402. Telegram 1419 From the Embassy in Haiti to the Department of State1
1419. Subject: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearings on Haiti. Ref: State 160347.
1. Summary. I briefed FonMin Brutus July 25 on Inouye subcommittee hearings on Haiti and presented names of alleged detainees on whom information requested by subcommittee. Brutus fully understood importance of GOH providing prompt, definitive response to request for information on detainees and promised he would take up matter with President immediately. End summary.
2. I called on FonMin Brutus July 25 to brief him on highlights of Inouye subcommittee hearings July 23, outlining nature of allegations brought by Haitian exile groups, AFL/CIO and Episcopal Church. As the background to the request on prisoners, I used following talking points, supplemented by relevant sections of Brooke report:
A. FonMin has recognized serious “image” problem for Haiti in the U.S. deriving from previous years and special circumstances of Dr. Duvalier’s administration, including the opposition of political enemies and methods used against them.
B. I had often discussed with FonMin the direct connection between U.S. foreign policies and the degree to which the executive branch is able to secure and maintain public understanding and support for those policies. The U.S. internal situation today is such that all policies and foreign aid programs are undergoing particularly severe and searching examination by the public and the Congress.
C. In the case of Haiti, as the FonMin is aware, a report by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee raised serious questions about whether U.S. aid to Haiti was consistent with the sense of Congress (Section 32 of the Foreign Assistance Act) that the President should pro[Page 1042]vide no military or economic assistance to those countries practicing the imprisonment or detention of their citizens for political purposes.
D. Senator Brooke’s visit to Haiti in April was for the purpose of evaluating these and other allegations.
E. Senator Brooke’s report, just completed, is generally positive, and recommends the continuation of the aid program for Haiti, subject to certain recommendations. The Senator recommends against military assistance to Haiti, but believes there is merit in helping the GOH establish sea search and rescue capability.
F. Notwithstanding the generally favorable report, the charges recurrently brought against the Haitian Govt and reiterated in the July 23 hearings, notably as to political prisoners, should be dealt with definitively by the govt and put to rest, because they constitute continuing target of attack for critics of the govt and influence attitudes of many who would otherwise be impressed by the recent achievements and efforts of the govt.
G. The provision of authoritative and complete information on these persons will greatly assist Haiti’s case as the subcommittee considers aid appropriations for this and future years.
3. Brutus expressed appreciation for briefing and made following comments of particular interest:
A. President Duvalier remained firmly opposed to any reversion to violent methods of past. He wanted those days to be forgotten and all emphasis put on economic and social plans. However, many old Duvalierists were suspicious of President’s policy and regarded it as a direct threat to their own power and position. Some had advocated repressive measures following unexplained palace explosion last year, but President had refused. Others continue to play role of provocators within the govt, seeking to provoke crackdown that would reassert their own importance. In this respect, Brutus noted, their actions parallel those of Haitian exiles abroad who sought to provoke regime into violent actions that would bring discredit upon it. Nevertheless their influence was being curbed; many “Macoutes” had been dismissed by Minister Blanchet.
B. Regie Du Tabac was in a period of transition. President intended to normalize it, but had to proceed cautiously because of political implications.
C. Brutus agreed that matter of political prisoners should be resolved if only by releasing information on their fate to assuage concern of their relatives who remained in the dark (sometimes women remarried on mistaken assumption that their husband had died in jail). He fully appreciated the continuing source of irritation that this problem constituted in U.S./GOH relations.[Page 1043]
4. I then presented list of names contained reftel, typed on plain white paper, pointing out that I was not including them in a formal note in order to facilitate GOH response. Brutus appeared to appreciate this method, promised he would take matter up immediately with President and would let me know.
Summary: Ambassador Isham briefed Foreign Minister Brutus on the Inouye subcommittee hearings on Haiti in the U.S. Senate, in which witnesses had attacked the Haitian Government’s record on human rights.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D740202–0415. Confidential; Immediate. In telegram 160347 to Port-au-Prince, July 24, the Department requested the Embassy’s assistance in obtaining information on the status of individuals who had been described as political prisoners by witnesses at the congressional hearings. (Ibid., D740200–0532) A July 26 letter from Burke to Isham briefly reviewed the Inouye subcommittee’s hearings on Haiti and concluded that it was “unfortunate that the GOH did not have the benefit of some sympathetic witnesses” who might have “presented a more balanced and accurate view of conditions.” (Ibid., Central Files, 1970–1973, ARA/CAR, Lot 75D474, Official-Informal, Outgoing, 1974)↩