Saturday, November 27, 2010

Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits (Reviews and Free link)



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Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits


“Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits” – Recently Released Documentary Offers Searing Indictment of UN Intervention in Haiti

While the world focuses on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti, a recently released documentary is a welcome reminder that Haiti’s history didn’t start in 2010. Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits offers an uncompromising perspective on the years 2004-2005, when Haiti went through a coup that ousted democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and a subsequent occupation by foreign troops under a UN Security Council mandate. The director, Kevin Pina, a Creole-speaking American journalist who has lived in Haiti on and off for 15 years, tells a story that has so far largely been outshone by the official narrative.

The title of Pina’s documentary is borrowed from General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, the military commander for the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti from 2004 to 2006. Pereira allegedly claimed that “we” – presumably the UN in conjunction with the Haitian police - had to “kill the bandits – but it will have to be only the bandits, not everybody.” He was referring to the armed gangs reportedly operating from the Cité Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince. The thought of an officer in charge of a UN peacekeeping mission describing his mission as “killing” is disturbing enough, but the term “bandit” also has a heavy historical background. During the 1915-1934 US occupation of Haiti, the Marines were already rounding up “bandits,” as all the young men who were fighting against the US military presence were called. “Bandits” became a popular term to label the resistance movement. That the UN should embrace it decades later is disturbing.

Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits follows what happened in Haiti after President Aristide was ousted by a coup in February 2004. While Aristide was forcibly flown to Africa, the Multinational Interim Force (MIF) – mainly US, Canadian and French troops - was sent to Haiti under a Security Council mandate, supposedly to offer “humanitarian” protection to the population. This intervention brought to power a government led by Gérard Latortue, a former UN official who lived in the US at the time of the coup.

In June 2004, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) took over from the MIF. The mission was headed by General Pereira from Brazil, and staffed mainly with Brazilian soldiers. A US cable from March 2004 released by Wikileaks reveals that Brazil first insisted that it would only participate in a peacekeeping mission sent under Chapter VI, but in the end conceded to a Chapter VII mission (see paragraph 4 of the cable). This is not trivial. While Chapter VI missions are “traditional” peacekeeping missions – they require the agreement of all parties concerned and impose heavy restraints on the use of force by peacekeepers – Chapter VII missions can be defined as “peace enforcement” rather than “peacekeeping.” For a Chapter VII mission to be deployed, the Security Council has to determine that the situation constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security. Under Chapter VII, the mandate outlines circumstances in which peacekeepers are permitted to fire their arms, for instance to protect UN personnel or civilians.

The Chapter VII MINUSTAH was mandated, among other things, to “ensure a secure and stable environment” in “support of the Transitional Government” (the Latortue government) and “to assist with the restoration and maintenance of the rule of law, public safety and public order in Haiti through the provision inter alia of operational support to the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Coast Guard.” In other words, the Security Council was lending support to a de facto regime with a heavily-armed peacekeeping mission, contributing to the militarization of the situation in Haiti. After watching Pina’s documentary, one is left with the impression that MINUSTAH was sent less to “keep peace” than to perform riot control. “Without the UN, this government would fall in a week,” Pina rightly points out.

The UN peacekeeping force effectively assisted the Latortue government in its efforts to silence supporters of Aristide’s party Lavalas under the guise of fighting the “bandits.” Pina’s documentary presents compelling evidence that activists from Lavalas suffered harsh repression at the hands of both the Haitian police and MINUSTAH. Large Lavalas demonstrations starting from Cité Soleil, a bastion of Aristide supporters, were met with violence by the Haitian police. While the UN officially condemned the killing of demonstrators by the police, a shocking footage from the documentary shows that in one occasion General Pereira refused to intervene even as demonstrators were being shot a few meters away.

