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Haitian President Flees Country After Coup

PRESIDENT Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected leader, was overthrown by a violent military coup and fled the country early Oct. 1.The left-wing Roman Catholic priest, who took office in the poverty-stricken country in February, left Haiti on an early morning flight to Venezuela, the State Department said. He was expected to continue on to France, according to diplomats here. Dozens of supporters who took to the streets in an attempt to defy the coup were killed, and at least 100 more were injured in shooting throughout the capital. Heavy gunfire and barrages of artillery fire rattled across the city during the day. Diplomats said soliders started the coup by firing on President Aristide's home early Sept. 30, forcing him to flee to the National Palace. But soldiers overwhelmed his supporters there, storming the building and taking the president prisoner. Aristide was allowed to leave the country safely aboard a plane dispatched by Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, the diplomats said. A three-man military junta took control of the country, led by Gen. Raoul Cedras, who declared on Radio France Internationale: "The Army is steering the ship of state into port." General Cedras had won praise for guaranteeing voters' safety in Haiti's election, and he promised new voting. The other junta members were identified as Col. Henri Robert Marc Charles, a former military attache in Washington, and Col. Alix Silva, commander of a military training center once the heart of the elite Leopards counterinsurgency unit. Aristide, who championed Haiti's poor, took office Feb. 7, on the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Duvalier family regime that terrorized the island nation during a 29-year dictatorship. A series of military regimes followed the 1986 ouster of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. In December, however, Aristide swept to victory at the polls with the support of the poor. In New York, Haiti's UN ambassador, Cuban diplomats, and street demonstrators expressed outrage over the Security Council's failure to convene after its president called envoys together for an emergency session on the coup. Council members, called to the UN late Sept. 30, consulted in small groups but then dispersed without meeting as requested by Haiti. About 1,500 people took the streets near UN headquarters, and demonstrations also broke out in Miami's Little Haiti where Haitian immigrants burned tires and smashed windows.

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