258. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Haiti1

295108. Subject: Incident of November 9.

1. Haitian Ambassador Salomon was called in to Department November 10 to discuss violent November 9 incident in Port-au-Prince with ARA/CAR Director Warne and Country Officer Beckham.2 Warne [Page 614] conveyed our serious concern about the incident, both because of mistreatment of EmbOff and because it raises serious questions about GOH attitude and policies regarding human rights and liberalization. Ambassador Salomon was informed of cancellation of Thunderbird visit and of withdrawal of the decision memorandum on munition licences.3 DeptOffs asked to be informed of results of GOH investigation of incident, and expressed hope that those responsible for the attack would be prosecuted.

2. Salomon expressed regret and conveyed his government’s apologies for treatment of EmbOff, but categorically denied any GOH involvement in incident. According to Salomon, the meeting had been heavily and somewhat sensationally publicized in press and radio, and attracted a crowd of approximately 6,000 consisting of both supporters and opponents of Professor Gourgue. Although police had orders not to interfere with the meeting, they did attempt to intervene when shouting match turned into violent confrontation.

3. DeptOffs pointed out that this version of the incident did not entirely correspond with eyewitness accounts we had, and that it was not clear to us that this was a spontaneous incident, rather than an orchestrated one. They repeated that the attack appeared to have been condoned by the GOH, and if so, Dept. considers it a very serious matter. Pending development of further information, we maintain an open mind on the matter, but (in response to Ambassador’s assertion that judgement had already been passed) explained that Thunderbird visit or approval of munition licenses immediately following such a disturbing incident could easily be misinterpreted by both GOH and its critics.

4. Salomon concluded discussion by repeating that the incident had been blown out of proportion, that there was no GOH involvement, and that in retrospect it was unavoidable unless meeting had been cancelled, which GOH did not wish to do. He indicated that he would confer with his government and seek additional information which he would convey to Dept. ASAP.

5. Dept. wishes to commend EmbOff Silins for his quick thinking and courageous action in coming to Professor and Mrs. Gourgue’s assistance during the melee. He may well have been instrumental in preventing more serious injury from occurring to both.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790523–0164. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Beckham; cleared in ARA/CPH and HA; approved by Warne.
  2. On November 9, Duvalier supporters disrupted a meeting held by the Haitian Human Rights League. Gerard Gourgue, President of the Haitian Human Rights League, his wife, an Embassy officer attempting to help them, and hundreds of attendees were beaten. Embassy officials suspected that the Haitian Government played a hand in organizing the attack. (Telegram 5119 from Port au Prince, November 10; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790517–1151)
  3. The USAF Thunderbird Aerial Demonstration Squadron was scheduled to fly over Port au Prince on November 14 and 19. (Telegram 291828 to Port au Prince, November 8; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790516–0340) In December, Jones informed Salomon that the Department of State had denied the Haitian Government ten munitions licenses. (Telegram 5677 from Port au Prince, December 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790581–0357)