Worse still, in July 2005, MINUSTAH led an assault on Cité Soleil against the “bandits.” 22,000 rounds were shot in just seven hours. The footage from the raid’s aftermath is difficult to watch, even though Pina blurred some of the most graphic footage. We see a woman wailing as the body of her dead husband lies on the floor of their house, and a young priest showing the bullet impacts on the walls of his church. A blind man nursing several gunshot wounds sings a tune he composed after the raid to lament the death of his two children.The chorus goes “What have I done to you, MINUSTAH foreigners?”

The voice of these people is rarely heard in the establishment media. When it is mentioned, it is often to dismiss it as “propaganda.” As journalist Isabel MacDonald underlines in her review of the documentary, “Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits provides a rare account from the other side of the vast racialized class divide that separates the international press from Lavalas’ base of support.” Kevin Pina may show only one side of the story – he acknowledges it at the beginning of the documentary - but it’s a side that remains badly underreported. His documentary is a must-see for anyone trying to go beyond the worn-down clichés the media use to describe the crisis in Haiti.



Before the cholera epidemic...
Before the earthquake...

...it was one of the greatest human rights cover-ups in history.

Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits

Film review: Battle for Haiti and We Must Kill the Bandits

by Ansel Herz

January 14, 2011

On Monday night at a Port-au-Prince hotel, a foreign media worker overseeing a bustling workspace for international journalists was called into the hallway by a Haitian hotelier.
He reemerged in the room and demanded everyone’s attention. The Haitian staff of the hotel were going straight home. Their families had called fearing violence would erupt in the streets, after a controversial speech by President Rene Preval in which he suggested he would stay on as head of state past for a few more months.

“If you don’t have private security with you, you should go back to where you’re spending the night right now,” he said gravely.

The foreign journalists exchanged nervous glances and some took their leave.

When I was ready, I left by bike to go home. The streets looked quiet, calm, normal. It seemed no such violence had broken out, not last night and not in the days after.

This is just to point out that fear of out-of-control violent Haitians is ever-present and often wholly disconnected from reality among the establishment foreign media and the privileged class of Haitians with which it mostly interacts.

The latest manifestation of that fear, in highly concentrated and sensationalized form, is Dan Reed’s new PBS Frontline documentary “The Battle for Haiti,” which lauds the United Nations peacekeeping mission and Haitian police chief Mario Andersol for waging a heroic but doomed battle against violent gangs. The film received an supportive, shallow review in the New York Times.


UN peacekeepers guarding Haiti's Electoral Council from rioting protesters in December



We Must Kill the Bandits”, another new documentary, seemingly destined for obscurity but far more illuminating, examines the same so-called battle from a radically different angle. It’s the work of Kevin Pina, a Creole-speaking American journalist who has identified closely with Haiti’s political Lavalas movement for nearly twenty years. His is a tale of a grassroots struggle, with gang elements within it, straining to survive against an intense campaign of repression and assassination by the Haitian police and UN troops after the 2004 coup d’etat against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Both documentaries have weaknesses, but only one acknowledges them. Early on, Pina says of Lavalas, “This is their story, seen through my eyes and the lens of my camera,” admitting his bias and limited view.

The Frontline film has no such humble self-awareness. The film opens with bum bum tchaaa Law and Order-style music set to dramatic shots of Haiti’s national penitentiary. For Reed, Haitian history begins on January 12, 2010, when 5,000 prisoners escaped. Inexplicably, one prisoner being interviewed is shown lying naked on his bed in the opening moments. The only imaginable reason is the filmmaker’s desire to be edgy and shocking, at the expense of the man’s dignity.

There is almost no reference to Haiti’s complex pre-quake history in the entire film, but for one absurd bit of narration. As the camera pans over Port-au-Prince’s slums and the music booms ominously, the distinctive Frontline narrator intones:
The escaped prisoners melted into the slums of the devastated capital. Among them, gangsters who once controlled much of Port-au-Prince. Now the earthquake gave them the chance to do so again.
The documentary is premised on this non-attributed false statement. When did gangsters control much of Port-au-Prince, a gigantic city of 10 million people, and who are they? I’m genuinely curious. Unfortunately for casual viewers who tuned in on the night before the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, it’s stated as unquestionable fact.

