257. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Haitian Relations


  • Mr. Philip C. Habib
  • H.E. Gerard Dorcely, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Haiti
  • H.E. Georges Salomon, Ambassador of Haiti
  • T.H. William B. Jones, American Ambassador to Haiti
  • Mr. Robert Pastor, NSC
  • Ms. Mary Gin Kennedy (S/PH—notetaker)
  • Mr. Robert W. Beckham (ARA/CAR—notetaker)
  • Ms. Sophia K. Porson (interpreter)
[Page 611]

After introductions and an exchange of greetings, Mr. Habib proposed that each of the participants make their principal points and responses and began the dialogue by stating that:

—The United States Government is pleased by the degree of progress in human rights in Haiti whereby the GOH has broadened its approach to governing and to its own people. Human rights remains a fundamental element in President Carter’s foreign policy.

—Although the US is in the process of increasing its assistance to Haiti, we have encountered a roadblock with the stabilization measures. If Haiti’s presentation on the status and progress of fiscal reforms is satisfactory at the OAS-sponsored Mixed Commission meeting in August, the most important problem will be on its way to solution.2

Foreign Minister Dorcely responded by thanking Habib for the positive human rights assessment. On the matter of economic development, he remarked that Haiti has studied the history of US assistance policy and has noted that when the US wants to render assistance, it does. Otherwise, it imposes technical barriers which are really political in nature.

Mr. Habib objected to this conclusion by saying:

—the US has learned over the years that aid must go to the least-advantaged in a society, although this is a difficult task;

—unless fiscal and monetary policy are organized, aid is unsuccessful; and

—the US does not impose conditions for political purposes. Technical conditions are necessary if aid is to be useful. Such conditions are also imposed by other donors and international lending agencies and are not limited to Haiti.

In response, Dorcely said:

—Haiti agrees that aid must reach the needy and has accepted US aid, using it for rural development, which is tantamount to national development in a country with an 80% rural population.

—Haiti is very aware that it lacks technical and management expertise; consequently, Dorcely had established a school of management in Haiti to remedy this problem. Canada already offers technical and managerial training in connection with its development projects.

—It is very difficult for Haiti to implement AID’s technical requirements for a Title III program although the government is very willing to do so.

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Habib said he would call the technical management issue to the attention of the proper people. Nevertheless, Dorcely must carry back the message to Haiti that the US believes fiscal and monetary reform will benefit the Haitian economy and must be examined in that spirit.

At that point, Ambassador Salomon interjected that Haiti was particularly upset by US attitudes on this issue. While President Duvalier intends to implement the reform program, the US Congress took action against Haiti before the government was able to do so [apparently a reference to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommendation to terminate economic assistance to Haiti because of failure to implement the reform].3 Nevertheless, Haiti has implemented a number of the reform measures not requiring legislative action. Mr. Habib then assured Salomon that the Department appreciated the difficulty of Haiti’s task.

Mr. Pastor said he wished to comment more generally on the impact of political change in the region:

—The US is committed to the policies of human rights and non-intervention and will support political and socio-economic changes if they are necessary. It is not moral or practical to support the status quo if inequities exist. While the Cubans have aggravated the problems in the area, they have not caused them. Such problems are indigenous and must be solved by the people themselves.

—Events in Nicaragua have had and will continue to have an impact on the region. The US does not know what will evolve and does not believe there is a pre-determined outcome. We have received certain assurances from the new government, but do not take the assurances at face value. If we deny their validity, however, we play into the hands of the Communists who do not want the assurances carried out. The US has no desire to see Somoza replaced by a Communist totalitarian government. It must be recognized that the causes of Somoza’s defeat were dissatisfaction and alienation shared by all sectors of the economy.

—The US recognizes not all change is positive or desirable, but the US does not control change. We see an internal engine of change and try to assist people, groups and governments to progress toward positive change. The most difficult task is to allow gradual change [Page 613] which includes social, economic and political participation by the people.

Dorcely said he does not share US optimism regarding Nicaragua, especially the assurances. While he agreed the domestic situation in Nicaragua favored and contributed to the downfall of Somoza, he challenged Pastor’s remarks about the US willingness to facilitate change by noting there is a nuance in US policy that a friendly dictatorial government may be traded in for an enemy dictatorial government. The US should not forget the lesson of Cuba.

The US policy of non-intervention allows others to intervene and cause change, while the US reacts, never taking the initiative. He questioned whether there was an inconsistency in the US policy of non-intervention when the US stands by and lets others (Cuba) intervene. Latin America’s main reproach is that the US does not take action against outside intervention.

In concluding, Pastor replied that President Carter is accused of too many foreign policy initiatives, not too few. Not many accuse the US of passivity in Latin America! As a result of Nicaragua, the inter-American community will hopefully recognize types of intervention and will react in the same way as in past US intervention, thus having an impact on developments. Habib added our friends, like Haiti, should appreciate the need to understand the importance of common action, common purpose and common views in Latin America.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 24, Haiti, 1/77–12/79. Confidential. Drafted by Mary V. Kennedy Shelton. Copies were sent to Christopher, Newsom, Derian, Bushnell, Grove, Warne, Beckham, Pastor, Valdez, the CIA, and the Embassy in Port au Prince.
  2. The OAS Joint Commission met in Washington August 15. (Telegram 214840 to Port au Prince, August 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790373–0754)
  3. Brackets are in the original. On May 1, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposed to cut foreign aid to 10 nations, including Haiti, from the President’s budget request. The Committee cited Haitian failure to implement fiscal reforms and end corruption as reasons to cancel the President’s request for $18.4 million in aid to Haiti. (Karen DeYoung, “Carter Request For Foreign Aid Slashed by 10%,” The Washington Post, May 2, p. A1)