NEW YORK – The departure of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search) was welcomed Sunday by some members of the island's emigre communities in New York and Miami, but they and others also were apprehensive about what will happen next.
As a television set in Chez Claudilde showed billows of black smoke over Port-au-Prince (search), conversation stopped and heads turned in the restaurant in New York's Flatbush neighborhood, the heart of Haitian New York.
"Look what they did to my country, man!" cab driver Patrick Jean said in frustration.
"I don't know whether Aristide's departure is good or not, but I just want change and peace," said Junior Jean-Baptiste of North Miami, who moved to Florida as a preschooler 20 years ago. He said he hadn't been in touch with his mother in Haiti for more than a week.
In the heart of Miami's Little Haiti (search) neighborhood, opponents of Aristide celebrated on the streets while supporters of the exiled leader demonstrated against his departure.
At a pro-Aristide rally that was draped with Haitian flags, about 200 demonstrators denounced President Bush, held up large photos of Aristide and chanted: "No more Bush," and "Coup d'etat, no! Democracy, yes!"
Although the celebrations and protests were mostly peaceful, a small crowd of Aristide supporters smashed the car window of a woman who supported Aristide's ouster, said Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss. No one was injured.
In Little Haiti, Verdy Pompee, a computer specialist living in the United States for nearly 20 years, was relieved to hear Aristide had left.
"I was one of the minority who believed that a thug cannot run a country, and Aristide is no more than a thug," he said of the former Roman Catholic priest. "He has his gang, he armed them, and they're the ones who are looting and killing people."
Bayard Thermidor, who lived near the Haitian city of Gonaives before coming to Miami nine years ago, also was happy Aristide was gone and said he hopes to see new elections in six months.
However, Thermidor said he expects to see "good weeks and bad weeks after Aristide's departure because he did not leave voluntarily."
There was little jubilation in Flatbush, as even sworn opponents of the former president bemoaned the violence sweeping their homeland.
"I'm not for Aristide but I'm for my country, for the stability of my country," Guy Angrier, 36, said as he stood talking with fellow Haitians on a street corner.
On other New York streets, some Haitians said it had been time for Aristide to go, while others said he was flawed but should have been allowed to serve out his term in office.
"He should have stayed, he was an elected president," said contractor Alfred Absalon, 48. "Him leaving now is a blow to democracy."
Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., accused the Bush administration of inaction while violence took hold of Haiti in recent weeks, and said U.N. and U.S. troops will be needed to restore security and stave off starvation.
If nothing is done, "the person with the biggest gun and the most guns will be in charge of Haiti," Meek told WTVJ-TV in Miami. "The longer we wait, the more difficult this is going to be for us to restore."
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., said it was "critically important" to get U.S. Marines ashore in Haiti to avoid revenge killings.
Graham met Aristide when he was an activist priest in the 1980s but since then, he told a television network, Aristide has become "a great disappointment to me."
Miami resident Marie-Louise Simeon, owner of a shop in Miami's Little Haiti, waited to hear from her husband in Haiti.
"I'm just watching the news and I'm keeping an eye on the U.S. government," she said. "I hope the U.S. government will help us out of this, and I hope for the killings to stop in Haiti."