A bright spot is the way the film highlights the rape pandemic in the camps, interviewing several survivors. But it fails to explain much of anything about why the rapes continue unabated. Haitian women’s groups like KOFAVIV who say the UN’s humanitarian and peacekeeping branches have failed to address the rapes with camp lighting or competent nighttime patrols are not mentioned.

The rest of the Frontline film presents a predictable narrative of intrepid, under-equipped Haitian police and UN peacekeepers fighting against the tide of violent gangs. No camps are identified as having actually been taken over by gangs. No quantifiable rise in crime since the quake beyond vague alarm-raising by police (as they’ve been doing since the day of the quake about escaped prisoners) is described.

To its credit, Frontline publishes an interview on its website with the former head of MINUSTAH intelligence, who says the prison break has “not substantially, really” affected the crime rate. So why are they airing a documentary that hypes up the polar opposite claim without evidence?

Somehow there isn’t even a mention of an Oct. 17 breakout from the national penitentiary, which the UN peacekeeping mission knew was planned beforehand but failed to stop, according to a secret US Embassy report.

My jaw dropped when Edmond Mulet, the UN peacekeeping mission chief, says “Haiti is a nation that committed collective suicide a long time ago.” The “resilience” of Haitians amidst grinding poverty may be mentioned a little too often and approvingly in the foreign media, to the point that it borders on dehumanization, but Mulet’s offensive statement is too far gone in the opposite direction.

Haiti is after all the only country in modern history born of a slave uprising and has been resisting foreign influence ever since. With the UN’s apparent introduction of cholera into the country, along with dozens of alleged uses of reckless force (pepper spray and tear gassing earthquake survivors), calls for the UN troops to withdraw have only grown louder in the past year.

Inconvenient for Reed, Frontline, and Mulet, are recent comments by OAS diplomat Ricardo Seitenfus, along with a 2008 report in the Christian Science Monitor on Haiti’s reputation for violence:
“It’s a big myth,” says Fred Blaise, spokesman for the UN police force in Haiti. “Port-au-Prince is no more dangerous than any big city. You can go to New York and get pickpocketed and held at gunpoint. The same goes for cities in Mexico or Brazil.”
Pina’s film focuses on how decisions made in New York and Brazil, among other far-away power centers, to support a de facto regime with a heavily-armed peacekeeping mission after the 2004 coup impacted Lavalas supporters in Port-au-Prince. Large Lavalas demonstrations demanding Aristide’s return were met with targeted violence again and again from the Haitian police as UN peacekeepers looked on.

“We Must Kill the Bandits” stumbles at times when it shows dead men lying in the street and claims, without clear documentation, that they were victims of Haitian police – the Frontline film does the same thing, except it says gangs are responsible. I wonder if Pina could have corroborated more of his points with primary and secondary sources, which Reed completely fails to do. Of the supposed thousands of escaped gang members wreaking havoc on Port-au-Prince, Reed manages to interview only one who will admit to being one. Pina ignores accusations against pro-Lavalas gangs of violent crime directed at other Haitians.

The second half of Pina’s film, however, is excellent. The Brazilian commander of the UN condemns killings by Haitian police in the press, but when confronted face to face by another Lavalas demonstration, he angrily tells them to respect the police. “You are stealing our rights, commander!” the protesters yell back.

The film reaches a terrifying, graphic climax with the July 2005 UN-led assault on Cite Soleil, in which UN troops expended 22,000 rounds in just seven hours. Residents of Cite Soleil tell the camera in plain terms, over and over, that the UN troops are shooting up their churches and killing their families. Women let out blood-curdling screams as one cries over her husband’s body, “Let me die now, he was everything in my life!”

