The Devil You Know: US-Haitian Relations, 1957-1968

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Title: The Devil You Know: US-Haitian Relations, 1957-1968
Author: Coleman, Adam
Advisors: David Zonderman, Committee Member
Keith Luria, Committee Member
Nancy Mitchell, Committee Chair
Abstract: This thesis studies the relationship between the United States and Haiti during the dictatorship of Dr. Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier. In the wake of the Cuban revolution, the United States attempted to change its foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean. In order to prevent social upheavals that increased the probability of communist revolution in Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States tried to move away from its policy of supporting dictatorships and toward an anti-dictatorship policy that encouraged US-backed economic development and mutual hemispheric cooperation. Nevertheless, the primary goal of US foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean remained preventing the spread of communism. Because the United States so doggedly pursued its anticommunist policy over its anti-dictatorship policy, it found it extremely difficult to exert influence on countries with harsh dictatorial governments. In Papa Doc's Haiti, the United States consistently failed in its efforts to operate an economic development program, peacefully push Duvalier from power, or influence him to reform his dictatorial policies. Because Duvalier efficiently and brutally suppressed all political opposition to his regime, there existed no one in or out of Haiti whom the United States trusted to replace him. As such, fearing that removing Duvalier from power would lead to anarchy (and possibly communist revolution) in Haiti, the United States felt it had no choice but to maintain relations with him. The United States' relationship with Duvalier exposed the flaws of its Latin American policy. Namely, that economic assistance did not grant the United States a significant degree of political influence in countries receiving aid, and that economic development projects were useless if the money never reached the people for whom it was meant. Moreover, so long as the United States treated the Caribbean as a Cold War battlefield, its anxiety about the spread of communism through the region made it virtually impossible to pursue an anti-dictatorship foreign policy.
Date: 2004-09-16
Degree: MA
Discipline: History

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