418. Country Analysis and Strategy Paper for Fiscal Year 1977–19781

[Omitted here are the distribution list, Table of Contents, “Meaning of CASP Approval” section, and Decision Memorandum.]


The U.S. has a long-term interest in Haiti’s orderly progress and in its continued non-alignment with any hostile state or grouping. This [Page 1075]underlying interest derives from Haiti’s geographic proximity to the U.S., its sustained record of support for our positions in international forums, its possible role in the event of a Cuban challenge to U.S. mutual security commitments in the region, its status as the neediest nation in the Western Hemisphere, its parlous prospects for economic development and continued social tranquillity, and the history of U.S. association with Haiti since the Occupation of 1915–1934.

This basic interest does not call for any “special relationship” with Haiti or for over-involvement by the U.S. as distinct from normal relations with a very poor country located close to our shores. But the interest itself is inescapable, and would become more manifest in the event of profound, prolonged distress and turmoil in Haiti.

In the economic field, direct U.S. interests (trade and investment) remain small in absolute terms. Potentially, however, these interests are far greater, since U.S. business enterprise is likely to play a key role in Haiti’s eventual development. Although the only mineral resource which Haiti supplies to the U.S. is bauxite, Haiti’s mineral potential has never been thoroughly surveyed. Current explorations indicate the presence of significant copper resources and associated metals in northern Haiti. There may also be some offshore petroleum, for which one U.S. firm may do some prospecting.

Nevertheless, the U.S. interest in the Haitian economy and in its development is at present more broadly politico-economic. After Cuba, Haiti is the most populous country in the increasingly restless Caribbean subregion. Though traditionally isolated, Haiti’s leadership is now increasingly conscious of Haiti’s potential role in the Caribbean as well as in the world community of LDC’s. In the medium and longer term, the development (or lack thereof) of Haiti, a country so close to the doorstep of the U.S., will be a prime indicator of the ability of the U.S. and of the international development community to respond to the concerns of the world’s least-developed countries.

In the area of national defense, the U.S. has never established bases or similar operational facilities in Haiti and has no foreseeable needs of this nature. In the space age, our underlying strategic interest in Haiti is undoubtedly lessening, but it is not negligible. Along with Cuba, Haitian territory flanks the Windward Passage—still the most significant shipping route in the subregion. We could hardly regard with equanimity the possible alignment of Haiti and other Caribbean nations with a hostile grouping, and our pledge to maintain the firm U.S. commitment to mutual security assumes special relevance in view of Haitian concern over Cuban intentions in the region following the Angolan intervention.


Our strategy toward Haiti for the FY 77–78 CASP time horizon is designed to advance our broad politico-economic interest in the or[Page 1076]derly economic and social development of this poorest country in the hemisphere. As compared with its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors, Haiti ranks lowest in every major indicator of progress, including GNP per capita, literacy and basic medical services. The pressures for illegal emigration to the United States remain intense and will not soon ease—and that problem entails human rights and refugee issues of concern to important sectors of U.S. opinion. The consensus in the international donor community is that Haiti’s overwhelming problems of development, coupled with the government’s self-improvement since 1971, warrant a special international effort.

The very magnitude of the external resources that are now being offered to or flowing into Haiti, however, creates a new set of problems and challenges. So thin is the layer of trained Haitian administrative and technical personnel that it simply cannot sustain the weight of responsibility thrust suddenly upon it. The resumption of a major drive for development means that Haitian agronomists, engineers, and extension agents at the central, regional and local level must be given new training and incentives and must be expanded radically in number. The preference of agronomists, technicians and medical personnel to avoid service in the rural areas and reside in Port-au-Prince—or emigrate—becomes increasingly at variance with the objectives of international donors, including ourselves, to reach Haiti’s rural poorest people. Basic infrastructure projects can become a mockery unless accompanied by the training and assignment of qualified personnel to bring essential development services to the countryside and to stimulate more productive activity at the grass-roots level.

These considerations have shaped our selection of the first of two major issues for resolution. Our interests in advancing the progress of the rural poor have thus far been well served by our AID activity such as the integrated small farmer development project (concentrated on coffee production). But we must clearly find more ways to help and induce the Haitians to make more thorough use of their human resources so as to move much more rapidly, on a nationwide scale, toward producing more food and improving nutrition patterns. We believe that much can be done by stimulating the formation of effective community councils, drawing upon the “coumbite” cooperative tradition and taking into account the successful methods developed in Northwest Haiti by the Haitian-American Community Help Organization (HACHO), using “Food for Work” under P.L.–480 Title II. We plan to intensify efforts to devise more effective low-cost methods for delivering health services including family planning assistance—a cardinal objective if population is not to outstrip economic gains over the next decade.