We learn as the credits roll that every major Lavalas leader, from the former Prime Minister to singer So Anne, has been released, with all charges dropped, after being jailed by the de facto regime.

If you’re looking for an entertaining, tense cops-and-robbers drama without regard for Haitian history or the truth, the Frontline documentary will do just fine. “The Battle for Haiti” is the work of a man who doesn’t speak the language, had never been to Haiti before the quake, with a mindset, common among journalists, that plays on long-held stereotypes exaggerating the violence of Haitian society. But like the rest of the establishment media, the film pretends to have no bias in its portrayal of Haiti.

Pina goes to the other side of the authorities’ guns and fragmentation bombs. It’s not perfect, but “We Must Kill the Bandits” convincingly conveys the struggle of Lavalas’ base against violent attempts to smother it after the coup, which itself was massively misreported as a popular rebellion. That Reed’s film airs on PBS and is promoted in the New York Times, while Pina’s sits on his website, is indication of how far the US media has to go in learning from its past mistakes.




Embedded journalism in Haiti

Review of Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits (Dir: Kevin Pina, 2010)
By Isabel Macdonald

In the pre-dawn hours of July 6, 2005, 350 UN troops stormed Haiti’s largest slum, Cite Soleil, which has been a site of strong opposition to the 2004 coup d’etat backed by Canada, the US and France against popular Lavalas president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The UN later claimed the raid to be a success as they had killed five ‘bandits’. However, according to the Cite Soleil residents interviewed in Kevin Pina’s new film Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits (2010), the raid was a massacre by which the UN murdered dozens of innocent civilians in a poor neighbourhood. The foreign officialdom that supported the coup against Aristide has dismissed Cite Soleil residents’ account of this massacre as ‘propaganda’[1]—as it has with other documentation based on interviews with Haiti’s poor black majority who comprise Lavalas’ base of support. The international press has overwhelmingly reiterated this official position of disregard for the accounts provided by ordinary Haitians. We Must Kill the Bandits provides a rare account from the other side of the vast racialized class divide that separates the international press from Lavalas’ base of support.

The forcible removal of the elected Haitian president in a coup d’etat in 2004 was justified by the governments of the US, Canada and France as a humanitarian intervention to protect human rights.[2] This intervention brought to power a regime under which, according to several academic reports based on interviews with the Haitian population, there have been significant levels of state sponsored violence.[3] However, this reality has been consistently denied by officials. Confronted with media queries about a report published by the University of Miami law school, based on extensive interviews with residents of poor neighbourhoods in Haiti, the Canadian state’s response has been unanimously dismissive: the report is “total propaganda”[4]. While totally disregarding the accounts expressed by ordinary Haitians, the US, Canada and France  have preferred to advance their own self-serving human rights discourse by financing selected ‘human rights’ groups closely tied to Haiti’s tiny elite, who oppose Lavalas.[5]  In the lead up to the coup, the French embassy had even circulated to the international press pictures of confrontations between the Haitian police and anti-Aristide student groups supported by US and French agencies.[6] Meanwhile, the Canadian International Development Agency provided funding to the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, a group that, with very little evidence, accused Haiti’s constitutional prime minister of instigating a massacre. We must kill the bandits highlights the baselessness of many of these foreign embassy-endorsed claims of human rights abuses by Lavalas. Most prominently, the film casts light on the dubious nature of the claims made by the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, which were used to imprison Neptune and others.[7]

Sadly, the international press has largely reinforced the US, Canada and France’s self serving human rights discourse in Haiti.  The mainstream US and Canadian media have all but ignored the crimes of the US-backed regime against the Lavalas base.[8]  Meanwhile, as Pina’s film demonstrates, a completely unsubstantiated rumour painting Lavalas demonstrators as a dangerous national security threat, which was initially articulated by an organization funded by the US, Canadian and French governments, was reiterated uncritically in international newswires.[9] Thus have the international media been complicit in privileging the claims of certain actors, tied to the US, Canadian and French governments, over the perspectives of ordinary Haitians, and constructing a skewered discourse of human rights which has paradoxically been used to persecute Lavalas.

