The Issue in Haiti

Courtesy Reuters

HAITI appeared in the news in September with the State Department's announcement of a "Treaty of Friendship" negotiated on behalf of their respective governments by United States Minister Dana Munro and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Albert Blanchet. The new treaty, signed September 3, apparently provided for the termination of the occupation by the United States at an even earlier date than stipulated in the existing treaty (May 3, 1936). The State Department hailed the new treaty as providing the solution of a difficult problem. Newspaper commentators saw in it evidence of execution of the Hoover policy of withdrawal and of the administration's desire to improve relations with Latin America. To the casual reader it must therefore have come as a surprise to learn on September 15 that the Haitian National Assembly had unanimously voted to reject the treaty. Why did the President of Haiti -- chosen by the same National Assembly in November 1930, and exemplifying the same intense nationalist feeling -- approve a treaty which his legislative associates so emphatically repudiated?

To answer this question we must briefly review the history of the intervention by the United States in Haiti and trace the events which led us into the present impasse. Now nothing in recent American history is more controversial than the Haitian question. Certain facts stand out starkly. But the interpretation of the underlying causes and motives gives those facts conflicting connotations.

The United States intervened vi et armis in Haiti on July 28, 1915. Our official viewpoint may be summed up approximately as follows: Government had broken down in Haiti. In the four years preceding intervention there had been six presidents, none of whom completed his term and the majority of whom had been driven from office by revolution. The disintegration had culminated in President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam's seizure of some seventy supposed potential rebels, their slaughter in prison when revolution against his régime gathered headway, and his own death at the hands of an infuriated mob of friends and relatives of

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