382. Intelligence Note No. 334 From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rogers1 2

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  • Haiti: Duvalier Cracks Down on Communists

Duvalier has mounted a campaign apparently aimed at crushing the small communist movement in Haiti. More than 100 suspected communists, including known leaders of the movement, have been arrested since the beginning of the year, and a number have probably been executed. At the same time, Duvalier, in contacts with foreign newsmen, in the government controlled press, and in diplomatic circles, has been attempting to project an image of his country as “the most solid bastion against communism in the Caribbean.” The campaign is noteworthy in view of Duvalier’s past tolerance of Haitian communists. He may feel now that the communists might, after all, be a threat to him. It is likely, however, that the “President for Life” is exaggerating the threat and is motivated in large part by the hope that hard-nosed anti-communism will bring a change of heart in this country and a consequent resumption of US aid.

Communists no threat to Duvalier. The communists in Haiti are few in number and constitute no real threat to the regime. In January the two outlawed communist parties, the Moscow-oriented Party of Popular Accord (PEP), and the Castroite Haitian United Democratic Party (PUDA), merged to form the [Page 2] United Party of Haitian Communists (PUCH). They had previously been divided by personal as well as ideological differences. The new PUCH seems essentially to follow the Moscow line, although, along with Havana Radio, it does advocate armed struggle as the correct “solution” to the Duvalier dictatorship. However, PUCH lacks sufficient resources to do more than organize sporadic acts of violence. The predecessor PEP last year reportedly carried out several attacks on rural police outposts, set off a couple of bombs in Port-au-Prince and scattered some leaflets. Despite some guerrilla training and financial assistance from Cuba, the USSR and Czechoslovakia, neither PEP nor PUDA were able to do more by way of mounting a serious threat against Duvalier.

The anti-communist campaign. Arrests of known and suspected communists began in earnest in February of this year, and are now believed to total more than 100. Characteristically some innocent victims seem to have been included. Several of the security operations were rather spectacular by Haitian standards. In one case, the Haitian security forces reportedly put down a small scale insurgency in the rural hamlet of Cazale by carrying out mass arrests, killing some of the inhabitants, and burning a number of houses. During another operation in the town of Boutillier outside of Port-au-Prince, the Army brought up an artillery piece and fired at point blank range on a house from which a leading Haitian communist, Gerald Brisson, had apparently [Page 3] already made good his escape. Brisson’s wife was arrested and is now reportedly being held at the infamous Fort Dimanche. The communists have apparently made some attempt to fight back. A bomb was detonated at the bar owned by the brother of one of Duvalier’s most notorious thugs, Elois Maitre, Chief of the Secret Police. A member of the Secret Police was also shot and killed while he was attempting to round up some suspects in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti as “the bastion of anti-communism.” As arrests were being made, the Haitian Government launched a propaganda effort to promote its new anti-communist image and press for a resumption of US aid. Editorials in the Duvalier-controlled press expressed cautious hope that there would be an improvement in relations and Duvalier himself made mention in official pronouncements of the desirability of renewed economic assistance. In February, Apollo 8 films were shown with great fanfare at the National Palace. The audience, including high officials of the Haitian Government and the diplomatic corps, was treated to a reading of Duvalier’s congratulatory telegram to President Nixon on his inauguration and the latter’s reply. The Haitian press later asserted that the occasion removed any doubt concerning Washington’s determination to “deepen” relations with Duvalier. Then, as weeks passed without any noticeable change in the US attitude, frustration apparently built up in the Haitian Government. At the CIAP review meeting in Washington on March 17 the [Page 4] Haitian representative demanded in effect to know whether US aid would be forthcoming.

During this period the anti-communist theme was further developed. In a conversation with our ambassador, Duvalier noted the danger of the “cancer of communism,” and emphasized the international connections of Haitian communists. Later he reiterated the line in an interview with two visiting foreign journalists. The Haitian press also hailed the discovery and capture by Florida police of a group of Haitian exiles in a training camp deep in the everglades as a victory over “communists agitators and agents.” In mid-April, the Haitian Foreign Office sent a circular diplomatic note to the Latin American embassies in Port-au-Prince warning them of the increasing threat of international communism. The note, while underscoring the anticommunist theme, apparently was also designed to discourage Latin American missions from accepting asylees. Most recently, on April 28, Duvalier’s legislature passed a new law outlawing communism, anarchism, and “all their manifestations.” In publicizing the new law, the Haitian press coupled it with a plea for US assistance in carrying on the struggle “in the face of the mounting tide of international communism.”

Conclusion. Duvalier has tried various tacks in the past in his efforts to obtain resumption of US aid. A crackdown on communists to coincide with the advent of a new administration in Washington probably seemed to him to offer reasonably good prospects. At the same time, there is no indication that the [Page 5] “President for Life” is any more prepared now than previously to change the brutal and corrupt practices of his regime.

In addition, Duvalier may well have decided that the unification of the communist movement required some action on his part. The rest of his opposition, inside and outside the country, is generally divided and discredited, leaving the communists more or less alone. He has shown considerable ability over the years in striking at potential threats to his regime before they could grow to dangerous proportions.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–7 HAI. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. On April 17 Nachmanoff sent a memorandum to Kissinger, concluding that Duvalier seemed “to expect better treatment (aid) from this administration than he received from previous administrations.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 785, Country Files, Latin America, Haiti, Vol. I)
  2. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) reported that in an apparent effort to win a resumption of aid from the United States, President Duvalier had “cracked down” on Haitian Communists. According to INR’s analysis, “the communists in Haiti are few in number and constitute no real threat to the regime.”