398. Telegram 96 From the Embassy in Haiti to the Department of State1 2

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  • Duvalier Reported Planning Step Down Soon

1. According to story enjoying wide circulation here, President Duvalier will step down shortly after results of Jan 31 referendum on his choice of son Jean-Claude as successor and turn country over to latter. Embassy has picked story up in various forms [text not declassified] most versions have Duvalier going abroad for medical treatment, though others have him retiring to summer home above Arcahaie.

2. According to version which seems [garble] Duvalier is suffering from some malady of prostate, presumably cancer, and will go to Spain for treatment. This version has ring of truth because (a) Duvalier not likely give up power unless he has to; (b) other maladies from which he suffers not susceptible cure through surgery or the radical medical treatment; and (c) local newspapers have reported Dr. Jacques Fourcand, one of Duvalier’s private physicians and closest confidantes, and Dr. Morice Armand, one of Duvalier’s medical school professors, recently departed for Europe “on special mission.” Deputy for Mole St. Nicolas (Ernst Dumerve (protect source)) told Embassy officer yesterday (Jan 28) that he had heard from reliable source, which he implied was Luckner Cambronne, that Duvalier would leave very soon, that abnormal condition prostate was reason for trip and that Drs. Fourcand [Page 2] and Armand now in Spain making necessary arrangements. [text not declassified] has heard that Jean-Claude will be inaugurated Feb 22. Dumerve said he informed inauguration to take place immediately after results of referendum announced (announcement scheduled for Feb 7), and another Embassy informant insists Duvalier has made plans leave between Feb 8 and 10.

3. In obvious conflict with story that Duvalier seriously ill are comments recently made to Embassy officers by two local physicians—neither of whom attending President, however—to effect that Duvalier’s condition as good as can be expected in man his age and with his medical history. One quoted Herve Boyer as having said Duvalier working harder than ever.

4. Comment: Leaving country to seek medical treatment abroad would appear be out of character for Duvalier, and certainly he cannot be confident Jean-Claude will be able govern effectively or even keep power once he away. Nevertheless, Embassy impressed by persistence of rumors he will step down and plausibility information it has received re Duvalier’s medical condition and Fourcand/Armand mission.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 785, Country Files, Latin America, Haiti, Vol. I. Confidential. Repeated to Santo Domingo. In Intelligence Information Cable, TDCS 314/00796–71, January 29, CIA reported that Duvalier planned to travel to Europe for surgery after installing his son as President. (Ibid.)
  2. The Embassy reported the rumor that President Duvalier planned to step down and cede power to his son Jean-Claude. Duvalier was reputedly suffering from prostate cancer.