401. Telegram 718 From the Embassy in Haiti to the Department of State1

718. Subject: Visit of Senator Edward W. Brooke to Haiti: Ambassador’s Assessment.

1. Senator Brooke’s visit to Haiti was, in my judgement, decisive in persuading the Senator and the Appropriations Committee’s minority counsel, Mr. Rossiter, that for humanitarian reasons if for no other the [Page 1039]aid program for Haiti should be continued if not increased somewhat above current levels.

2. The Senator appeared to be satisfied that he had received enough evidence to answer the major questions he and the Committee had posed, e.g., whether the government here practices political repression, diverts aid funds and is committed to raising living standards. On the basis of discussions with representatives of the international organizations and voluntary agencies, Ambassadors representing the principal bilateral donors, many of the key ministers responsible for economic and political, the American business community, and the President himself, the Senator was able to acquire a considerable body of information in a short time and to evaluate the Embassy’s intensive briefings. He made a long field trip to Anse Rouge, an area where aid funds administered by Hacho have helped to alleviate the extreme poverty of the area and to encourage community action. He also visited the hospital at Deschapelles founded and administered by Dr. and Mrs. Mellon.

3. Judging from these exchanges and observations and from the Senator’s comments to me throughout the visit, I would expect that his report would include the following conclusions:

A. There is little if any evidence to substantiate charges that the jails are filled with political prisoners, that the military or paramilitary forces impose terror on the population, that corruption is widespread within the government, and that Haitian exiles would face punitive sanctions if they were to return. On the contrary, the atmosphere of calmness and order seemed indisputable, although there is no freedom of the press in the sense of criticizing basic policies of the regime.

B. The administration of U.S. aid funds through AID and through volunteer agencies is effective in insuring that the foodstuffs do in fact reach the intended recipients and are not diverted, for example, to the army. The volunteer agencies, in particular, are doing an outstanding job.

C. The President and the Cabinet are genuinely committed to economic development as a primary task. At the same time, enormous problems in the countryside remain and a much greater investment of central government money, personnel, and direction is needed in the provinces.

D. Some expenditure to improve the antiquated military equipment is warranted. Expenditures on armaments thus far do not appear to be disproportionate to gross national product or inhibitive of the economic development program.

E. A much more effective public relations program for Haiti is required if the energetic and vocal Haitian exiles are not to gain ground in their current campaign against the Duvalier govt.

[Page 1040]

F. With respect to the OPIC loan of $480,000 to the Habitation Leclerc, the Senator appeared to be fairly well convinced by talks with the experienced French Manager and the young, articulate builder that the loan itself was in no danger of default, that the investment would probably begin to make a profit after three years and that the initial growing pains could be overcome. However, the Senator appeared unconvinced that the benefits to the Haitian economy, chiefly in the form of wages for construction workers, salaried employees, and tourist expenditures, were such as to offset the unfavorable impression which most American taxpayers had received of having a U.S. Govt funded loan go to a resort which placed so much emphasis upon luxurious “decadence” for a small number of wealthy tourists, primarily from the eastern seaboard.

4. In sum, Senator Brooke appeared to be impressed by the enormous historical difficulties facing Haiti under any government; by the dedication and qualifications of those presently in authority, including the President; and by the general consensus among voluntary agencies, international organizations, friendly aid-donor embassies, and American businessmen that Haiti deserved to be helped. His trip to the countryside and to the hospital impressed him deeply with the overwhelming humanitarian needs of this country, the fortitude and developing initiative of the people, and their capacity to be trained to help themselves.

5. It is safe to say that the Senator concluded that for a country like the U.S., spending $92 billion on defense and $2.6 billion in foreign economic assistance, to deny Haiti an aid program of $8.7 million would be irresponsible. It is, I think, also safe to say that Senator Brooke was confirmed in his general sense of the country’s need and the direction in which it is going or trying to go. As a result of this visit he has first-hand evidence in support of currently contemplated and future proposed aid programs for Haiti, and I believe he will use that evidence effectively within the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Isham
  1. Summary: Ambassador Isham reviewed Senator Edward Brooke’s April 15–18 visit to Haiti and concluded that the trip had helped to convince the ranking Republican member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that the country deserved U.S. assistance.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D740093–0235. Confidential; Limdis. In telegram 720 from Port-au-Prince, April 22, the Embassy reported that Brooke had emphasized to Haitian officials the importance of improving the country’s image abroad in order to win U.S. support. (Ibid., D740094–0120) In telegram 722 from Port-au-Prince, April 22, the Embassy detailed Brooke’s activities during his stay in Haiti. (Ibid., D740094–0151) Telegram 726 from Port-au-Prince, April 22, provided a more detailed account of Brooke’s meeting with Duvalier. (Ibid., D740094–0440)