387. Letter From the Ambassador to Haiti (Knox) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Meyer)1 2

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Dear Charlie:

After almost six months here in Port-au-Prince, I am still having difficulties understanding present US policy as regards Haiti. Prior to leaving Washington last October, I was given to understand that our policy was one of “coolness and correctness” which even at that time I found rather meaningless. It has become more so since. I receive the same instructions as the other US ambassadors to the OAS countries to seek the support or understanding of the host government for specific US policies such as Cuba, the enlargement of IDB participation, etc. Such instructions, together with our encouragement of visits by US naval vessels, our solicitation of landing rights for US aircraft, etc. hardly conform to a policy of “coolness”. In fact, this policy appears to apply only as regards US economic assistance which is minimal and indirect and limited to three projects—SNEM, HACHO and the Ambassadorial Self-Help fund. Even here there is a contradiction, however, these activities being financed through “supporting assistance” funds, the criteria for which scarcely conform to our Haitian policy.

You will recall that in our conversations in Mexico City and more recently in the Department last month, I attempted to point out what I consider to be the absurdity of this policy which makes Haiti something of a “pariah” in the OAS system. This policy may have been justified in 1963 and the immediately following years when violence and brutality were the chief characteristics of the Duvalier regime.

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In more recent years, however, these aspects of Haitian government have been muted at the same time that some other Latin American governments, along with their oppositions, have taken them on, seemingly without any tangible adverse reaction on our part. It is no surprise, then, that Haitians here, even those who are not “Duvalierists” believe that US policy toward their country is dictated by considerations that have little relationship to the character of the regime.

I had hoped that the formulation of NISIM 70 and the assurance I received that the US would not oppose assistance to Haiti through loans deemed feasible by the international lending institutions might result in attitudes more favorable to Haiti. I understand, however, that NSC consideration of NISIM 70 has been postponed indefinitely and our action blocking consideration of the second-stage IDB water-supply loan until GOH arrears with the EX–IM Bank are regulated does not augur well for the future. Indeed, however much our position on the IDB loan appears justified in our eyes, to the Haitians it represents another evidence of US hostility and lends credence to Duvalier’s recent “bon mot” that “Panamericanism, as it exists today is, in effect, a good neighbor system in which the United States reserves to itself the right of being the neighbor while the other countries have the duty of being good”.

In any event, the Embassy is now confronted with the task of preparing the FY 1972 submission as instructed by AID Circular A–687. In these days of Peterson Report uncertainties this is difficult enough. However, we have the added task of determining whether our 1972 program should be based on (1) the present “cool and correct” approach as reflected in our current limited aid; (2) the slightly more forthcoming and increased estimates favored in NISIM 70, or the full-blown plan of direct and appreciably increased economic assistance contained in our CASP draft covering 1972–1974 which also has not been acted upon. Any guidance which you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,


Clinton E. Knox
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 HAI–US. Secret; Official-Informal. A stamped notation on the letter indicates it was received in ARA on April 20. A handwritten notation in the upper right of the cover page reads: “cc: to RAH and then ARA/CAR to draft reply.”
  2. Knox wrote to Meyer with concerns about the U.S. policy of “coolness and correctness” toward Haiti.