256. Telegram From the Embassy in Haiti to the Department of State1

1470. Subj: Meeting with President Duvalier on Title III. Ref: Port au Prince 1402 (Notal).2

1. C—Entire text.

2. I met with President Duvalier privately and outlined to him our position on Title III. In order that he clearly understand, I gave him a short paper in French setting forth our position on Title III and on the negotiation of a new Title I. Duvalier carefully read the paper and said he had been expecting my visit and had been informed of the situation. He said he had met the day before with a Vice President of the World Bank who had also discussed the need for fiscal reform. I then stressed that we considered fiscal reform to be the key to a Title III and that we looked forward to the discussions with the IMF and also to the Joint Commission meeting in June.

3. The President responded that he was indeed interested in making fiscal reforms and added that much more than fiscal reforms was needed in Haiti. However, he said now was not the time. Duvalier said that Haitians were by nature extremely individualistic, each out for what he could get. These tendencies were very deep and it was impossible to move rapidly. He said he realized our concerns but that it simply was impossible for him to push for the kind of reforms we wanted at this time.

4. I then suggested a timetable for the possible resumption of Title III discussions. I noted the upcoming Joint Commission meeting of all major donors in June, and suggested that after this was concluded we might be able to resume discussions based on decisions taken at that meeting.3 The President said that such might be possible. I suggested that we review the situation in July with a view to completing a Title III in the autumn. The President said he hoped the Joint Commission meeting and particularly the IMF discussion would prove satisfactory.

5. We then shifted to other topics:

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A. Relations with the Dominican Republic:

I asked the President if he planned to meet with President Guzman at the opening of the new dam on the border.4 He said he hoped to meet earlier, if possible. I said we favored cordial relations between the DR and Haiti and that there were many constructive things the two nations could accomplish by working together. Duvalier then said that one problem affecting relations between Haiti and the DR was a racist attitude in the DR. I countered that during my visit to the DR I had seen and met many blacks in high government positions and that Pena Gomez was of Haitian extraction. The President said he wanted to emphasize that Pena Gomez was not Haitian but only of Haitian origin.5 In any case, he said he wanted improved relations with the DR but there was considerable lack of understanding among Dominicans of Haiti.

B. Investment in Haiti:

I told the President that I considered private investment to be the best hope for Haiti’s future progress. Haiti’s sole resource is its people. However, I said, there must be a climate of confidence and investors must know that they are welcome. The President said he has always supported private investment and that he appreciated our efforts to encourage investment. I noted that I have been meeting with a steady stream of American businessmen interested in Haiti and that they all ask my opinion as to the investment climate. I said that I try to be encouraging.

6. We then concluded the meeting. President Duvalier thanked me for coming in and said he would like to have more frank, informal discussions with me. I said I would be ready at any time; all he need do was to let me know when he would be available.

7. Comment: Duvalier was relaxed and informal. He did not seem the least bit upset by the Title III situation. However, it was clear to me that he realizes he is not fully in charge and does not have the power to push for needed reforms. Whether he is, in fact, sincere about making reforms is another matter. Certainly, he wants us to believe that he is sincere. But, more important, I take it as a candid admission that he lacks real executive power to issue orders and have them carried out. I would interpret the statement about endemic Haitian individualism to mean that he has few people who he can really trust or rely on. Everyone is out to feather his own nest and the President realizes this. Nor did I sense a mood by the President to assume a [Page 610] more vigorous leadership role. He seems to feel boxed in and content to ride things along. Whether he will be willing or able to push through the reforms we and the other donors, particularly the IMF, feel are needed is doubtful. I am sure he will say he wants to act, but actually acting is something quite different. Further, I think the President does indeed want to have more contact with me and would like to have my advice. I deliberately left the door open, putting the ball in his court to get in touch with me. It is quite certain that even this is difficult as he would be in some jeopardy if he got too close to the U.S. Ambassador. Again, this is a situation he will have to judge, but I do stand ready to speak frankly with him at any time.

As far as prospects for Title III go, I would rate them less than 50/50. Economic conditions and coordinated donor pressure may force even the most conservative Duvalierist to heed the necessity for real reform—beyond mere lip service—and the President may be willing to bite the bullet. However, I think Duvalier is quite right that things in Haiti must move slowly and that there is a strong sense of individualism that dominates Haitian life. Haiti is a place where every man tries to be for himself and, in that regard, the President himself should not be taken to be an exception.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790156–0209. Confidential; Priority. Repeated for information Priority to Santo Domingo.
  2. Not found.
  3. The Joint Commission met in August. See footnote 2, Document 257.
  4. The Pedernales Dam was a joint construction project between Haiti and the Dominican Republic located on the border between the two nations. It opened in September.
  5. Jose Francisco Pena Gomez was the leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party and three-time candidate for President.