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

109664. Subject: Dialogue With President Duvalier. Refs: (A)-(B) Port-au-Prince 807; C-State 63221.2

1. Confidential—Entire text.

2. Department views recent increase in frequency and substantive nature of Ambassador’s dialogue with President Duvalier as very useful. We would like to take advantage of these meetings to reinforce in a positive manner our interests, particularly in human rights field. Recent IAHRC report on Haiti (pouched) makes such action now especially appropriate.3 As Embassy is aware, Department has a munition control license application for commercial purchase of small arms ammunition by Haitian military (refs A and B). ARA and HA agree that this presents us an initial opportunity to use leverage on the GOH in a positive manner.

3. Ambassador should take early opportunity to follow up on last meeting with President Duvalier on subject of GOH security concerns. Ambassador should tell Duvalier that he has consulted with USG on this subject, assure him that we understand and share these concerns, and stress we wish to be as helpful as possible within the limits of our own policy. This policy involves clear restraints on the export of arms and ammunition. As an important step in overcoming some of these restraints, we seek a clear and explicit understanding with the President regarding his willingness and intention to pursue a policy of continued progress in respect for basic human rights. As this policy is borne out in the form of concrete actions taken by the GOH, we will undertake to acknowledge this progress in appropriate ways. Ambassador should attempt to engage Duvalier in a dialogue on this subject, and elicit his views on appropriate USG actions.

4. For purpose of initiating this dialogue, we suggest Ambassador make the following points:

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A. USG understands that Haiti has legitimate security concerns and we want to be helpful in meeting GOH security needs. General USG policy is to restrict trade in arms and other lethal equipment, and specifically to link approval of MC export licenses to human rights performance.

B. We are disturbed that recent evidence suggests reversal in GOH policy of liberalization and democratization. We would like to hear the President’s views on how the GOH plans to proceed to improve the human rights environment.

C. USG policy is based on a frank assessment of U.S. interests, which, we believe, coincide with those of the GOH. We believe improvement in both human rights and security capability are desirable for Haiti over the next few years.

D. We propose to take into consideration specific GOH measures to improve the human rights environment in considering the approval of munitions control license applications and other USG decisions affecting Haiti. For example, one of the following steps during the next weeks would be helpful in consideration of a recent MC application for small arms ammunition.

—Trial or unconditional release of Sylvio Claude.4

—Trial or unconditional release of alleged conspirators in the St. Marc gun smuggling incident.

E. In addition, U.S. would look favorably on the following:

—Evidence of special GOH attention to improvement of prison conditions.

—Public statement indicating assurances of future protection for Human Rights League.

—Action to apprehend and try persons responsible for November 9 disruption of HR League meeting.

5. Embassy may have additional suggestions re appropriate GOH initiatives, in which case Department would appreciate your views.

6. Embassy should also report promptly steps taken pursuant to reftel C.

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7. Department officers also plan to keep Ambassador Charles informed here of our views and interests concerning human rights matters. Hopefully his direct contacts with President Duvalier will reinforce your efforts.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 24, Haiti, 1/77–12/79. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Beckham; cleared by Warne and in HA, PM/SAS, and ARA/RPP; approved by Bushnell.
  2. In telegram 807 from Port au Prince, February 21, the Embassy discussed Haitian applications for naval munitions purchases. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800091–0911) In telegram 63221 to Port au Prince, March 13, the Department weighed the pros and cons of admitting Haitian dissident Sylvio Claude to the United States. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800131–0703)
  3. The IAHRC issued its report on Haiti on December 13, 1979.
  4. Christian Democratic Party leader Sylvio Claude was arrested in late August 1979. He was released in May 1980. A draft statement on his release, written by Beckham on May 2, is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 24, Folder: Haiti, 5–12/80.
  5. Ambassador Jones was not able to meet with Duvalier, but instead read the démarche to Salomon on May 19. Jones noted that “it is preferable to first discuss these with him [Salomon] than go directly to Duvalier,” adding that Salomon was a “positive influence” and that Duvalier’s wedding plans prevented a quick meeting with the Haitian leader. (Telegram 2381 from Port au Prince, May 19, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800248–0827)