries.

Haitian relations with Cuba are particularly friendly; a substantial factor in this friendship has often been their common antipathy towards the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. Haiti has traditionally had close relations with Venezuela, also strengthened at times in recent years by their common hostility to Trujillo. While the maintenance of friendly relations between Haiti and other countries is naturally desirable, it is our policy, in promoting Caribbean peace and encouraging observance of international obligations in the event of civil strife, to discourage the formation of blocs as well as any collaboration by Caribbean Governments, including Haiti, in revolutionary activities against one another.

French cultural influence has always been of special significance in Haiti. Many Haitians have been educated in France and there is a natural feeling of affinity by Haitians towards the former mother country. A kind of friendly cultural rivalry, without direct political significance, exists between the US and France in Haiti. Should France go Communist, French influence would undoubtedly be used as a wedge for enhancing the USSR’s position in Haiti.

Although Haiti has nominal diplomatic relations with the USSR, there has been no exchange of diplomatic representatives. Communist activities have been outlawed, and the relatively unimportant communist line parties and their press mouthpieces have been suppressed.

d. policy evaluation

US policy with respect to Haiti has been successful from the viewpoint of Haitian governmental support for our international objectives. Moreover, this support has been voluntary, without damage to our reputation in other countries, because it was achieved without use of “big stick” tactics in Haiti, and because it was achieved with full adherence to the policy of respect for the juridical equality of states. The policy has also been a success in the sense that Haiti has been gradually developing more responsible self-government without becoming involved in any serious international difficulties other than those which have arisen from mutual Haitian-Dominican antipathies. US financial and technical assistance has been a substantial factor in this situation.

At the same time, with particular reference to our interest in the development of democratic institutions and practices in Haiti, it must be stated that their achievement is not uninterrupted. Repressive measures, graft and corruption, and presidential efforts to remain in office beyond the term prescribed in the constitution have led to two overturns of the Government by force in the last four years. On the other hand, the achievement of orderly democracy remains the Haitian ideal, [Page 1462] and the temporary open military domination of the Government in both 1946 and 1950 took place on the grounds that it was necessary in order to restore constitutional and civilian government. Such restoration was effected, at least in name, on both occasions.

With respect to our economic objective, our efforts to assist in the improvement and development of the economy and living conditions have achieved some success in meeting the basic Haitian problem posed by an increasing population dependent for existence on shrinking resources. However, although the Haitian Government and people realize that we are cooperating with them to this end, the tendency of Haitians and Haitian governments to feel that the US has a special obligation to solve Haiti’s economic problems and to accede to most if not all of Haiti’s requests in this connection at times complicates US-Haitian relations. Obviously, we cannot undertake to supply the financial and technical wherewithal for the complete economic rehabilitation and development of Haiti; yet Haiti’s exaggerated expectations color Haitian views of the US and its government. It is not always apparent, moreover, that Haiti has done all she can to help herself in this regard. During the four years ending in May 1950 Haitian Government revenues, although reaching record heights, were in considerable degree dissipated in graft and uneconomic projects, such as the Port-au-Prince Bicentennial Exposition. Largely as a result of political factors, the banana export business, once a lucrative enterprise, has been severely injured. Furthermore, Haiti’s treatment of private US investors has in some cases been discouraging. Despite our efforts to encourage the Haitian Government to create a favorable climate for foreign investment, graft and bribery and a disregard of contractual obligations and business ethics have not been uncommon in business arrangements undertaken by the Government or influential Government officials with private US investors.

With reference to our arms policy, the Haitian Government has frequently felt that we have exhibited insufficient interest in assisting it to acquire what it regards as necessary armament. It has persistently believed that, as evidence of our friendship and in view of Haiti’s limited financial resources, we should supply Haiti with arms from US Government stocks at bargain prices, and that we have a moral obligation to do so in view of the long and intimate association of the US Military with Haiti during the occupation and the fact that present Haitian armament, now asserted to be worn out, was supplied largely by the US at that time. We have consistently explained to the Haitian Government that it is not legally possible for this Government to supply Haiti with arms at bargain prices and have informed them of the procedure to be followed by the OAR under MDAP.

At the same time our efforts to persuade the Haitian Government, pending a clarification of Haiti’s role in Caribbean and hemisphere [Page 1463] defense, to limit its attempts to acquire arms to what is necessary for police purposes and maintenance of internal security, have not been well received. Previous Haitian Governments have expressed the view that if Haiti had more armament, the Dominican Government would be deterred from what Haiti has regarded at times as a truculent and belligerent attitude. We have pointed out that Haiti cannot hope to compete with the more affluent Dominican Republic in this regard and that Haiti would, in any event, be absolutely dependent upon outside military assistance in the event of an outside attack.

