407. Country Analysis and Strategy Paper for Fiscal Year 1976–19771


The course of U.S.-Haitian relations, interrupted if not paralyzed during most of the 1960s, has resumed a more benign and normal pattern since 1971 as President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier has carried out domestic reforms, curbed arbitrary police power, concentrated on economic development, and enlarged Haiti’s horizons within the disparate Caribbean community. The resumption of a U.S. aid program in 1972 after a 9-year hiatus symbolized the return of a more sensible dialogue.

The change is a welcome one. Dr. Francois Duvalier’s brand of repressive social change, intrigue, self-isolation, and defiance has given Haiti a bad reputation to live down and has complicated our task of restoring normal relations with his successor. For it is distinctly in the U.S. interest that relations with Haiti be based on mutual respect and understanding. We cannot be indifferent to the fate of the first and now the largest Black republic in the Western Hemisphere. We cannot escape the legacy of responsibility which derives from having guided Haiti’s destiny for nineteen years—longer than any other American occupation. We cannot place our resources at the service of developing countries elsewhere and neglect to help this neighbor solve problems accumulated over 170 years of international isolation, political turbulence, and foreign manipulation. Moreover, as Haiti enters a new and more promising phase of its history, there will be new opportunities for U.S. exports, investment, and access to raw materials. Beyond that, a constructive dialogue with Haiti, as an Afro-Latin country, is deeply compatible with our domestic principles of justice and equality for ethnic minorities.

The further development of bilateral relations, however, will require careful nurturing. Haitians are ambivalent toward the “great neighbor to the North”—their tacit ally in the revolutionary struggle against France, their principal (if remote) interlocutor during much of [Page 1052] the nineteenth century, and their firm tutor during the 1915–1934 occupation. They are inclined both to seek American help and to reject American advice. They dream of American technology but fear its incursions will submerge Haiti’s cultural traditions and creative gifts. They acknowledge English as the language of material advancement but prize the ability to “speak beautiful French” as the single undisputed mark of a cultivated person. They are solidly anti-Communist but flirt with the Third-World proclivities of some of the neighboring Caribbean leaders. The government seeks to attract American investors, but often misjudges their capacity or credentials and then, in disappointment, revises or terminates contracts in a maze of disputation that, eventually, can attract U.S. Governmental intercession (either Executive or congressional) on behalf of the American claimant. And, not far below the surface, there is a sense of protest against adopting the West’s developmental ground rules—the recurrent notion that Haiti need not be bound by critical analyses and prescriptions imposed by foreign specialists, but can call on spiritual forces to create a new impetus toward development, sweeping aside rational difficulties. Above all, Haitians resent being patronized or pressed on matters involving national pride.

The young President, in starting an attack on Haiti’s formidable economic problems, and in displaying vigor and reasonable consistency of purpose, has helped to provide the basis for a more congenial and mutually supportive bilateral relationship. To the extent that Duvalier pursues the direction and the priorities he has identified, we should be able to develop a constructive relationship during this CASP period and beyond, including a modest but significant level of bilateral economic assistance. The Haitian Government’s record, by early 1974, was sufficiently impressive so that Senator Edward W. Brooke could report to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee in April of that year his judgment that our aid was not being abused; that despite the unresolved issue of political prisoners, allegations of massive political repression were unfounded; and that the U.S. economic assistance program for Haiti met the criteria established by the Congress. In the interim we have seen no serious backsliding from this record, and the Brooke report, at President Duvalier’s direction, has been circulated as guidance to all Cabinet ministers (though it has not been made public in Haiti).

The main internal trends which have accompanied this salutary evolution in our bilateral relations include:

—A firm commitment to long-term economic and social development, reflected in a significant and gradually rising development budget, current preparations for a Second Five Year Plan, and improved cooperation with the international lending agencies.

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—Efforts to curb corruption within the administration, reflected in the dismissal of a number of the more notorious officials, both civilian and military, held over from the previous regime.

—A marked improvement in the competence, dedication, and cohesiveness of the Cabinet and senior military commanders.

—An incipient program for administrative reform and for the training of government cadres—a precondition for any sustained future development.

—Efforts to stimulate production of coffee and sugar, Haiti’s most important export crops and sources of cash income to small farmers.

—Raising the minimum wage level (although it remains at a small fraction of U.S. minimum levels).

—Efforts to attract foreign investment and expand trade.

—Measures to protect and develop mineral resources and to gain increased revenues from bauxite.

—Inauguration of work on two major, internationally financed road arteries and on a telecommunications system to be paid for from national resources.

—Efforts to modernize, train, and re-equip the regular Armed Forces.

—Restraint toward political dissidents and receptivity to more candid reporting of administrative shortcomings in local media.

If these are considerable achievements, much remains to be done. The rural masses are illiterate, undernourished, cut off from even rudimentary means of communication, and generally neglected, even though they produce much of the nation’s wealth. Resources devoted to health, education, and agriculture, while they have risen steadily, remain less than those allocated to the nonproductive military and internal administrative sectors. An inequitable tax structure, the concentration of wealth and services in the capital at the expense of the countryside, corruption and inefficiency in the customs, and the collection of non-fiscalized revenues used for non-accountable purposes are other targets for criticism. The government’s propensity to nullify its contractual obligations to foreign investors could make Haiti ineligible for both U.S. aid and generalized tariff preferences if an expropriatory effect were to be established in cases involving Americans.

Haitians, in short, still have trouble taking an accurate reading of their strengths and weaknesses, underestimate the “image” problem for Haiti in the United States, and often act without regard for the consequences of their decisions.

Within the Palace, moreover, the struggle evidently continues between two groups around the President, one progressive, the other conservative. The first recognizes the need for a much more effective and urgent attack on Haiti’s problems, accompanied by stiffer standards of honesty and performance for officials; the latter is wary of change, protective of loyal incompetents, preoccupied with power and position, and distrustful of foreign advice. The President, respectful as he is of those with greater experience than he, and influenced by the ad[Page 1054]vice of those who were especially close to his father, has had to battle for a more enlightened approach, and he has not always won. His position and authority have gradually strengthened as he has proved that his own approach produces tangible results and secures international support and domestic approbation.

Against this mixed record of progress and immobility, therefore, the CASP recommendations seek to focus U.S. attention and influence on three key areas of challenge and opportunity—an effective economic development strategy, the right perspective on particular U.S. interests in the light of that development strategy, and the constructive orientation of the Haitian military.

The recommendations for meeting these challenges are characterized by: flexibility and responsiveness toward Haiti’s urgent and growing needs for development; the recognition that our aid programs, if they are to be sustained in the face of congressional scrutiny, must be accompanied by progress in the fields of economic reform, human rights, and investment disputes; and a definition of military assistance in terms solely of training and influence, and for purposes of clear mutual benefit transcending purely military grounds. All of the recommendations are conceived as part of a multinational effort to assist and influence Haiti toward development—an effort in which the direct U.S. role need not be predominant.

At a time when our ability to defend our bilateral aid programs before the Congress will require particularly plausible host-country efforts to help itself economically as well as evidence of respect for the interests of U.S. investors, our CASP recommendations, taken together, are designed to serve as a coherent set of guidelines for accomplishing these ends in Haiti.

The resources allocated for carrying out these recommendations are, in my judgment, adequate.

Heyward Isham
  1. Summary: Observing that U.S.-Haitian relations had become more benign and normal since Jean-Claude Duvalier had succeeded his father as President in 1971, Ambassador Isham recommended that the bilateral relationship be carefully nurtured.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P750043–2158. Confidential. Sent as an enclosure to airgram A–32 from Port-au-Prince, March 4, 1975. The Department transmitted the approved CASP as an enclosure to airgram A–4431 to Port-au-Prince, June 27. (Ibid., P750106–1062)