245. Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Information Cable1

TDFIR 314/01479–77


  • Haiti


  • Late May–Early August 1977


  • The Power Structure and Decision Making Process of the Government of Haiti Under President Jean Claude Duvalier


  • [less than 1 line not declassified]


  • [3 lines not declassified]

Summary: The ultimate authority in the Government of Haiti (GOH) is the President and his mother, both of whom have supporters who attempt to influence them or gain favors from them. These spheres of influence can be divided into two parallel, but not completely separate, lines of competition for authority. A second force in the GOH is composed of the military and the Cabinet; both, however, are responsible to the President and act under his instructions. No Minister would attempt any significant change or reform without prior approval from the President. However, it would be incorrect to assume that the Cabinet’s actions accurately reflect the full intention of the President. In any judgment of President Jean Claude Duvalier’s intentions, all forces acting to influence him and his mother must be understood. One example of this is the Cabinet appointed in late May 1977, which was an overt attempt of the President to assert his independence from his mother; however, the Cabinet selections reveal the complex forces which influenced Duvalier.2 End summary.

1. The primary force and ultimate authority in the Government of Haiti (GOH) is President Jean Claude Duvalier and his mother, Simone Duvalier. In practice, these individuals head two parallel and competing lines of authority. Within these parallel, but not completely separate, spheres are individuals whose ability to influence, or gain the favor [Page 568] of, the President and/or his mother is constantly changing. The first level is composed of the one individual who exercises the most influence on the President or his mother at a given time. As of early August 1977, Henri P. Bayard, Secretary of State without Portfolio, occupies this position of influence over the President, and Victor Constant, member of the legislature, has this level of influence with Madame Duvalier. While others seeking to gain personal favors may attempt to use Bayard or Constant, or someone else in this position, usually they try to develop direct contact with the President or his mother.

2. The second level of influence in the sphere of the President is occupied by selected military officers. General Gracia Jacques, head of the Palace Guard, has a special position at the Palace which permits him to exercise some influence over both the President and his mother; Jacques, however, primarily is concerned with the physical protection of the President. Younger officers, such as Colonel Jean Valme, Chief of the Internal Security Service, and Colonel Serge Coicou, Commander of troops at the National Palace, now occupy this secondary level of influence, primarily by virtue of their positions which require them to accompany the President on trips outside the Palace and to join him during periods of relaxation. Duvalier’s association with other younger officers is an attempt by the President to develop support among an element in the military who will derive its rank and authority directly from him and not from past loyalties to his father and mother. The second level of influence over Madame Duvalier is composed of her two daughters, Nicole and Marie Denise, and her two nieces. Madame is still upset with her son for excluding her two daughters from the Palace. As a result of the absence of her daughters, Madame Duvalier has turned to her nieces for support and to help her persuade her son to accept her point of view on various subjects. Many believe that the President’s exclusion of his sisters was an attempt to reduce his mother’s influence in the Palace.

3. The third level of influence over the President is composed of his current girl friends and his old classmates with whom he maintains some contact. In Madame Duvalier’s case, this level includes old supporters and friends of her husband, for whom Madame often is attempting to gain favors.

4. The second force in the decision making process of the GOH is occupied by the Cabinet and the military. All ministries lack official policy guidance; in practice, each Cabinet member is engaged in daily problem solving, usually with the direct participation of the President. A Cabinet member’s primary objective is to anticipate and seek guidance to avoid situations which might cause embarrassment to the President or to resolve situations which if left too long might annoy the President. Most ministries are reluctant to exercise any initiative, even [Page 569] if the laws of the country or the regulations of their ministries permit some latitude. No Minister would be bold enough to attempt any significant change or reform unless the action had been specifically approved by the President. In addition to operating under this unofficial rule, each Minister is aware that he must conduct his affairs under the scrutiny of Madame Duvalier and her associates and under the observation of the President’s closest advisors. The President remains basically uninformed and/or unconcerned about the process of government, but he will act on the advice of his entourage or under pressure from his mother and her friends, some of whom are Cabinet members. Various officers and elements in the military exercise influence on the Cabinet and on activities at the Palace. The President attempts to keep the three major elements of the military, which are the Palace Guard, the Leopards Battalion, and the army, essentially divided and directly loyal to him.

5. (Source comment: While it is correct that Cabinet officers rarely act without Presidential approval, it would be incorrect to assume that their actions accurately reflect the full intentions of the President. It is necessary to take into account what the military and police are doing, which sometimes appear to contradict the actions of Cabinet officers. In order to make any judgment concerning the President’s intentions, it is important to understand that all of the forces described above come into play. Certain actions indicate that the President is making a serious attempt to become independent by reducing his mother’s influence and by developing his own support elements. The appointment of a new Cabinet in late May was an overt attempt to demonstrate his independence, but the forces described above still influenced Duvalier’s selection.)

6. Two members of the Cabinet are old-line Duvalier supporters. Edner Brutus, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Worship, is a friend of Madame Duvalier and his appointment was a concession by the President to his mother, and Emmanuel Bros, Secretary of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, is a long-time Duvalier supporter but is considered to be a serious and capable Cabinet officer. Edouard Berrouet, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, formerly worked with Bayard at the Institute of Mines and was recommended for his Cabinet position by Bayard. Achille Salvant, in charge of Labor and Social Affairs, was appointed as a reward for his past services to the President’s mother and father. Aurelien C. Jeanty, Secretary of State for Interior and National Defense, was recommended by a family friend but is an active individual who will not hesitate to carry out the President’s orders. Willy Verrier, Secretary of State for Public Health and Education, has an affinity and closeness with the President with which both are comfortable.

7. Field Dissem: None.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 24, Haiti, 3/77–12/79. Secret; Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals.
  2. The Embassy commented on the new Cabinet Ministers in telegram 1960 from Port au Prince, June 1. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D770195–0872)