Opposition leaders said Saturday they were puzzled by President Leslie Manigat's abrupt dismissal of his military chief, but they applauded the demonstration of civilian authority over the armed forces.
Youths chanting, "Down with Manigat, long live the army!" put up tire barricades Friday night on the main east-west highway at Petit Goave, about 30 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince.Soldiers dismantled the barricades Saturday and arrested one of about 20 youths who began demonstrating in the town.
Several rounds of gunfire were heard early Saturday from the army barracks of Petion-ville, a suburb of the capital. Radio Haiti Inter reported an explosion near the Champ de Mars Plaza, adjacent to the presidential palace.
There was no other information immediately available on the gunshots or explosion.
Businesses opened as usual in the capital, and streets were calm.
"Who knows what is really happening?" asked Rev. Antoine Adrien, a Roman Catholic priest and co-leader of the civic group Honor and Respect for the Constitution.
"We were told Wednesday that the army and the executive were on the best of terms, and now this bombshell," he said. "We can only rejoice if . . . the military has submitted to civilian authority."
The fired commander, Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, was president of the three-man junta that ruled Haiti from the time former President Jean-Claude Duvalier fled to exile in 1986 until Manigat was sworn in Feb. 7.
A communique Friday night said Manigat had retired Namphy and two other members of the general staff, Brig. Gens. Carl Michel Nicolas and Wilthan Lherisson. Manigat promoted Col. Morton Gousse to general and named him provisional military commander.
The communique said the generals had defied Manigat's decision Wednesday to rescind an order by Namphy transferring and retiring several high-ranking officers.
Among those Namphy attempted to transfer was Col. Jean-Claude Paul, who was indicted for drug trafficking earlier this year by a grand jury in Miami.
Manigat, apparently siding with Paul, said the order was unconstitutional because it was done without consulting him.
Paul commands the 700-man Dessalines Barracks, whose soldiers were blamed for widespread violence against voters that left more than 30 people dead and forced cancellation of independently administered general elections Nov. 29.
Manigat was declared the winner of Jan. 17 elections organized by the junta. Manigat was considered the army candidate in the election.