St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
October 1, 1991, Tuesday,
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first freelyelected leader, was ousted Monday night by the armed forces, the army commander said. Aristide was taken to the airport to be deported to France along with six relatives and an aide, government sources said. They said U.S. Ambassador Alvin Adams accompanied Aristide on the trip. The coup came after a day of violence that claimed at least 26 lives. Brig. Gen. Raoul Cedras told the nation in a broadcast at 11 p.m. that the army had assumed control of the nation. ''After seven months . . . of democratic experience, the country once again finds itself a prey to the horrors of uncertainty. With all Haitians . . . we will bring the ship to port,'' he said. Aristide, 38, became Haiti's first freely elected president in February. He is a Catholic priest who was expelled in 1988 from the Salesian order. A powerful sector of Haiti's 7,000-member army long had opposed Aristide's policies. The leaders in Monday's coup claimed that he was interfering in army affairs. Cedras, 42, became provisional commander-in-chief of the army on July 3, when Aristide named him to replace Lt. Gen. Herard Abraham. ''The armed forces of Haiti insist on reaffirming that it is an apolitical institution at the service of the Haitian people,'' Cedras said in his statement, carried on Radio France Internationale. ''It will respect constitutional order, guarantee democratic liberty and will not condone any act of pillage.'' At least 26 people were killed and 200 wounded as Aristide loyalists battled soldiers throughout the day and into the night. The military uprising against Aristide began late Sunday with mutinies at an army training camp at Freres, just outside Port-au-Prince, and at an army-run police station in the capital. Rebel elements fired on Aristide's private residence at daybreak and on his entourage as it later headed to the National Palace. The soldiers later seized the palace and captured Aristide. His foreign minister, Jean-Robert Sabalat, said the president was taken to army headquarters. Diplomatic sources said Venezuelan, French and U.S. officials negotiated with the coup plotters to save the president's life. Before daybreak Monday, Haitian radio stations began going off the air one by one. Broadcasters said military men were shutting them down. The United States and Canada condemned the coup attempt and demanded Aristide's release. The Organization of American States demanded Aristide be returned to office and said those who arrested him would be held accountable. The U.N. Security Council convened in a late-night session to discuss the matter. Aristide had moved to reform the notoriously corrupt army. On assuming office, he replaced generals from the Army High Command with younger officers more inclined toward democratic changes, but he did not make the appointments permanent. Dissident soldiers say Aristide has been withholding permanent assignment to ensure that the generals remain loyal. Among those reported killed early on in the unrest was Sylvio Claude, a two-time presidential candidate and outspoken critic of Aristide. A mob in the southern provincial town of Cayes attacked Claude and burned him in the streets, according to Radio Antilles, an independent station. The uprising took place only four days after Aristide addressed the United Nations on his first trip to the United States since becoming president of Haiti. Prime Minister Rene Preval blamed the unrest on remnants of the Tonton Macoutes, the outlawed militia that brutally enforced the rule of the late Francois ''Papa Doc'' Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier. The 29-year Duvalier dictatorship ended Feb. 7, 1986, when the younger Duvalier fled into exile in France after a popular uprising. What followed were five years of coups and violence, with a slow move to democracy that resulted in Aristide's inauguration Feb. 7. Violence In Miami Haitian immigrants looted stores and set fires in the streets of Miami's Little Haiti on Monday evening in protest after learning of the arrest of Aristide.