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Army stages coup in Guatemala

A spokesman for one of the main figures in the coup in Guatemala Tuesday told the Monitor coup leaders hope to have good relations with the United States and hope to receive US military assistance.

In a telephone interview, Luis Alfonso Lopez told Monitor correspondent Robert M. Press that coup leaders also plan to hold new elections within a year.

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It appears that the coup - announced by Leonel Sisniega Otera, one of the losing vice-presidential candidates in the March 7 elections - was aimed at preventing Gen. Angel Anibal Guevara Rodriguez, winner in the presidential balloting, from taking power in May. The coup appears to have been carried out by young Army majors and colonels and several Air Force officers.

Mr. Sisniega's party, led Mario Sandoval Alarcon, the losing presidential candidate of right-wing Movimiento de Liberacion Nacional, called the recent election a fraud. Mr. Sandoval was reported out of the country, but is expected back.

The Army-instigated coup also puts the whole Reagan administration policy toward the Caribbean and Central America in jeopardy, Mr. Press and Monitor Latin American correspondent James Nelson Goodsell report. Contrary to the coup leaders' apparent hopes, the new development will almost certainly reduce the likelihood of congressional support for increased military assistance to that nation.

At this writing, late Tuesday, fighting was heavy in Quetzaltenango, to the northwest of Guatemala City.

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