We Must Kill the Bandits presents a welcome antidote to the mainstream media’s silence on the repression against Lavalas in the wake of the coup. The film presents compelling evidence that Lavalas activists and supporters faced harsh repression at the hands of the Haitian police and the UN under Latortue’s rule. The film juxtaposes footage of lethal police and UN operations with interviews with witnesses of the raids and with families of the victims. Some of these shots proved so disturbing that they were greeted at a 2005 screening in Montreal with screams and wails by audience members. In this latest version, a diffusion filter has been added over the more graphic footage.

While those who lack background knowledge of recent Haitian politics may initially find the documentary’s simultaneous discussion of events from the first and second coups against Aristide, and criticism of media treatment of these events, confusing, Pina succeeds in making a compelling argument that touches on a range of complex historical issues. Drawing on footage from his first film about Haiti (Haiti: Harvest of Hope) which covers Aristide’s election as Haiti’s first democratically elected president in 1990, and the murderous CIA-backed 1991 coup against Aristide, We Must Kill the Bandits presents the 2004 coup as part of a legacy of US imperialism in Haiti. The film opens with a powerful juxtaposition between archival footage of US marines rounding up “bandits” (as the young Haitian men who resisted the 19 year American military occupation of their country were known by the marines) in 1915, and footage of a contemporary raid by UN soldiers in a Haitian slum. The historical parallel is framed by a quote from the commander of the UN force in Haiti, who explains the contemporary raid in terms eerily reminiscent of the marines: “we must kill the bandits”. Pina draws a direct line of continuity between the US-backed puppet regime imposed on Haitians under marine occupation, and the unelected US-backed regime headed by Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue that ruled Haiti between March 2004 and May 2006.

The film features several poignant interviews with the families of Lavalas political prisoners, as well as with some of the prisoners prior to their illegal arrests. Haiti’s Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune, is interviewed the day after the coup, and describes, with alarm, how he has been made a prisoner in his own office. Shortly afterwards, Neptune would be locked in a prison for over two years without charge. In a similarly alarming scene, another prominent Fanmi Lavalas figure, Father Jean Juste, is filmed laughing and joking as he serves free lunches to children in his parish, before the image suddenly freezes and we hear the priest’s voice on the Pacifica radio station KPFA’s Flashpoints show, describing how his wrists are bleeding as a result of the handcuffs that have been placed on him following his illegal arrest.

If the portrait of post-coup Haiti represented by We Must Kill the Bandits is miles away from the story that we have been fed by the US press, it is in no small part due to the fact that Pina has taken a radically different approach from that of his counterparts in the commercial media. The film is produced by the alternative media organization Haiti Information Project (HIP) that Pina founded, which includes several local Haitian journalist collaborators. Originally from Oakland, California, Pina has lived in Haiti on and off for 15 years, and has close contacts in the Lavalas movement, while some of his local collaborators live in the popular pro-Lavalas neighbourhoods. The journalists for the commercial media organizations typically lack such local contacts. On the rare occasions that Haiti is deemed newsworthy in the international media, international journalists are temporarily stationed at one or two luxury hotels, where they rub elbows with foreign diplomats, and foreign aid agency financed NGOs.[10] While they may only geographically be a few miles from Cite Soleil, in terms of the barriers of class and language, which are deeply racialized in Haiti, they are actually a world away. When international journalists temporarily stationed in Haiti have been spotted in the poor black neighbourhoods such as Cite Soleil, they have sometimes been embedded with the UN troops, seeing the neighbourhood from within the armoured personnel carriers with which the international community occupies the popular neighbourhoods.[11] Pina’s film provides an important counterpoint to the media accounts that have resulted from such limited perspectives. It is a scrupulously documented account from an international journalist who has chosen to embed on the other side of the vast racialized class divide that separates the international press from Lavalas’ base of support.

