URGENT Duvalier Leaves Haiti; Council Said to Be in Charge
......................................................................... (AP) _ Embattled President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier left Haiti for France today on a U.S. Air Force plane, relinquishing power over the impoverished Caribbean nation his family had ruled for 28 years.
″I have decided to pass the destiny of the nation into the hands of the military ... so a bloodbath be avoided for my people,″ Duvalier said in a taped message broadcast on national television and radio at 7:20 a.m., almost four hours after he left the country.
National television and radio said a six-member military-civilian council headed by army chief of staff Gen. Henri Namphy had taken charge of the country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
The council quickly announced a 2 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew when rejoicing crowds became mobs that looted a major supermarket, several businesses owned by Duvalier’s father-in-law and the Ministry of Information building.
Soldiers used tear gas and fired into the air to disperse the mobs and enforce the curfew.
The council members were greeted by a 21-gun salute and shouts of joy when they appeared on the steps of the presidential palace. Thousands of people poured into the capital’s downtown shouting, ″He flew away,″ and ″Down with the Macoutes, long live the army.″
Duvalier had used the Tontons Macoutes, the national militia formally called the Volunteers for National Service, to put down any dissent among the 6 million people of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. His government was widely accused of human rights violations.
Militia members today appeared scared and confused, shouting at each other to stick together and head for the barracks. Some were pelted with fruit and vegetables, but police and soldiers drove away the attackers.
In Paris, government sources said Duvalier was expected to land at 3:35 p.m. EST at the airport in Grenoble, in southeast France, and would be allowed to stay in the region until a third country agrees to grant him permanent refuge. The French Foreign Ministry said earlier it was accepting Duvalier only temporarily in order to allow a ″transition″ to democracy in Haiti.
In Washington, the State Department said the Air Force plane was provided at the 34-year-old Duvalier’s request.
Duvalier’s flight came one week after the White House erroneously reported he had fled the country, prompting him to declare he was ″strong, as firm as a monkey’s tail.″ His authoritarian government had been the target of mounting protests since last November, including riots last week in which as many as 50 people were killed in Port-au-Prince, the capital.
Duvalier said in his taped message that his decision to leave ″permits a peaceful and rapid solution to the current crisis.″ U.S. Embassy spokesman Jeffrey Lite said Duvalier contacted the French Embassy Thursday afternoon to seek temporary asylum, then met with U.S. Ambassador Clayton E. McManaway to ask for transportation.
Duvalier drove his BMW sedan to Francois Duvalier International Airport before dawn today with his wife, Michele, at his side.
Other vehicles arrived carrying security forces, luggage and other family members. They left on a C-141 military transport.
Lite said 23 people accompanied Duvalier out of the country, including his mother, his son, two children from his wife’s previous marriage and three security guards.
″We have been in touch with some of the members of the new government. We are hoping to be able to work with them,″ said Lite. ″We hope it is an orderly transition conducted without bloodshed and violence.″
Duvalier, nicknamed ″Baby Doc,″ took power at age 19 in 1971 after the death of his father, Francois ″Papa Doc″ Duvalier. The elder Duvalier was elected in 1957 and eventually named himself ″president for life.″
Namphy, head of the new governing council, called on national television for ″calm and serenity.″ He said the military had no political ambitions, ″not now or ever.″
The television identified other council members as Col. William Rigala, Col. Max Vales and two civilians, Gerard Gourgue, chairman of the Haitian Human Rights Commission, and Minister of Public Works Alix Cineas.
The broadcast said Col. Prosper Abril was an adviser to the council.
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said no country had agreed to accept Duvalier, and said it was not clear how long Duvalier would remain in France. The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Gabon was a possible destination, and sources in Port-au-Prince said Duvalier eventually would go to Morocco. However, government sources in both African countries ruled out giving him refuge.
Haitians celebrating Duvalier’s departure climbed on buses and pulled down posters left from a referendum last July 22, in which the government claimed 99 percent of the voters approved Duvalier’s regime. Foreign observers and journalists, however, reported widespread fraud.
In the Delmas suburb in northeast Port-au-Prince, mobs were reported attacking the automobile agency of Duvalier’s father-in-law, Ernest Bennett. The U.S. Embassy said Bennett did not leave with Duvalier, but his whereabouts were not known.
Lite said the estimated 6,000 Americans currently in Haiti were being advised to stay indoors, even though the mood on the streets ″seems to be somewhat festive.″
″The crowd could become ugly,″ he said. ″We just think it is prudent for Americans to keep a low profile today and see how things develop.″
In Washington, State Department spokesman Gregory Lagana said no American troops have been sent to Haiti.
″We’re watching the situation carefully,″ he said. ″If the situation does worsen, then we’ll have to take a look at it and see what needs to be done.″
In Miami, where up to 100,000 Haitian refugees live, many poured into the streets chanting ″No more Duvalier″ and waving Haitian flags. Many said they planned to go back.
Duvalier lived in luxury in his gleaming white palace while Haiti’s per capita annual income fell to $380, according to the World Bank.
He frequently shut down opposition radio stations if they were too critical of his rule and did not allow political parties. Like his father, he maintained order through a militia widely accused by Haitan exiles and foreign governments of human rights abuses.
While no single group was organized against him, unsigned anti-Duvalier leaflets have been dropped periodically in the capital since last fall.
Sporadic rioting broke out in November and intensified two weeks ago with student protests in the cities of Gonaives and Cap-Haitien, in which five people died.
Duvalier imposed a 30-day state of siege last Friday, suspending Haitians’ civil rights, but rioting spread to Port-au-Prince and at least 50 people were reported killed there.