374. Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State1


The essential elements of the situation in Haiti and our policy towards that country are the following:

In his Independence Day address on January 1, 1963, President Duvalier eliminated any remaining doubt that he might hold Presidential [Page 774]elections before February 10 and step down from the Presidency on May 15, 1963 as he is obligated to do under Haitian law. He stated clearly that he plans to continue in power through 1963 and beyond.
The Duvalier regime has not received any substantial assistance from the United States or international lending institutions since July 1, 1962. United States military materiel shipments have been suspended since that time, as has been the greater part of our economic aid. We have also blocked approval of pending AID, IDB and IDA loans totalling some $17 million, because their approval would strengthen Duvalier’s position greatly and seriously undermine opposition efforts and morale. We recently approved an AID loan of $2.8 million for a jet airport in order to reduce the risk that our negative attitude toward Duvalier might provoke him to intemperate action before we were prepared to deal with it, and because the airport meets an important United States military requirement for a jet-capable field in Haiti.
The fact that the Duvalier regime is now receiving only very limited economic assistance from the United States Government and international lending institutions has served to identify the United States with more enlightened political forces whose cooperation will be required if we are to attain our long-term objectives in Haiti, that is, to keep Haiti aligned with the United States and the free world, and to help overcome its critical economic and social problems in order to establish a broader base for the development of more enlightened, orderly and responsible government. It has also resulted in increased activity on the part of these forces. We estimate, however that the measures taken thus far which are essentially passive in nature, are not likely to provide sufficient stimulus to acceptable opposition elements who are seeking some means of preventing Duvalier from unconstitutionally perpetuating himself in office.
In recent weeks, we have been receiving improved intelligence reporting on the organization, internal conflicts, attitudes and activities of Haiti’s principal Communist elements. While they now appear to be better organized and therefore potentially more of a threat than we had previously estimated, we do not believe that their strength has reached dangerous proportions. We are, of course, assessing on a continuing basis the relative strength of the Communists and other opposition elements who hope to topple Duvalier.

The most recent comprehensive review of our Haitian policy was made in October when the Latin American Policy Committee approved a Plan of Action (enclosed),2 the principal conclusions of which were the following: [Page 775]

The kind of measures, both overt and covert, which would assure Duvalier’s departure in favor of an acceptable alternative, were not acceptable to us at that time.
We should take advantage of the possible development of circumstances in which the application of further overt measures would tip the balance and result in Duvalier’s probable replacement by a more acceptable government. At the same time, we should avoid pin-pricking measures which only serve to make it more difficult to maintain a working relationship with his regime without assuring the desired result.
A further review of our policies and programs in Haiti should be undertaken in early 1963 in the light of developments and prospects then existing.

This further policy review is scheduled to be completed the week of February 10 when Ambassador Thurston will arrive here on consultation. The Country Team at Port-au-Prince is forwarding a paper for consideration that is to include, inter alia: (a) a summary of the current situation, (b) Duvalier’s prospects of remaining in power beyond May 15, (c) the various courses of action open to us for achieving his departure and the risks involved, and (d) our posture towards the Duvalier regime should it remain in power after May 15.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Haiti, 9/62-2/63. Secret. Sent to Bundy under cover of a January 21 memorandum from Brubeck, which noted that this memorandum was prepared as background information for a Presidential meeting on Haiti on January 22. The meeting with the President took place at the White House from 4:15 to 5 p.m.; Martin, Crimmins, Collins, and Dungan attended. Guatemala was discussed in addition to Haiti. (Ibid., President’s Appointment Book) No other record of the January 22 meeting has been found.
  2. Dated October 23; not printed.