Haitians flooded the streets of Miami's Little Haiti today to celebrate the downfall of President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier for the second time in a week. This time, the news was true.
Last Friday, an announcement by White House spokesman Larry Speakes that Duvalier had fled Haiti set off jubilation here that continued even after it was learned that the dictator was still in power.
The general view in Little Haiti remained that Duvalier's days were numbered. Since the the first round of celebrations, he has been known here as "president-for-now."
When that view proved true early today, crowds immediately reclaimed the streets. A Haitian stood before the Haitian Refugee Center in Little Haiti replaying a radio broadcast he had taped announcing that Duvalier had left the Caribbean island nation on a U.S. Air Force jet headed for France.
Others crowded around a giant radio listening to the latest reports. Yet others, their clothes decorated in ribbons of the red and blue of the pre-Duvalier flag, danced in the streets to calypso music blaring out of speakers set up in the street.
Tonight, two men were shot and slightly wounded during the street celebrations, and about 40 officers in riot gear briefly moved into the area. They were recalled when officials decided not to try to disperse the crowd.
[In Boston, the Associated Press reported that two men were arrested after Haitians rampaged through the Haitian consulate there, smashing presidential portraits. Nearly 100 Haitians gathered outside the consulate chanting in French and English, "Long live Haiti!"]
"Everything going to be cool now" in Haiti, said Antoine Solomon, who has lived in Little Haiti since he arrived here illegally on a boat four years ago. "Everything is changed. I got a new Haiti now, not for Satan but for Jesus now."
The boat on which Solomon came to the United States left Haiti with 63 people aboard. As it approached Florida, U.S. Coast Guard boats moved to intercept it. Haitian passengers panicked, the boat capsized and 33 people drowned.
Solomon was detained by U.S. immigration authorities and spent four months in Krome Detention Center outside Miami. Now, Solomon said, the struggle to obtain a visa and stay in the United States no longer concerns him.
"I want to go back now," he said.
But many interviewed here said they would wait and see what happens.
"I want to wait and see everything okay in Haiti before I go back," said Berin Francois, 33. Francois spent six months in the Krome Detention Center and does not want to leave for Haiti until he gets a U.S. work permit and residence visa that would permit him to come back.
Today's celebrations were not the wild, spontaneous jubilation that erupted last week, surprising the city government and police force. Frustrations felt by the estimated 60,000 Haitians living here have been released over the past week in prayer, dance and some violence.
Last week joy suddenly turned to violence when a car sped through a crowd, running over several people and killing one woman. The crowd caught up with the car and set it on fire. Those involved in the incident said the man who drove the car was heard to say, "Long live Duvalier."
Officials today cordoned off the main street of Little Haiti before dawn and brought in a bandstand.
A reporter ousted by Duvalier in 1980, Marcus Garcia, was keeping the crowd of some 1,500 informed of the latest news. Among the listeners was Carl Craig, a 34-year-old account executive who has not been back to Haiti since he left 20 years ago.
"Now we're really going to see what Haiti is all about," he said. "Now for the first time since [independence in] 1804, there are some people who have traveled, who want to go back and do some positive things. There are hundreds of qualified Haitians here. I'm ready to start serving my country."