397. Airgram A–137 From the Embassy in Haiti to the Department of State1


  • Jean-Claude Duvalier and his Government: October 1973
The Backdrop: Uneven Progress in Haiti 2
The Decision-Makers: The Duvaliers 4
Jean-Claude Duvalier as President 5
The President’s Advisers 8
Internal Problems of the GOH 10
The Shakeup of August 1973 12
Internal Reaction to the GOH 13
Outlook for the Future 14
Conclusions 17
[Page 1032]

SUMMARY: After promising beginnings in 1971, characterized by relaxation of repression, stirrings of economic growth, and increased foreign acceptance of Haiti, the Haitian Government has fallen on a period of unhappy times over the past year. Challenged successively by the kidnapping of Ambassador Knox in January, acute food shortages which have cropped up intermittently since April and May, nearly-paralyzing strains and divisions within the regime, and the costly explosion of the National Palace munitions depot in July, the GOH has had few positive accomplishments it can point to this year. Not surprisingly, malaise and ferment rose sharply among educated Haitians over the past year, Duvalierists and non-Duvalierists alike, and many became convinced the regime’s days were numbered.

As if in reaction to these problems, President Jean-Claude Duvalier asserted himself strongly in August and for the first time in his Presidency effected a sweeping shakeup of the military, the Cabinet, and other high-levels of the GOH. The August personnel changes, accomplished without violence or major unsettling effects, seem to have ushered in a new stage in the Presidency of Jean-Claude Duvalier. In part, they should have a positive effect on several of the internal problems which so troubled the GOH earlier this year: internal division, paralysis, and poor economic decision making. The changes have also established for the first time the President’s direct, personal control of all key elements of his government. Since August Haiti has no longer had a “collegial” government; the President himself has emerged as the main, unchallenged decision maker. Over the coming months the performance of the GOH will probably depend more than anything else on the pace of development of Haiti’s young President and the sort of leadership he gives. Some of his beginnings have been encouraging.

The purpose of this airgram is to survey the current status of the GOH—its leadership, its problems, and the outlook for change over the next half year or so—against the backdrop of the general political and economic situation in Haiti this year. END SUMMARY

[Omitted here is the body of the airgram.]

  1. Summary: The Embassy provided an overview of the political situation in Haiti, noting that President Duvalier had begun to assert himself more strongly after a period in which his administration had faced significant challenges.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files, 1970–1973, POL 2 HAI. Confidential. Drafted by De Santillana, cleared by Mattox and Key, and approved by Corcoran. Page numbers reference original pagination. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors.