242. Telegram From the Department of State to the White House1

Following is repeat State 61960, sent Port au Prince 19 March:

Quote 61960. Subject: Reported Plans To Overthrow Duvalier Government. Ref: Port au Prince 964.2

1. As you are keenly aware, in the many past instances when we received reports of coup plots, our judgment was that coup attempts in Haiti are most likely to result in widespread bloodshed. A period of chaos, and if successful, a new regime as repressive and authoritarian as that now in power. We have been encouraged during the past year by the modest but genuine improvement in the human rights performance of the Duvalier government. We continue to believe the cause of human rights will best be served by such evolutionary change within the framework of political stability and economic development.

2. In short our policy in regard to coup attempts has not changed. We are in no way encouraging the overthrow of governments, and we have not agreed with any Haitian coup plotters that we will “look the other way” should they attempt to overthrow Duvalier.

3. We believe you should, as in past, inform Duvalier that we are again getting reports of active coup plotting. As in past, you should give no details. Our concern here is that failure to warn the GOH could be read as USG participation or at least complicity. On the other hand, if we supply any details, we may be a party to reprisals and police action against innocents as well as the guilty.

4. We are keenly aware of the complexities and difficulties implicit in the above. We would appreciate any views you may have on both the immediate problem and our policy for future.

Vance Unquote.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 24, Folder: Haiti, 1/77–12/79. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. In telegram 964 from Port au Prince, March 17, the Embassy reported on a potential coup scheduled to take place before April 21. The coup never occurred. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D850056–1700) In telegram 1007 from Port au Prince, March 21, the Embassy counseled against informing Duvalier about the reports, citing the fact that the source of information about the coup was a journalist who strongly supported American human rights objectives in Haiti. According to the Embassy, divulging information about the coup planning to Duvalier would encourage the Haitian media to portray the United States negatively. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D850056–1702) The Department concurred in telegram 65436 to Port au Prince, March 24. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 24, Folder: Haiti, 1/77–12/79)