Haiti has a new set of military rulers today. The coup, hatched late Saturday, was aimed at reversing the increasingly chaotic situation in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.
According to sources who foresaw the coup, the plotters moved against President and Army chief of staff Henri Namphy to consolidate military control over events and prevent anarchy.
But it is not clear whether the new rulers are planning a move toward democracy, or that this will be the last coup as Haiti tries to stagger into the modern world.
Ousted President Namphy had been in office only since June. The military plotters were reportedly alarmed by increasing factionalism within military ranks, a catastrophic government cash shortage, and increasingly brazen human rights violations that diminished the prospects of renewed foreign aid.
Prosper Avril, who proclaimed himself both general and President early Sunday, organized this weekend's coup over the past week by rallying support among the junior officers and noncommissioned officers, sources say. There is reportedly a more reformist attitude among these officers.
Informed Haitians expect that a number of senior officers will be retired in the days ahead. This will reportedly include General Gregoire Figaro, who tallied what diplomats describe as a nasty reputation as Haiti's chief of police.
Mr. Namphy and Frank Roman, mayor of Port au Prince, were reportedly exiled to the Dominican Republic.
According to well-placed Haitian sources, former members of the Tonton Macoutes secret police and thugs employed by Mr. Roman were responsible for last week's brutal attacks on church goers in the capital city, and the subsequent burning of a church. Some reports say Namphy was informed of the attacks. Others say he was caught by surprise, and subsequently criticized for letting things get out of hand.
General Avril has pledged the new government will respect human rights and undertake ``dialogue ... for the sake of national reconciliation.''
This pledge seems aimed at reassuring international donors, particularly the United States. Most nonhumanitarian aid to Haiti was cut off last November when the military disrupted presidential elections. The government faces a budget crisis. Last week, the US issued a strong condemnation of the church attacks and called on Haiti's government to act.