415. Telegram 36580 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Haiti1

36580. Subject: Plotting by Haitian Exile Leaders to Overthrow the Haitian Government.

[2 paragraphs (10 lines) not declassified]

1. Haitian exile leaders including Alphonse Lahens, Tavernier (FNU), Paul Magloire, and Rouzier (FNU) in New York City and Dr. Roy (FNU) in Montreal, Canada, are plotting to assassinate President Jean-Claude Duvalier of Haiti and his mother, Madame Simone Duvalier, and form a joint civilian-military government to rule pending free elections. The exact date of the planned assassination and coup d’état has not yet been decided. (Field comment: Roy (FNU) may be identical [Page 1070]with Dr. Louis Roy, a Haitian exile leader in Montreal. The identities of the other plotters have not been determined.)

2. The plotters have been in secret contact with Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Hilaire, Chief of Staff of the Haitian Army, who has allegedly agreed to assume power as temporary Chief of State after the coup. Hilaire has also agreed to arrange the assassination of General Gracia Jacques, commander of the Presidential Guard, who the plotters believe would probably oppose the coup. A group of 17 Haitians who served with the United States Armed Forces in combat in South Vietnam are to comprise the assassination unit and plan to ambush President Duvalier during one of his daily motor trips in the environs of Port-au-Prince. Two of this group, Gabrielle (FNU) and Leroy (FNU) recently left Peru where they were instructors under contract to the Peruvian Army. Most of the 17-man unit entered Haiti by commercial air on about 1 February. An unidentified number who are considered political exiles re-entered Haiti illegally in small boats via the Bahamas. During the landing in rough seas they lost most of the weapons which they brought with them but they expect to receive more weapons soon from a source in Marseilles, France. Guy Bouchereau, leader of the unit, is to select a secure landing site for arms and munitions to be smuggled in by small boat also via the Bahamas. Bouchereau returned to Haiti about a year ago; his father was killed by former Haitian President Francois Duvalier.

3. Unknown to most of the other plotters Alphonse Lahens is attempting to establish contact secretly with General Jacques through a trusted intermediary. The intermediary is to tell Jacques about the plot, including Hilaire’s plan to have him killed, and offer Jacques the chance to kill Hilaire first. Jacques would then become acting President of Haiti. Lahens is concocting this sub-plot because he fears that Tavernier is collaborating with Hilaire to cut Lahens out of the leadership after the coup has taken place.

4. [1½ lines not declassified] that Haitian Armed Forces were placed on an alert on 6 February. It is not known if the alert may have had any possible connection with the above reported plotting.)

5. [4½ lines not declassified] classified by recorded reporting officer. Exempt from declassification schedule of E.O. 11652. Exemption category 5B (2), impossible to determine date of automatic declassification. Unquote.

  1. Summary: The Office of Caribbean Affairs forwarded information on an alleged plot by Haitian exiles to assassinate President Duvalier.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760056–0376. Secret; Niact Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by Strasser and approved by Heavner. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified. In telegram 36581 to Port-au-Prince, February 14, the Department requested the Embassy’s recommendation on whether or not to warn Duvalier about the alleged plot, noting that doing so might trigger a crackdown that would “sharply set back if not reverse recent moves toward liberalization” while failing to do so could result in “chaos” in the event of his assassination. (Ibid., D760056–0379)