400. Telegram 535 From the Embassy in Haiti to the Department of State1

535. Subject: Haiti’s New Foreign Minister Seeks Constructive Relationship.

[Page 1037]

1. Summary: During extended conversation with me March 26 newly designated Foreign Minister Brutus spoke freely and authoritatively about U.S./GOH relations, the problem of Haiti’s image in the U.S., the economic priorities of President Duvalier, and the limited self-defense orientation of the Haitian military. Brutus will head GOH delegation April 17/18 FonMin meeting.

2. Edner Brutus, the elegant, articulate, and vigorous scholar/diplomat who replaced Raymond as Foreign Minister, was in good form during a 1½ hour conversation with me March 26 (the first audience, he noted, he had given any Ambassador). He seemed thoroughly at ease, appeared to be on close terms with President Duvalier, and throughout the discussion conveyed his dedication to building a relationship with the U.S. based on candor, mutual respect, and the recognition of shared history and shared ideals. “Geographic determinism,” he said, left Haiti no alternative but friendly relations with the U.S., and in its efforts to reconstruct the economy Haiti would look to the U.S. for counsel and help, without however seeking special treatment or posing inordinate demands. Men, just as governments, owed it to themselves above all to be honest, admit mistakes, and proceed from there; he would base his conduct of office on that precept.

3. I said these sentiments accorded well with our own, as expressed most recently by the President in his remarks on the occasion of Ambassador Bouchette’s presentation of credentials. I raised the matter of the forthcoming Senate Appropriations Committee hearings on the aid program for Haiti, explaining that although this was a matter for us to deal with, the Haitian Government should be well aware of the nature of the criticisms contained in the report and should take them into account.

4. Brutus took this well, conceding that Haiti’s image in the U.S. had been a bad one consequent upon the harsh political battles under Duvalier Pere; the exiles imagined that time stopped the moment they left their country; they could not adjust psychologically to changes for the better. He said that Jean-Claude Duvalier, although bearing his father’s name, saw himself as undertaking an entirely different vocation for Haiti. The fierce political and social battles were over; the current task was to establish an economic structure adequate for Haiti’s needs, for any revolution that ignored the national economy would be fragile. The President was dedicated to peace and honesty; he would “make war on the thieves;” but he had to move with circumspection, for there were political implications in all moves to that end.

5. I took the occasion to refer to GOH arms expenditures, specifically to a license application for T–28 armament sets, noting that this expenditure would not be in GOH interests since the aircraft, in contrast to what the military survey team had envisaged over a five year [Page 1038]period, were not yet operational, nor were there enough pilots trained to fly them. Moreover such an expenditure might be misunderstood in quarters already critical of the GOH. Brutus commented that in view of past invasion attempts the military modernization program was designed to dissuade other ventures, not for use domestically. He agreed in any case that military expenditures should not be excessive. He understood that we could not approve the application at this time, but seemed pleased to know that we would continue efforts to obtain a modest training and reequipment program for Haiti along the lines recommended by the military survey team.

6. Comment: Brutus is in a class far above his predecessor Raymond. Equipped by experience and temperament to be a wise counsellor, and without any higher ambitions of his own, he should be an important stabilizing element in the decision-making process which President Duvalier is still developing. Backstopped by the action-oriented and professionally competent Dorcely as Under Secretary, Brutus bids fair to make a substantial contribution to Haiti’s more rational and outgoing foreign policies.

Isham
  1. Summary: Ambassador Heyward Isham reported on a meeting in which he and newly designated Haitian Foreign Minister Edner Brutus reviewed the problem of Haiti’s image in the United States, the economic priorities of President Duvalier, and the interest of the Haitian Armed Forces in obtaining additional equipment and training.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D740066–0756. Confidential; Limdis; Stadis. In telegram 551 from Port-au-Prince, March 29, the Embassy provided biographical information on Brutus. (Ibid., D740070–0744)