399. Telegram 264 From the Embassy in Haiti to the Department of State, March 23, 1971, 2045Z.1 2

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  • Clarification of CASP


  • State 035728

1. While this submission, will, of course, address itself to questions raised by pre-IG, Embassy believes that, in attempting assess results of cool and correct policy, it useful first consider origins this policy. Insofar as Embassy can determine, cool and correct policy decided upon following failure, in succession, of close and cooperative, arms-length and, finally, frankly subversive policies. Thus, in a sense, cool and correct policy was pis aller. Only alternative not yet tried was severance of relations, and this presumably viewed as too drastic reaction to manifestations of hostility by Duvalier regime toward USG (especially in light USG connivance in attempting bring about Duvalier’s overthrow) and as undesirable from standpoint of keeping informed on developments in Haiti.

2. Nevertheless, cool and correct policy certainly adopted with intention making clear both in US and third countries, as well as in Haiti, USG disapproval of Duvalier and his regime. Tacitly if not openly, basis of this policy was to encourage dissident elements actively to oppose regime and force its replacement by some idealistic concept of democracy essentially incompatible with Haitian political evolution. Withholding of economic and military assistance to regime after 1963 also [Page 2] could have had no other ends but denying much-needed development to poorest state in Latin America and at same time significantly reducing its ability effectively to defend itself against internal disturbances and externally-directed subversion. aA will be shown later in this cable, these unexpressed objectives failed completely. GOH Undoubtedly understood aims of US cool and correct policy.

3. No useful purpose would be served by trying determine whether it was primarily repressive nature of regime, lack any legal basis for its continuation, or loss of face for USG in 1963 showdown that gave rise to disapproval and ultimately to cool and correct policy; but Embassy believes it pertinent consider whether other dictatorial regimes in Western Hemisphere and elsewhere have received similar treatment. For example, is USG policy toward Medici government in Brazil or Stroessner government in Paraguay cool and correct or does it reflect a less critical attitude? Is there, in other words, any basis to often-heard Haitian complaint that this country is measured by a yardstick not applied to continental American states?

4. Whether or not cool and correct policy was justified or its objectives obtainable under circumstances prevailing in late 1963, however, Embassy holds view that circumstances have changed sufficiently, especially since 1968, to make alternative policy embodying closer cooperation between two governments feasible. As Embassy sees the matter, situation materially improved by virtue of developments in three areas:

A) Despite failing health, Duvalier more completely in charge than ever before and enjoys at least tacit support of elements previously opposed to him;

B) No doubt in large measure because he feels his position secure, Duvalier has not had recourse to violence on large scale since 1968, except in connection with anti-Communist campaign in spring 1959; and

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C) Duvalier has heavily committed self and regime to anti-Communist stance, and not only has criticism USG policy been muted but policy of cooperation between GOH and USG has been endorsed repeatedly by regime spokesmen, including Duvalier himself.

5. Of course, Duvalier is no more a democrat today than he was in 1963, nor does his regime enjoy any firmer legal basis. There is still corruption and inefficiency too often becomes the hallmark of government operations. Haiti, however, like many underdeveloped countries, has no tradition of democratic, corruption-free or efficient government, and, more to the point, Duvalier unquestionably enjoys support of masses, black bourgeoisie and, as noted, at least acquiescence in his rule by elite elements and, despite corruption, inefficiency and exile attacks, he has number of positive achievements to his credit, e.g., international airport, southern road, electrification of Peligre. Furthermore, there little doubt that, whether or not Jean-Claude Duvalier succeeds his father and maintains self in power, regime will continue in one form or another after Duvalier Pere.

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6. In answer pre-IG questions, Embassy would stress difficulty under best of circumstances of trying second-guess history. A battle may well be lost for giant of a horseshoe nail but fact that nail was missing may never be discovered by losing commander and loss of battle attributed other causes. Without specifying events that USG might have influenced if its policy other than cool and correct, Embassy believes it entirely possible that Duvalier might have been persuaded modify repressive policies at an earlier date under US influence. (It very likely, too, that obvious distaste of USG for regime encouraged exile plotting, which, in turn led to repression.) Embassy’s inability influence or moderate GOH domestic policies due, in Embassy’s opinion, in significant part to cool and correct policy; of course, character of Duvalier regime has also been an obstacle but it not immutable as events of last two years have shown. Embassy convinced that GOH genuinely interested in economic development, realizes outside assistance essential and USG policy is key factor in this connection, and would be prepared adjust its own policies so long as adjustments do not appear offer any threat to continuation of regime in power. In embassy’s view, USG has very little, if any leverage, short of threat to use force, in influencing Haitian affairs at present time. Question raised by pre-IG re access to sources of information strikes Embassy as irrelevant. This Embassy undoubtedly far better informed than any other Embassy or any international organization operating in Haiti (other Embassies much [Page 5] smaller and for most part, show little interest in local developments, while international organizations essentially concerned only with information bearing on their own operations), but it probably less well-informed than Embassies in most, if not all, other Latin American countries. As to adverse effect of cool and correct policy on major US interests, Embassy does not argue that it has been appreciable. Embassy believes, however, that as moment for transmission of power approaches, it behooves USG put itself in best possible position influence developments here, since major US interests likely be exposed to danger at that time.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 HAI–US. Secret.
  2. Ambassador Knox analyzed the “cool and correct” policy toward Haiti, concluding that it had failed to achieve U.S. objectives for the country.