PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- President Jean-Bertrand Aristide came home yesterday to deliver his nation from three years of torment and promise an era of peace and democracy.
"We will embark on a new beginning," he told thousands of welcomers. "We have to share peace, reconciliation and respect for all citizens."
It was an inspiring message to a people exhausted from fear, violence and hatred. The throng went wild as Father Aristide released a white dove of peace, and red and blue balloons -- Haiti's national colors -- rose gently into a clear blue sky, symbolizing to a nation that has hit rock bottom that there is a way up.
In the most immediate indicator of the new direction, the United Nations Security Council voted to lift the economic embargo at ++ 12:01 a.m. today, promising an immediate injection of new life into this moribund economy.
More than 20 ships were waiting offshore last night to enter port to load or unload.
The power it took to restore Father Aristide was evident everywhere as soldiers of the 20,000-strong U.S. force sent to Haiti for this task patrolled the streets.
Speaking from behind a bullet-proof screen, Father Aristide, wearing a dark business suit with a brilliant red and blue sash, defied the threat of assassination to reclaim his proper place in Haiti.
"Never, never, never again -- not one more drop of blood flows," he said. "Let us all live in peace. All bad acts should stop. Coups d'etat are going to stop forever."
Using the sort of symbolism popular here, he said: "Today is the day that the sun of democracy rises to never set. Today is the day that the eyes of justice open to never close again.
"Today is the day that security takes over morning, noon and night.
As he repeated the promise of security, the crowd rejoiced over the ending of the terrifying nighttime knock on the door or the sound of gunfire and the inevitable morning discovery of the latest victim of institutionalized terror. More than 5,000 Haitians are estimated to have been murdered by security or paramilitary forces during the past three years.
His political rebirth the product of international will and his security entirely in the hands of multinational forces, his homecoming to this small impoverished nation was as near to a global event as is ever likely to happen here. As if to reflect the internationality of his comeback, he spoke in French, Creole, English and Spanish.
"The success of this mission in this small corner of the world, will reflect the new world order," he said, capturing the significance of the backing of the United States, the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
That new world order, as defined by the Clinton administration, is based on democracy and the free market economy, two of the principles immediately proclaimed for the new Haiti by Father Aristide.
Haiti's first democratically elected president, who has spent most of his term in exile, was flown from Washington on a U.S. Air Force plane. An Army helicopter lifted him from the airport to the grounds of the National Palace, where he raised his hands in triumphant greeting to a crowd that could barely see him but was acutely aware of his presence.
'Momentous first step'
The return of democracy three years after he was ousted in September 1991 by a military coup was, he said, "a momentous first step toward lasting peace."
Father Aristide recalled "the dream" of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and said: "This beautiful dream lives in our hearts. We continue to say we, too, have a dream. We said we had a dream and our dream of democracy is becoming reality."
He thanked President Clinton for his support and recited the names of Americans who had also helped, including Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Randall Robinson, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus and its chairman, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Maryland Democrat.
He also mentioned his friend Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author from Baltimore.
Arriving in one of 13 helicopters that ferried the VIP party from the airport to the palace, Mr. Kennedy said: "It is a restoration of hope for Haiti and an inspiration for people all over who want to believe in the power of individual thought and action.
"I just think this is why you get involved in politics and public life."
Mr. Jackson said: "The reality is that [Mr. Clinton's] foreign policy is now congealing."
Citing the U.S. humanitarian effort in Somalia, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the retreat of Iraqi troops from the Kuwaiti border and the return of democracy in Haiti, Mr. Jackson said: "If we are aggressive in pursuing international law, human rights and self-determination as our guiding principles, we are going to get stronger."
After the ceremony, Mr. Christopher told reporters, "I hope all the coup leaders and military men in the hemisphere will take a lesson from this."
He added that the United States was determined to end its military role in Haiti within a few months.
"Institution building is not part of the military mission. It is the job of the Haitian people and international agencies," he said.
If there was one word that resonated more than any other throughout Mr. Aristide's return it was "reconciliation," a novel concept in a nation where the hatred of the rich and poor for each other has been carried from generation to generation.
"This restoration of democracy is bringing peace for us, reconciliation among us, respect and justice for every single citizen," Father Aristide said.
'Violence -- no'
To engage the minds of a crowd, whose hearts were already with him, he repeated his order of priorities for the new Haiti until they were almost like a rhyme.
"Let me hear your answers," he said. "Let the whole world hear your answers. Send a message to everywhere."
"Violence -- no," he repeated three times. "Vengeance -- no." "Reconciliation -- yes." "Justice and peace -- yes."
As the crowd picked up the message, he said: "What a nice people. Don't be surprised if I'm crazy about you. Together we are building the new Haiti."
But in case the old Haiti of bloodshed and terror re-emerged, the U.S-led intervention force mounted a massive security operation, with no fewer than 14 security services working to get Father Aristide safely reinstalled.
Even a few of the remnant officers of the once-feared, blue-uniformed Haitian police were paraded into the palace grounds, where they faced a barrage of obscene abuse from a crowd that had sufferred too much for too long at their hands.
Ira Kurzban, the Miami-based human rights lawyer who has represented the Aristide government in its dealings with the State Department, watched the police parade and said: "I just think it was the wrong thing to do. I don't think it shows the spirit of reconciliation to put people out on the line here when the Haitian people don't like them.
"They need to get about changing that army, getting them new uniforms, getting rid of the people who were human rights violators, and then the Haitian people will respect them."
The Clinton administration is providing a new police academy and is advising the Aristide government on the separation and retraining of the police and army forces.
Mr. Kurzban criticized the slow pace of disarming the pro-junta paramilitary forces and estimated that "tens of thousands" of weapons had been hidden.
He defended Father Aristide against charges that in the last of seven months in office in 1991 he appeared to retreat from democracy and embrace violence, endorsing "necklacing" -- putting gasoline-filled tires around people's necks and igniting them -- in a speech the day before he was ousted.
"I don't think that one speech made him equivalent to the killers and murderers who had done such harm to this country over the last three years," he said, adding that the controversial speech was an effort by Father Aristide to get the people into the streets to head off the impending military coup.
Order, discipline urged
There was no sign of radicalism yesterday from the populist priest, as he urged order and discipline on thousands of followers who were ready to give their newfound freedom full run at hundreds of street parties last night.
Authorities feared the revelry might turn to bloody revenge, and military loudspeakers throughout the day spread the word: "You must not do anything violent. Make peace, and wait for democracy. You have to wait for a better Haiti."
To Camelo Louis, 22, who was pressed against the palace fence as Father Aristide spoke, that better future would mean a job.
"After today, in the name of God, President Aristide and the Americans, I think my life is going to change.
"They are going to give us work. God bless the American people."
Marie Therese Charles, who arrived at 7 a.m. to reserve her place outside the palace, said: "It's been three years since I could mention Aristide's name. They would go to your house and murder you or rape your child. It's a deliverance."