Haitians Return to Streets, Life Appears Normal After Military Coup
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Haitians ventured back into the streets today after a military coup catapulted Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy back to power after four months of civilian rule and ended hopes for democracy.
Leslie Manigat, the civilian president ousted by Namphy on Monday, today called the new government ″very fragile″ and blamed the coup on corruption in the military. He spoke from exile in the Dominican Republic.
Some telephone service was restored in Port-au-Prince after being cut Monday. The streets filled with cars and people in the morning after being nearly deserted the previous morning.
Scattered gunfire was heard in the streets overnight and into the dawn, but there were no signs of factional fighting. Soldiers have often fired their weapons into the air to frighten civilians from the street since the coup.
Manigat told reporters in Santo Domingo that he learned of the coup as he sat at home watching television Monday night. Manigat said he still didn’t know what role Col. Jean-Claude Paul, who had been his main military ally, was playing.
Paul was at Namphy’s side Monday when Namphy announced his new government on national television.
″Namphy always acted on his own,″ Manigat said, but he added that he always had faith in Paul as a loyal military man.
It was Paul whom Namphy tried to fire last week as commander of the powerful 700-man Dessalines Batallion. Manigat reversed Namphy’s transfer of Paul and of several other officers and fired Namphy for insubordination.
After Monday’s takeover, Namphy reappointed Paul commander of the battalion.
Manigat said he has talked to foreign governments and international organizations asking them to reject the Namphy government. He said he hasn’t decided where his place of exile will be. He said he would travel this month to Europe for meetings with political leaders to rally support against the new government.
Manigat said he wasn’t told where he was being sent until he landed in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
Namphy reestablished military rule by decree and named his own government just hours after rallying troops who seized the national palace and quickly ousted Manigat’s 4-month-old civilian government.
On Monday, some citizens and officials predicted a bleak future for the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.
Most businesses and schools in this capital of 1 million people were closed. There were no reported protests in this arid, mountainous country of 6 million people.
″This means the end of democracy. We are going to have to live under a military dictatorship,″ a bus driver said hours after Namphy expelled Manigat.
″The army has taken power. This is a government of murderers and machetes,″ said a former Haitian diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The coup dashed hopes for democracy promised by Namphy after popular unrest toppled the Duvalier family’s 29-year dictatorship.
The general had led the three-man junta that ruled Haiti after Jean-Claude Duvalier fled exile in 1986. The junta stepped aside after Manigat was elected Jan. 17 in fraud-riddled balloting run by the military and boycotted by most Haitians.
After the rift last week over Namphy’s transfer of military officers, Manigat placed Namphy under house arrest.
But loyal soldiers freed Namphy on Sunday and, after brief gun and grenade battles, Haiti’s 7,000-man army united solidly behind the 55-year-old career soldier. It was not known if there were casualties in the fighting.
Neither the Haitian public nor democratic-minded politicians publicly expressed support for Manigat’s government.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said: ″The United States government strongly condemns this serious blow to hopes for democracy in that troubled land.″
She noted that Paul was indicted on federal drug-trafficking charges in Miami last March.
Namphy announced on national television that he had formed a military government, named himself president, appointed a 12-member Cabinet that included only one civilian, and dissolved the National Assembly.
He said he would rule by decree.
He told Haitians that Manigat ″betrayed your confidence and violated the constitution he swore to uphold.″
″The future of democracy was at stake,″ the general said as the commanders of every unit in Haiti’s armed forces watched. ″The army must protect the superior interests of the country and must head the country. To this end, a military government has been formed.″