241. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs (de Santillana) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Luers)1


  • Human Rights

It seems to me that our experience with Papa Doc in the 1960’s is not irrelevant to the human rights issues we are talking about now. In 1963 we exercised the full range of our leverage against Papa Doc: cutting off economic and military aid, strong rhetoric, fleet maneuvers off Haiti, [1 line not declassified]2

This policy of severe sanctions did not lead to any improvement of the human rights situation. To the contrary, the period 1963–67 was the worst of Papa Doc’s repression.

We cannot say that our sanctions caused the intensified repression in Haiti, but the sequence of events is there. Papa Doc, already paranoid and repressive, became even more so in the face of our hostility. Moreover, when I was in Haiti a few years ago, I was told by all sources that the ones who suffered the most from our aid cut off in the 1960’s were the “little people.” Papa Doc and his machine took their cut from whatever money there was in the country; the masses just got less.

Conversely, as we have resumed more normal relations with Haiti since 1971, including an AID program, the political atmosphere there has improved. Again, we cannot say this has been a cause and effect relationship.3 The new leaders of the GOH have wanted to improve their country’s image in any event. Nonetheless, a strong argument can be made that our aid and the general acceptance we have accorded the new regime have helped tip the balance in favor of the improvements that have taken place.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850126–0103. Confidential. Copies were sent to Bray and Lister. Luers wrote at the top of the page, “Gerry, I think you’re absolutely correct. Fascinating. I wonder if this is ‛documented’ or supported anywhere? Bill L.”
  2. For documentation on the Kennedy administration’s use of these tactics in Haiti in 1963, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XII, American Republics.
  3. For documentation on the normalization of relations with Haiti during the Nixon administration, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–10, Documents on American Republics, 1969–1972.