396. Weekly Summary Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

[Omitted here is material unrelated to Haiti.]

HAITI: FIRE ALARM

Political unrest is on the increase in Port-au-Prince as the result of a second and third fire of suspicious origin in the National Palace. Although the Duvalier regime calls the fires “accidental,” it is now convinced that they were deliberate and designed to precipitate a coup.

Rumors of coup plotting were rife a few months ago, but few had been heard since the shakeup of the Armed Forces in early August. The security forces have been on full alert since the first fire on 23 July. Even more stringent security measures were imposed after the second fire, on 29 August, especially around the Presidential compound.

[1 paragraph (7½ lines) not declassified]

The commander of the Presidential Guard would like to prove that the Leopards are responsible for the fires; he believes they have usurped a number of duties previously assigned to the Presidential Guard and infringed upon his role as chief security adviser to the President. The commander is conducting his own investigation of the inci[Page 1031]dents and apparently believes that the strong-arm interrogation techniques used when the elder Duvalier ruled Haiti will prove more effective than those used by the commission of inquiry established by the President following the first fire.

The fires have intensified concern within the Duvalier regime for its security. Critics of the regime are beginning to speculate that the Duvaliers are in serious trouble. This would appear to be an exaggeration, but further such incidents would seriously undermine public confidence in the government. In these circumstances, President Jean-Claude Duvalier and his advisers may conclude that a show of force, such as a massive arrest of suspects, is necessary in order to regain the upper hand.

  1. Summary: The Central Intelligence Agency reported that political unrest was on the increase in Haiti, adding that the Haitian Government might soon make a show of force to regain the upper hand.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files, ARA/CAR, Lot 75D393, POL Political Affairs, General. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors or that remains classified. In a September 21 letter to Simms, De Santillana characterized the CIA’s report as largely unsubstantiated and “too alarmist in tone.” (Ibid.)