"Kennedy, Bosch, and Duvalier" by Carlo A. Désinor

An excerpt from Désinor’s Il était un fois Duvalier, Bosch, et Kennedy (1989). Désinor was a respected journalist and historian. Below, he reveals how the president of the Dominican Republic, Juan Bosch, nearly intervened to overthrow Duvalier in 1963 when the Haitian state violated the sanctity of the Dominican embassy to pursue a political asylee. Meanwhile, like Bosch, American President John F. Kennedy wanted to overturn Haiti’s dictatorship, and had the United States Navy positioned to intervene.

An hour away from Port-au-Prince, on the other side of the border, Bosch’s government had the biggest armed forces in the region. He was ready to go to war against Haiti with 10,000 infantry, 6,000 marines, 4,000 pilots [and] 10,000 policemen.

As Juan Bosch maintained his respectable armada in a state of operational readiness, the situation on the ground evolved unexpectedly. On 8 May 1963, the commander of the Haitian GC-8 naval crew informed the coast guard commander that… the GC-8 had run into seven United States Marine units stationed about twenty-three miles away from the Saint Marc bay.

In the Dominican Republic, the situation began to turn against Juan Bosch. The first challenges came from his strategists who, despite the overwhelming superiority of the Dominican armed forces, started to have doubts about the [odds for] success in Haiti, because the Haitian landscape presented many obstacles.

Facing these developments, the American administration seemed to have revised its plans. Discussions between the Haitian chancellor, René Chalmers, and the United States Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, were a preliminary step toward normalizing relations between the two countries. Kennedy, who had been waiting for a disturbance in Port-au-Prince or a call to arms elsewhere in Haiti that he could have used as a pretext to land his troops, lost more and more interest [as time went on]. All was quiet in Haiti. The only clamor was a manifestation in support of President Duvalier, who now took on a new nationalist mysticism.