395. Intelligence Note From the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, No. RARN–34, Washington, August 20, 1970.1 2
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BUREAU OF INTELLIGENCE AND RESEARCH
August 20, 1970
HAITI: DUVALIER CHANGES TACTICS; COURTING AID?
President Duvalier has recently made a series of conciliatory gestures toward the United States. This departure from his usual disdain of settling outstanding problems between the two countries suggests that he hopes that the US may be willing to modify its aid policy to provide increased assistance to his government. Although we have not attempted to signal a change in our relations, Duvalier probably, reads the Rockefeller recommendations for increased aid and Ambassador Knox’s efforts to improve USG-GOH understanding as persuasive auguries of change.
Duvalier settles outstanding financial problems with USG. In June 1970, Duvalier authorized National Bank President Antonio Andre to negotiate the refunding of two EX–IM Bank loans in arrears since September 1967; in July, Andre settled the Valentine case, an oil refinery investment insured under the investment guarantee program in May 1964 and expropriated by the GOH in August 1964; and in August, the GOH recognized its longstanding debt for U.S. Post Office services through December 1969, agreed to make an initial payment and pay the balance over a ten-year period. Although all three moves were atypically conciliatory, Duvalier nevertheless garnered more than U.S. good will with these cooperative tactics. We had [Page 2] made favorable consideration of a second IDB loan for a Port-au-Prince potable water project contingent on rescheduling the EX–IM arrearages. Similarly, the settlement of the Valentine claim permitted resumption of the US investment guarantee program in Haiti.
Duvalier avoids vengeance toward political opponents. In April 1970, Coast Guard Commander Octave Cayard led a precipitate revolt, taking half of the Coast Guard and its only three operative vessels with him. His attack from Port-au-Prince harbor fizzled after two days of ineffectual bombardment. Cayard then led his men to Guantanamo Bay where he requested and received asylum. Although Duvalier ordered the arrest of many prominent Haitians for suspected complicity in the revolt, by August most were released. According to the Embassy, Duvalier dealt leniently with the accused, in contrast to the summary vengeance usually inflicted on those who threaten his supremacy. His measured response is noteworthy because Cayard’s revolt, however ineffective, represented one of the most serious challenges to Duvalier’s control since 1958.
Why the restraint? Duvalier likes to keep his opposition off guard with unpatterned responses. Another explanation is that Duvalier now has an even more secure hold on Haiti and can afford to deal with enemies as a benevolent leader. Duvalier doubtless reasons that an improved image would not hurt his chances of obtaining assistance from the United States.
Duvalier perceives unrelated USG actions as signs of policy change. Duvalier believes that the Rockefeller Mission to Latin American suggested increased assistance for Haiti. Although his hopes of receiving aid have [Page 3] almost certainly diminished with the passage of time and absence of change in US policy, Duvalier has not forgotten that an influential politician recommended a change. Also, Duvalier probably attached special significance to the naming of Clinton E. Knox as Ambassador to Haiti soon after the Rockefeller visit. In contrast to his predecessors’ “cool and correct” approach, Ambassador Knox’s style has been more sympathetic. He may also interpret recent USG decisions to return an illegally acquired P–51 aircraft to the GOH and permit the purchase of 200,000 rounds of .50 calibre ammunition as indications of a more forthcoming US policy.
Although the foregoing examples might not persuade a clear-sighted observer that USG policy toward Haiti is changing, Duvalier’s myopia and tendency to project his own modes of thought and actions on to others could easily convince him a change is imminent. And if this is the case, his recent tactics of conciliation and leniency toward alleged opponents of his regime may indicate he will continue to cooperate on matters of his choice if his concessions should stimulate US and foreign assistance.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 785, Country Files, Latin America, Haiti, Vol. I. Secret. It was drafted by Summ and Schimel (INR). Kissinger’s initials appear next to the subject line.↩
- The Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) reported that President Duvalier had made conciliatory gestures toward the United States, probably in response to Ambassador Knox’s efforts to improve U.S.-Haiti relations.↩