385. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Haiti2


  • The Secretary
  • Edwin M. Martin, Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs
  • Foreign Minister Freites, Dominican Republic

The Secretary opened the conversation by making four points.

That we shared the view of President Bosch that the Duvalier regime is a bad thing for the Hemisphere and for Haiti and that we also agreed that it could not be permitted to continue indefinitely and in fact it probably could not do so in view of its repressive policies.
That under present circumstances the US did not feel that it could intervene unilaterally in any way. In the light of our own history of relations with Haiti and in the light of Latin American attitudes, this would not be helpful. The Foreign Minister indicated that the Dominicans agreed that this would not be desirable.
That we did not feel that there was at the present time any basis for securing OAS support for an intervention. The Foreign Minister indicated that he had been discussing this question with the Venezuelan Ambassador and that morning with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister and his assessment was the same as ours.
That mounting an intervention from the Dominican Republic into Haiti as proposed by President Bosch was a very delicate and intricate operation involving a number of risks and would have to be handled with a great deal of care and discretion.

We would be glad to be kept informed of the development of their program. The Secretary suggested that this could best be done by communicating with Ambassador Martin, who had absolutely secure channels of communications to himself and Assistant Secretary Martin. No one else would see them except the code clerk.

[Page 795]

Ambassador Freites accepted this and made no further requests. He asked whether we had any preference as to individuals. He was told that among the military personnel there was no preference, and probably by now they were better informed about the various military types than we. It was made clear to him that this was not the case with respect to political figures, and in particular he should be clear that we in no way supported the Dejoie-Fignole team.

The Foreign Minister indicated he was somewhat out of touch with recent developments in the Dominican Republic and anxious to get back. For example, two Haitian military personages from Venezuela had arrived since his departure.

The Secretary asked Assistant Secretary Martin if he thought there was any chance of persuading Duvalier to restore the regular army to anything like its previous position of authority. The latter replied that he did not think it was feasible. Freites expressed agreement.

The Secretary asked, if in the light of our limited knowledge of conditions outside Port-au-Prince, there was any chance of finding one or more communities that might declare against Duvalier and form a nucleus of opposition with which we could work. Assistant Secretary Martin, while admitting our information was inadequate, expressed the view that while there was dissatisfaction, there was complete unwillingness to take a stand until tangible evidence of outside support, adequate to ensure that they would be on the winning side, had appeared. Again Freites agreed.

Freites reported that recently a substantial contingent of Haitian military, perhaps as many as 90, appeared at one of the border points and tried to defect into the Dominican Republic. They were told to stay where they were as they could be more useful there.

As the discussion proceeded, the Foreign Minister said there might be some technical assistance we could provide. It appeared that he had in mind facilitating a more vigorous and better oriented program for sabotage and creating disorders of the sort Barbot has been conducting in Port-au-Prince. He felt that, if there were a lull in anti-Duvalier activity, Duvalier would materially strengthen his position, and it was necessary to keep the pot boiling until the Dominican operation was ready. The Secretary said that this was not an easy thing to do technically, but made no commitment one way or the other.

The Secretary raised the question of our information about the geographical origin within Haiti of various of the military people now in exile. He thought perhaps that if there was a particular area where a number of them came from they might have connections there which would make this a likely spot for starting something.

In closing the Secretary repeated our desire to be kept informed, emphasized the importance of not undertaking measures which were not sure to succeed and stressed the need to keep these conversations top secret.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Country Series, Haiti, 6/1-7/14/63. Top Secret. Drafted by Martin on June 4 and approved in S on June 5. The time of the meeting was taken from Rusk’s Appointment Book. (Johnson Library)
  2. In a May 25 memorandum Martin briefed Rusk for his meeting with Freites, which was called at the request of the Dominican Foreign Minister to discuss Haiti. The briefing memorandum, drafted by Abbuhl, reported that the Dominican Republic had recently disbanded a group of 65-70 Haitian exiles training in the Dominican Republic for an invasion of Haiti. Nevertheless, Bosch remained determined to oust Duvalier with or without U.S. cooperation. (Department of State, Central Files, POL HAI)