383. Memorandum for the 303 Committee, Washington, May 27, 1969.1 2

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27 May 1969
MEMORANDUM FOR: The 303 Committee

SUBJECT: Termination of U.S. Government support to the Haitian Coalition for Radio Broadcasts to Haiti

1. SUMMARY

This memorandum recommends that U.S. Government support for broadcasting anti-Duvalier Creole programs to Haiti be terminated and that support to the Haitian Coalition, the New York-based Haitian exile organization which produces the broadcasts, be phased out over a period of three months. [text not declassified] Assistant Secretary Meyer concurs with the recommendation.

The bases for this recommendation are:

a. Ambassador Ross’ view that the resumption of the currently suspended broadcasts could interfere with the Embassy’s cautious steps toward attaining a worthwhile dialogue with Duvalier which could improve our government’s ability to exert constructive influence on the inevitable day of change;

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b. no suitable broadcast facility willing to handle the currently suspended Coalition program has been found;

c. the ending of the broadcasts would in all likelihood also mean the end of the Coalition; and

d. the continued judgment that in case of a power struggle in Haiti -- an ever-present possibility highlighted by Duvalier’s recently reported illness -- the Coalition’s ability to affect events in Haiti would be marginal at best.

2. PROBLEM

To terminate support to the Haitian Coalition’s anti-Duvalier Creole broadcasts and support to the Coalition itself.

3. BACKGROUND

In July 1965, CIA, with authorization from the 303 Committee, began providing support to a group of prominent Haitian exiles in the United States to broadcast programs in the Creole language to Haiti. This requirement originated with the Department of State and was aimed at countering the inflammatory Creole broadcasts over Radio Habana and preventing this communist power from being the only anti-Duvalier force in the eyes of Creole--speaking Haitians. These broadcasts also would help to soften the impression W. to that the U.S. backed Duvalier -- a communist theme -- and would temper the bitterness that anti-Duvalier exiles felt towards the United States Government [Page 3] because of U.S. unwillingness to help them overthrow Duvalier. U.S. support for this activity also served the purpose of providing a channel to a group of responsible exile leaders in the United States.

The Creole broadcasts began in July of 1965 over Radio Station [text not declassified] on a thirty-minutes-a-day, six-days-a--week basis. Soon more Haitians listened to these broadcasts than to those coming from Habana. Encouraged by this effort, the exile group began publishing a newsletter for the Haitian exile communities where the broadcasts were not received and eventually a non-Communist, U.S.-oriented, political movement called the Haitian Coalition, came into being which gained a considerable following among anti-Duvalier Haitian exiles in the U.S., Canada, and The Bahamas.

On 20 May 1968, a group of ex-military officers-- some associated with the Coalition--tried to invade Haiti from The Bahamas. This initiative--taken without U.S. knowledge--failed. Consequently, the Coalition leaders were told that U.S. support to the Coalition would be continued only if its activities were limited to the propaganda field and any such overt revolutionary action against Duvalier could not be carried on.

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When [text not declassified] cancelled the morning broadcasts in August 1968, because of economic and political considerations, the Coalition was able to broadcast only intermittently. Various other means and facilities for regularly broadcasting the program were explored but were unsuccessful. CIA recommended in December 1968 that even these intermittent broadcasts be suspended until a suitable facility could be located. The intervening period was to be used by the CIA to assess the impact of the suspension on the effectiveness of the Coalition and to report its findings back to the 303 Committee.

The Haitian Coalition has so far been unable to find a radio station which is suitable or willing to broadcast the Creole programs. Thus the question of whether to continue this unsuccessful search and to even consider resuming the broadcasts after the long delay is raised.

4 FACTORS BEARING ON THE PROBLEM

a. Position of the United States Ambassador in Haiti

In the not very likely event that a radio station is found, the resumption of broadcasts could have some bearing on Ambassador Ross’ diplomatic objectives. Therefore, he was asked for his views on the matter. The Ambassador has replied as follows: “Any comment I might offer denying U.S. involvement in the resumption of Coalition broadcasts would fail to convince [Page 5] Duvalier. Moreover resumption of these broadcasts now after they have been discontinued for an extended period would be interpreted in Haiti and abroad as evidence that the Nixon administration has taken an active anti-Duvalier position, and the Coalition might easily assume that they were to be the chosen instruments of the Nixon administration. Not only would my own tentative relationship with Duvalier suffer but the latter would be prejudiced against the Nixon administration and U.S.-Government of Haiti relations would be adversely affected to no practical purpose. In the circumstances I believe it essential that no action be taken that would appear to commit the Nixon administration to a course of action against the Duvalier regime before the former has had time to study the situation and elaborate its policy vis-a-vis Haiti.”

b. Utility of the Coalition

Since the influence of the Haitian Coalition flows from its broadcasting activities (and from the inference that it might have official U.S. blessing), the cessation of U.S. Government Payments for the broadcasts - should a suitable facility ever be found - would probably mean not only an end to them but to the Coalition itself. The Coalition’s political influence inside Haiti and its presumed ability to replace Duvalier seem small, even should he die. Yet, it is worthwhile keeping in [Page 6] touch with some of these anti-Duvalier Haitians: it is one means of obtaining information on exile activities and these exiles are not completely without potential use.

c. Contingency

(1) Some exile leaders may interpret the withdrawal of support to the Coalition as a change for policy towards Duvalier on the part of the U.S.--and of the current Administration. This view might be expressed in the news media by some correspondents who are sympathetic to the anti-Duvalier cause. Other Haitians may regard the demise of the Coalition as knuckling under by the U.S. to pressure from Duvalier, as he himself will surely claim. These reactions will have only minor consequences, if any, and thus can he disregarded by the U.S. Government.

(2) The attitude of the Coalition leadership will probably be more dejection than anger and any revelation by the Coalition leadership that they had been acting on behalf of CIA would tend to compromise their political and personal integrity among some other Haitian exiles. This charge could also be ignored by the U.S. Government.

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d. Previous 303 Committee Actions

Various aspects dealing with the Haitian Coalition and its broadcast activities were submitted to and approved by the Committee on the following dates: (1) 22 April 1965, (2) 5 May 1967, (3) 21 June 1968, and (4) 27 December 1968.

5. COORDINATION

This proposal has been concurred in by Assistant Secretary of State Charles A. Meyer.

6. RECOMMENDATION

Since the resumption of the Creole broadcasts to Haiti would prejudice current U.S. diplomatic approaches to Duvalier, and would give an unintended and misleading impression of U.S. policy, it is recommended that:

a. Efforts to find a suitable radio station be discontinued and that the broadcasts not be resumed.

b. U.S. Government support to the Haitian Coalition be phased out over a period of approximately three months in order to provide for an amicable disengagement.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 303 Committee Reports, 1969–70. Secret; Eyes Only. Sent to Johnson under a covering memorandum from Meyer. According to the minutes of the 303 Committee meeting, June 17, the Committee approved the termination. (Ibid.)
  2. With Assistant Secretary Meyer’s concurrence, the memorandum recommended the termination of covert U.S. support for anti-Duvalier Creole broadcasts and the phasing out of support for the exile Haitian Coalition.