Gunfire, death end rally built on peace

October 01, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Correspondent

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- For two hours, they filled the cavernous cathedral with prayer, song and remembrance.

They were the Lavalas, the flood of Haitian humanity bent on sweeping away a military junta. They swayed and applauded, they clasped hands and reached to the sky, and they roared the name of their president in exile, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"We have to thank God," the Rev. Amos Andre said yesterday in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Eternal Succor. "He didn't let us die. He didn't want to see blood running in Haiti."

But blood surely ran on the streets later.

It was a shocking conclusion to a rally built on peace and reconciliation that began early yesterday with a Mass to mark the third anniversary of the coup that ousted President Aristide.

"Life is going forward in Haiti," Father Andre had told the thousands who attended the Mass. "A Haitian shouldn't kill another Haitian."

The morning Mass was a mixture of religion and politics, of hundreds lining up to take Holy Communion while thousands waved pictures of Father Aristide.

"Why am I here?" said Ociannie Lorisme, 59. "I am here for Aristide. I have not been to church for three years. I would pray to God and tell him that as long as there is no peace on earth, I will not come to church. But peace is coming."

In the crowd were a smattering of businessmen and diplomats, andhundreds of news media members. But this was a celebration for Father Aristide's supporters, the poor, the dispossessed, the ever hopeful.

They were people like Adele Vainquer, 33, a mother of four who begs on the city streets.

"These months are 36 months of misery," she said. "We are living with the dictators. And it is awful."

Prosper Placide sat in a pew, a picture of Father Aristide pinned to his shirt. "This picture is a symbol that he is coming back," he said. "We are marking the third anniversary of the coup, but at the same time, we are saying, 'No more coup.' "

Jordanie Coq, 24, remembered the day of the coup as the day he fled in fear, living in hiding for three years while he waited and prayed for Father Aristide's return.

Yesterday, Mr. Coq was out in public again.

"I am sad about this coup and about this day," he said. "The people who did not want things to be changed continued to kill those whowere willing to change things and fight for democracy."

Paulette Jeanty, 20, became the face of the crowd, proud, erect, a black bonnet on her head and a bright smile on her lips.

"It has been so long since we could do this," she said, as newspaper photographers took her picture. "I wish for these dictators to leave."

Eighteen priests presided at the Mass, their flowing robes and somber faces creating a portrait of solidarity.

It was Father Andre, his voice rising, who told the crowd, "All of you are victims."

The Rev. Ives Voltaire had the audience standing and cheering when he said, "We are saying the funeral of these dictators.

"I am asking the general [Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras] and the others who are with him to leave," he said, and the crowd roared and waved fists in the air and began a thunderous chant of "Aristide! Aristide!"

But it was the Rev. Jean Guyste who closed the Mass with a plea for reconciliation, for Haitians to stop fighting Haitians.

As the worshipers filed out, they sang and cheered and prepared to march to a cemetery. A street party was breaking out. For the first time in three years, the Lavalas, Father Aristide's core supporters, were united and strong and on the move.

But it would all end in gunfire and rock-throwing and death. It wouldend with thousands surging in fright through the streets.

A few hours after he gave his sermon, Father Guyste was sitting on a crate by a U.S. Army Humvee, sweat pouring from his face, his shirt sleeves rolled up, a flash of anger spreading across his face.

Soon, he was whisked away by U.S. Embassy officials. As they drove him away, he said: "I am dealing with problems of life and death."

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