With particular reference to our objective of promoting mutual US-Haitian understanding and friendship, one stumbling block has been the realization by the Haitian Government and people of attitudes towards the Negro race in the US, and the consequent feeling in certain Haitian quarters that despite our official friendship and the absence of racial discrimination in official relations with Haiti and Haitians, certain segments of American public opinion cannot have real friendship for a Negro republic. This feeling is aggravated when Haitians traveling in the US in official or unofficial capacities are on occasion subjected to segregation practices; in extreme cases this has made the Haitians involved inimical toward the US and has adversely affected Haitian opinion. Another factor which has stood in the way of Haitian understanding of the US—albeit in diminishing degree in recent years—has been the traditional favor felt for French culture and an accompanying disdain for US cultural achievements. Our program of International Information and Educational Exchange has achieved considerable success in overcoming the results of both of these impediments.

A further factor which occasionally gives rise to Haitian-US misunderstanding is the long-standing disagreement between Haiti and the US regarding sovereignty over Navassa, a guano island off the southern peninsula of Haiti. We formally asserted US sovereignty over Navassa in 1916 under the authority of the so-called Guano Act of Congress of 185611 and a further Act of Congress of 191312 appropriating funds for construction of a lighthouse there. Since we are in actual possession of Navassa and the Haitian Government does not press its claim, the matter is usually quiescent.

With reference to our objective vis-à-vis Haitian-Dominican relations, they are more favorable than they have been for some time and are probably as good as can reasonably be expected for some time to come. Given their usual normal state of tension, it remains to be seen whether the recent rapprochement will be more than temporary. The Haitian Government and people have historically felt that they should [Page 1464] have our support in their relations with the Dominican Republic, and have a tendency to regard our efforts to maintain an objective attitude in this connection as favoritism towards the Dominican Republic. Some Haitians have felt that recent acquisitions of arms by the Dominican Republic is somehow our responsibility—even though most of this material was not secured in the US. To offset this feeling we have endeavored to bring the true facts to the attention of the Haitian Government.

Nonetheless, notwithstanding the various factors which prevent the full achievement of our objectives and at times impose stumbling blocks to perfect US-Haitian harmony, the Haitian people and Government look to the US for sympathetic understanding of Haiti’s problems and active cooperation in meeting them.

  1. On April 9, 1951, the National Advisory Council (NAC) had approved consideration by the Export-Import Bank of a credit amounting to $14,000,000 to Haiti to assist in financing the purchase in the United States of the equipment, materials, and services required for the development of the Artibonite Valley (Department of State National Advisory Council Documents, Document No. 88, Action No. 451, April 9, 1951, Lot 60 D 137, Box 369). The Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank authorized the credit, which superseded a previous credit of $4,000,000 approved December 29, 1948, at its meeting of April 19. For additional information about this loan, see Export-Import Bank of Washington, Twelfth Semiannual Report to Congress for the Period January–June 1951 (Washington, 1951), pp. 13–14. Pertinent documents relating to the interest of the United States in the Artibonite Valley project are in Department of State decimal files 838.10, 838.20, and 838.2614.
  2. The Institute of Inter-American Affairs (IIAA) was established in 1942 and became a United States Government corporation in 1947. Its purpose was to aid governments in the Western Hemisphere by promoting technical programs and projects for health, sanitation, and food supply; as of mid-1950 it operated in conjunction with the Technical Cooperation Administration (TCA) in Latin America. For background information on the IIAA, see the statement made by Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Williard L. Thorp before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 10, 1949, printed in the Department of State Bulletin, June 19, 1949, pp. 795–797. For information on the activities of the IIAA and its relationship with TCA, see the editorial note printed in Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. ii, p. 679. For additional documentation, see pp. 1038 ff.
  3. The Interdepartmental Committee on Scientific and Cultural Cooperation (SCC) was in existence officially from May 1938 to October 1950.
  4. For text of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), concluded at Geneva, October 30, 1947, and entered into force for the United States, January 1, 1948, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1700, or 61 Stat. (pts. 5 and 6).
  5. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, President of the Dominican Republic.
  6. For documentation on the tender of good offices by the United States, Cuba, and Mexico to conciliate differences between the Dominican Republic and Haiti arising from this incident, see Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. v, pp. 133141.
  7. For documentation on this subject, see ibid., 1949, vol. ii, pp. 437 ff. and ibid., 1950, vol. ii, pp. 641 ff.
  8. Dumarsais Estimé, President of Haiti, 1946–1950.
  9. Paul E. Magloire, President of the Republic of Haiti.
  10. For text of the Guano Act, approved August 18, 1856, see 11 Stat 119.
  11. Reference to the Urgent Deficiencies Appropriations Act (Public Law 32), approved October 22, 1913; for text, see 38 Stat. 208.