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Haitian Security Forces Put Down Coup Attempt

Haitian security forces have put down an apparent coup attempt against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In Miami, Haitian-Americans launched a spirited demonstration in support of democratic rule in their nation of birth.

Two policemen were killed after gunmen stormed Haiti's National Palace. Haitian officials say one of the gunmen was also killed, and several others apprehended as the assault was repelled.

President Aristide was not in the palace at the time of the attack, but in his private residence on the outskirts of the Port-au-Prince. As news spread of the apparent coup attempt, machete-wielding Aristide-backers took to the streets in the capital, burning tires and pledging to defend the palace.

Later in Miami, scores of Haitian-Americans took to the streets in the neighborhood known as Little Haiti.

Ernst Derzier, who grew up in the Haitian city of Croix des Boquets and came to the United States in the early 1990's, said Jean-Bertrand Aristide is Haiti's legitimate and rightful ruler. He said that his administration must be defended. "Aristide is the president elected by the popular [vote] of the Haitian [people]," he said. "Democracy does not work with a coup d'etat."

Mr. Derzier said he believes one-time leaders of Haiti's disbanded army orchestrated the attack on the palace. It was the army that ended Mr. Aristide's first administration, overthrowing the former Roman Catholic priest in 1991.

Tensions are also running high between Mr. Aristide's ruling Lavalas Party and the opposition. The two sides have yet to agree on a plan for resolving disputed legislative elections held in May of last year.

The political stalemate has precluded a restoration of international aid to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas. Haiti has been cut off from most forms of foreign assistance for more than three years because of disputes over seating a legitimate legislature.