WASHINGTON -- The Reagan administration condemned the military coup in Haiti Monday, calling it a 'serious blow to hopes for democracy,' and a State Department spokeswoman said the United States was discussing responses with allies.
Armed forces commander Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, fired for insubordination Friday by President Leslie Manigat, declared himself the leader of Haiti Monday after ousting Manigat in a military coup.
Manigat, elected in fraud-marred balloting run by the army in January, was flown into exile in the Dominican Republic.
'It is now clear that a military coup d'etat has taken place in Haiti,' State Department Phyllis Oakley said. 'The United States government strongly condemns this serious blow to hopes for democracy in that troubled land.'
Asked whether the United States was considering military options, Oakley said. 'I'm not ruling out options. I'm not discussing them. I'm simply saying we're looking at the situation carefully.'
Oakley said the administration would consult with Congress and 'other concerned governments' -- probably Canada, France and other Caribbean nations -- before acting.
Oakley said the administration had no foreknowledge of the coup. The administration had been working with Manigat in an unsuccessful attempt to coax Haiti toward democracy, she said.
Since Manigat was elected in a rescheduled January election, the administration has resisted continued efforts by Congress to take stronger measures, including an end to trade and financial benefits to Haiti, to prod it into democratic rule.
The administration cut off $77 million in non-humanitarian military and economic aid last fall after a violence-marred election left 34 dead and temporarily halted balloting.
Namphy was freed Sunday from house arrest by supporters and seized control of the National Palace in a battle marked by intense gunfire and grenade explosions. He later declared himself president, dissolved the legislature and appointed a 12-officer Cabinet.
Namphy appointed as minister of defense and interior Gen. Williams Regala, who served as his deputy during the 22-month reign of the military-dominated government that preceded Manigat's rule.
Regala is close to Col. Jean-Claude Paul, the battalion commander who has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on drug conspiracy charges. Paul appeared on the podium when Namphy announced his return to power, although his status in the new regime is unclear.
Namphy, who headed an interim junta for two years after the fall of the Duvalier family dictatorship in 1986, accused Manigat of violating the constitution by trying to extend his power beyond legal limits.
A White House spokesman, in Toronto for the economic summit of industrialized democracies, said the Reagan administration was 'watching the situation carefully.'
'We are concerned about the turmoil and loss of civilian leadership,' the spokesman said.
Rep. Dante Fascell, D-Fla., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed regret over the ouster of the civilian government.
He said the military could best serve its interests and that of the Haitian people 'by scheduling new free, fair, and honest presidential elections at the earliest possible date,' and not allow the country to be a transit point for shipments of narcotics to the United States.
Oakley said the State Department was in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince and has been consulting regularly 'with other concerned governments.'
The administration issued a travel advisory urging American citizens to put off non-essential travel in Haiti. The government had lifted a previous advisory earlier this month. No Americans have been reported injured or killed in the recent turmoil, Oakley said.