Stained by the ashes of burned buildings, tires and bodies, Haiti’s capital city slowly returned to normal Tuesday after mobs rampaged, demolishing even church properties, after an attempted coup d’etat.
The death toll exceeded 50, according to an official who counted 44 burned and mutilated bodies in the city morgue alone. Most of the killings were committed by vengeful crowds protesting the Sunday night takeover attempt by a former Duvalier dynasty torturer, which was put down by the Haitian army.
The charred remains of at least half a dozen other suspected followers of Roger Lafontant--who had briefly seized the presidential palace and held provisional President Ertha Pascal Trouillot hostage--remained in the streets, two of them still simmering in beds of flaming tires late in the afternoon.
Many Haitians, including followers of the president-elect, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose upcoming inauguration Lafontant had attempted to forestall, expressed satisfaction over the bloody street justice that focused mainly on known members of the feared enforcers of the Duvalier dynasty, the Tontons Macoutes.
But mob attacks on the papal nunciature--the Vatican embassy--and the capital’s recently restored 200-year-old colonial cathedral were widely deplored.
“It’s something that shocked everybody,” said Marie Lassague, Aristide’s chief press aide, who added that the dissident priest-turned-politician would soon make a public statement.
The papal nuncio, Msgr. Giuseppe Leanza, was stripped naked and humiliated by members of a crowd that looted and burned the nunciature, the office-residence of the Vatican ambassador. Leanza’s chief aide, Father Leon Karenga of Zaire, was beaten.
Among hundreds who stood and stared at the incinerated cathedral Tuesday were several people who said they took part in the attack in the belief that Archbishop Francois Ligonde was there.
Always an unpopular figure, Ligonde has drawn particular hostility from followers of Aristide, a leftist liberation theologian who has long been at odds with the church hierarchy here.
Although appalled by the destruction, American diplomats here seemed generally pleased with the outcome of what briefly threatened to become another return to dictatorship in this poor country.