Our pledge to assist the neediest countries in their self-help efforts, reaffirmed by the Secretary of State after his Latin American trip early [Page 1077]in 1976, requires continuing scrutiny of how serious those self-help efforts are. In Haiti, performance still falls short of what we and other donors would wish, and our second issue for resolution addresses itself to that problem. In this case, our strategy recommends that we concert more intensively with other donors to induce the Haitian Government to mobilize Haitian resources more effectively for development. We intend to use our leverage to bring about changes in the allocation of levies by the Régie du Tabac, particularly on commodities furnished under P.L.–480, and the international development community involved in Haiti should add its weight. We recommend concerted efforts to bring about changes in Haitian tax policy, to encourage greater participation of the private sector, and to induce the Haitians to draw upon men in uniform more frequently for developmental tasks.

Our interest in promoting the orderly progress of Haiti also implies attention to a traditional component of political power—the Armed Forces. Our strategy provides for the continuation of a modest training program for the regular Armed Forces of Haiti centered upon improving their capacity for search and sea rescue and for associated communications and logistics. The Armed Forces remain a critical ingredient of stability in Haiti; their associations with the U.S. date back for many years but need to be renewed; and a number of younger officers have already assumed positions of influence extending beyond military affairs. We endorse the decision to propose Haiti for inclusion, in FY 1977, among countries eligible for FMS credits, and we consider that the $500,000 level proposed would contribute to greater restraint and selectivity in military procurement, as well as assuring purchase of items associated with the training program.

Our interest in promoting the post-1971 improvements in observing human rights in Haiti is clear, and we will continue to keep this subject under review at top levels of the Haitian Government, encouraging it in the direction of liberalization and respect for dissent, urging it to clarify its record on political prisoners, and making clear the strong U.S. congressional and Executive commitment to internationally accepted principles. We will continue to point out the serious consequences for all our programs should there be any reversion to the pattern of repression made notorious under Dr. François Duvalier’s regime. At the same time, we will take into account nationalist sensitivities, authoritarian traditions in Haiti, and legitimate fears of subversion organized by Haitian exiles.

Although U.S. financial and commercial interests in Haiti are relatively modest, they should expand as the Haitian economy gradually opens up in the years ahead in response to the major external aid projects now underway and offers more attractive opportunities for trade and investment.

[Page 1078]

Our strategy, therefore, includes the recommendation that we intensify our efforts to bring about a much greater understanding on the part of Haitian authorities as to what constitutes fair play in relations between the Haitian Government and U.S. companies. Several investment disputes continue to cloud the investment atmosphere and to attract congressional attention. Since elements of confiscation without compensation are present, automatic sanctions under U.S. law might be invoked, with serious consequences for Haiti’s eligibility to receive aid and participate in generalized tariff preferences. However, because of its extreme national sensitivity on matters of sovereignty and severe disillusionment with past unscrupulous investors, the government is likely to respond less to threats of sanctions than to firm and quiet diplomatic approaches based on reference to Haitian self-interest. We will handle this issue in the broad context of our bilateral relations and in a manner which maximizes our tactical flexibility.

It would be imprudent, in our view, to underestimate our interest in having this small Black republic and near neighbor continue the post-1971 evolution toward openness, rationality, respect for human rights, responsibility in public administration and a commitment to mobilize the resources of the country for economic development. Haiti is on the threshold of unprecedented change, emerging from its isolation, gaining in self-confidence, discovering new opportunities for its gallant and long-suffering people. As this process takes hold, Haiti will be in a position to play a moderating role in Caribbean regional politics and help to counteract diplomatically any Cuban tendencies for intervention in the region.

At the same time, Haiti’s institutional base is fragile, its Presidential leadership still subtly contested in the Palace, its administrative effectiveness shackled by ancient habits and budgetary anemia. Political turbulence, generated for example by inflation, natural disasters, or externally-directed subversion, may always recur. By focussing our programs firmly on the promotion of basic economic and social development, and on the strengthening of responsible principles of national administration, we can best guard our long-term interests against upheavals of whatever origin.

Given the context of growing multilateral interest in promoting Haiti’s development, the resources allocated or projected to carry out these courses of U.S. action should be adequate, in my judgment.

Heyward Isham
  1. Summary: Isham summarized U.S. interests in Haiti and recommended a policy that would contribute to the country’s economic and social development.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P760039–1511. Confidential. Sent as an enclosure to airgram A–27 from Port-au-Prince, March 16. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors.