419. Telegram 1019 From the Embassy in Haiti to the Department of State1

1019. Subj: Plan of Haitian Anti-GOH Plotting. Ref: State 47701, State 95859, State 95858 and previous.

1. Following are my comments on reftels, and recommendations.

2. I consider the report plausible, given the implacable hatreds spawned by Francois Duvalier’s macabre repressions and the regime’s inability or disinclination to win over the ring-leaders of the opposition or otherwise to redeem the past in the eyes of its enemies.

3. I am equally impressed with the degree of which the reported plan depends on multiple, interlocking betrayals and naive expectations, e.g., by Lahens, of support from Haitians to whom he has been an émigré for years. Émigré psychology is seldom realistic, though it can be—and in this case evidently is—fanatic. It is hard to see anything but reversion to typical Haitian political chaos should this plot succeed, not necessarily the worst condition, but one compelling reassessment of how best to protect our interests.

4. The litmus test of any authoritative regime’s survivability, when threatened by those dedicated to its overthrow, is its ability to foresee events realistically, and guage its interest rationally, and take effective steps in self-defense. No outside government—ours or any others—which might come into possession of information such as that being reported can do for the object of the planned attack what it will not or cannot do for itself. At the same time, to withold the essentials of information vital to that regime’s existence would in effect ally us with the rebel cause, a posture which if taken should only be taken in cold calculation of all the options. We have made no such determination—e.g., [Page 1080]that our interests would be better served than they are now by a non-Duvalierist regime in Haiti of uncertain composition and undefined aims.

5. At the same time, I am well aware that this regime has made insufficient basic progress in committing resources to basic social needs long neglected, and that the graft and corruption remain tolerated within the Duvalier family and its entourage to the point of now provoking unrest among certain military officers. Siclait, long detested for his avarice and cunning, has in the view of many observers, strengthened his position with the latest cabinet reshuffle, and Public Works Minister Petit’s dismissal is believed to have stemmed from his principled obduracy, specifically his refusal to go along with a kickback scheme involving the new World Bank financed thermal power plant. The Petit ouster has come as a profound disappointment to many who had considered the President firm in his pursuit of reform and honest administration. Blanchet, among others, is said to have sided with Petit. Now, it seems, the Siclait-Madame Simone Duvalier-Luc Desir alliance is in the ascendancy, and people question more than ever who is captain of the ship. Certain military officers, who regard Siclait as an abomination to the original Duvalierist cause, will expect his vengeance, and may be expected to move preemptively. Col. Namphy, G–4, is one such officer mentioned. Antonio Andre is reported to be appalled by Presidential aspirations to be “a Manley or a Castro.”

6. Fortunately, our aid programs have been consistently aimed at the rural poor and we have successfully identified our objectives with the rural poorest rather than with the existent government as such. Diversion has not taken place, controls over direct loan and grant projects are considered satisfactory.

7. Conclusions/Recommendations. I therefore concur in recommendation that I alert Duvalier, as before, to gist of this latest report, naming no rpt no specifics. I also recommend that I should couple this warning with the observation that, substantial as the developmental and political evolution has been since 1971, enormous and urgent basic challenges remain if the Haitian people is to be lifted from its misery. Any Haitian Government that fails to demonstrate a serious will to overcome those challenges cannot expect immunity from outside efforts to replace it with something that is believed will be more responsive to the needs of the Haitian people. The best safeguards against any such efforts, therefore will be a searching, objective and determined effort to mobilize all resources coherently toward the fundamental goals of Haiti’s economic and social development. In the last analysis, only such a commitment can persuade enemies of the present regime that they have nothing better to offer.

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8. Action requested: Department’s concurrence in my taking line outlined in foregoing paragraph.

  1. Summary: Isham concurred in the Department’s recommendation that Duvalier be warned about a possible coup attempt, adding that the Haitian President should be advised that such plots were likely to recur if the Haitian Government did not demonstrate a serious will to address the country’s pressing needs.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760154–0131. Secret; Niact Immediate; Stadis; Exdis. In telegram 902 from Port-au-Prince, April 6, the Embassy commented on March 31 cabinet changes. (Ibid., D760131–0243) In telegram 1200 from Port-au-Prince, May 7, the Embassy reported that the personnel changes appeared to reflect Duvalier’s “acquiescence in the elimination of strong-willed advisors opposed to corruption” and had “not stilled doubts about who is the real captain at the helm.” (Ibid., D760178–0082) Telegram 47701 to Port-au-Prince is dated February 27. (Ibid., D760073–1179) Telegram 95859 to Port-au-Prince is dated April 20. (Ibid., D760152–0623) Telegram 95858 to Santo Domingo is published as Document 421.