Isabel Macdonald is a doctoral student in the Communication and Culture programme at York University (Toronto). She conducted field research on international journalists’ practices in Haiti for her MA thesis, ‘Covering the coup: Canadian journalists, media sources and the 2004 crisis in Haiti’ (2006).

Notes

1In the fall of 2005, at a ceremony commemorating the arrival of a new contingent of UN troops to support the UN Security Council mandated force to stabilize post-coup Haiti, I enquired about the UN’s response to the documentation of the July 6 killings. The site of this military ceremony could not have more clearly embodied the imperialist character of the recent foreign intervention in Haiti; the ceremony took place at the university that president Aristide had built for Haiti’s historic bicentennial commemoration of 200 years of independence from slavery and from French imperialist rule—a building which has, in the wake of the coup, been transformed into a base of operations for the UN military officers. A UN communications officer’s answer to my question was instructive in highlighting the power of imperialist forces, versus ordinary Haitians, in shaping dominant discourses about human rights. That is ‘propaganda’, the UN communications officer replied matter-of-factly.
2 See Bush, 2004; Villepin, 2004.
3 See for instance Griffin, 2005, Kolbe and Hutson, 2006.
4 Pierre Pettigrew, cited in Haiti Action Montreal, June 23, 2005. These were the specific words of Canada’s former Foreign Affairs minister, however, Canadian officials have denounced the report as ‘propaganda’ to journalists with such consistency that observers have noted that there must be an official memo (J. Podur, personal correspondence, April 6, 2007).
5 See Pina, 2003, 2004; Engler and Fenton, 2004; and Hallward, forthcoming, 2007.
6 Eric Bosque (Political Analyst at the Embassy of France in Haiti), interview with author, Port-au-Prince, February 2006.
7 For more on this organization’s role, see Skerrett, 2005.
8 Sprague, 2006.
9 Jean-Claude Bajeux, who serves on the Steering Committee of the Group of 184, which is funded by the International Republican Institute, the EU and the Canadian International Development Agency, accused Lavalas demonstrators of instigating an armed campaign called “Operation Baghdad”. The Associated Press, one of the premier uncritically republished this claim.
10 Such were the author’s observations during her field research in Haiti during the 2006 Presidential elections, however it should be noted that this is by no means unique to Haiti. In an age in which global news flows are largely dominated by a few corporate giants based in North America and Western Europe, there are increasingly few foreign correspondents permanently stationed in Third World countries. Rather, media organizations rely during crises and elections on “parachute” journalists, who typically lack local contacts and knowledge, and this distance is exacerbated by the fact that they are stationed at hotels that are extremely inaccessible to all but the elites of the host country (Hamilton and Jenner, 2004, p. 313; Pedelty, 1995, p. 117).
11 Haiti Information Project, 2005.
 
Filmmaker Kevin Pina taking video testimony of victims of violent assaults
by the police and United Nations forces in Cite Soleil ©2010 HIP

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 Documentary tells the story of
the overthrow of elected government in Haiti


“Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits”; DVD 66 minutes; produced by Haiti Information Project

Reviewed by Roger Annis of the Canada Haiti Action Network

U.S. filmmaker Kevin Pina has produced a hard hitting film on the recent history of Haiti that should be viewed by anyone and everyone concerned with social justice in the poor and exploited countries of the world.

“Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits” tells the story of the overthrow of Haiti’s elected government and President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in February 2004. Narrated by Pina, the film consists of eyewitness footage that he and his colleagues of the Haiti Information Project shot under impossibly difficult conditions in the lead up to and then aftermath of the 2004 coup d’etat.

The film’s eyewitness footage is a harsh view of the violence and political repression  that the foreign-appointed, post-coup regime visited upon the Haitian people for two years following the coup. In chronological order, the film records the mass protests by the Haitian people against the trampling of their country’s sovereignty that punctuated those years. Pina’s camera follows the patrols of the Haitian National Police (HNP) and United Nations occupation forces, including shocking footage when their guns open up to crush peaceful protests or rebellious neighbourhoods.

In particular, the film documents two massacres by UN forces in Cité Soleil, a desperately poor district of the capital city, Port au Prince, in July 2005 and then again in December of the same year. Cité Soleil was, and remains, a bastion of resistance to the 2004 coup. It is a particular target of the UN because the population has taken measures to defend themselves against violent incursions by the gun-toting members of the paramilitary HNP.

“Bandits” leaves the viewer with enormous sympathy and respect for the Haitian people. The views of leading human rights activists as well as residents of popular neighbourhoods are presented. Legendary figures such as folksinger Annette Auguste and Catholic priest Gérard Jean-Juste appear. Both of them served lengthy prison sentences under the coup regime without ever facing trial, still less being convicted of anything.

Jean Juste’s appearances in the film are particularly moving because he has since passed away from cancer.

The film becomes especially distressing as it records the reactions of ordinary people who have witnessed HNP or UN shootings, or worse, who have just lost a loved one to the same. Viewers are left shaking their heads in anger or shame as they realize they are witnessing incontrovertible evidence of human rights violations by agencies of the United Nations or of the three big powers that orchestrated the overthrow of Aristide—The U.S., Canada and France.

Canadian viewers will be left surprised by the film’s description of the sordid role of their government in Haiti. Canada doesn’t overthrow progressive, Third World governments and kill those who get in the way, does it? Think again.

The title of “Bandits” is a quote from the then-head of the United Nations military mission in Haiti in 2005. Apologists for the 2004 coup make the false claim that Haiti needed foreign intervention and the overthrow of its sovereign government because “bandits” under the direction of Aristide’s government were crushing democracy and making life unliveable for ordinary Haitians.

Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Brazilian officer tries to stop Kevin Pina from videotaping Haitian
police as they prepare to shoot at peaceful demonstrators on May 18, 2005


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Documentary Review: Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits 
Director: Kevin Pina 
Production company: Haiti Information Project, 90 minutes 2007

by: Tim Pelzer for Political Affairs Magazine

Print and television media coverage of Haiti since the early 1990s has been characterized by disinformation and deliberate omission of facts. In many cases, journalists have relied on US and Canadian financed non-governmental organizations set up to destabilize the former center-left government of Jean Betrand Aristide for information. Kevin Pina's new documentary Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits offers a refreshingly honest account of events in Haiti after Aristide was ousted by the U.S. Feb. 29, 2004. Pina, who lived and worked in Haiti as a reporter off and on through the 1990s and from 2001 to 2006 is well placed to tell the story.

It all began when Aristide was first elected president in 1990. After a US backed coup in 1991 cut short his rule, Aristide, the leader of the Lavalas Party, is re-elected President in 2001 with 90 percent of the vote. Soon, the US, Canada and France initiate a campaign to destabilize the Aristide government by pressuring international lending institutions to cut off loans to Haiti. As Aristide's legal advisor points out the US never liked Aristide.

After former soldiers of the disbanded army, based in the Dominican Republic, invaded Haiti in early February 2004, a US marine force arrives on the island to take control. Their first act was to seize Aristide and fly him to Africa aboard a US airforce transport. Then the UN Security Council sent an armed force known as the UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) to Haiti. Pina remarks that the UN security resolution sending MINUSTAH to Haiti had been prepared well in advance. The US then installed a new government led by Florida talk-show host Gerard Latortue.

As 'We Must Kill the Bandits' reveals, the Latortue government attempted to exterminate Lavalas, with UN and US support. Lavalas elected officials were forced to go into hiding. Soon the main morgue in the country's capital Port-au-Prince was overflowing with bodies. Canadian trained Haitian National police, supported by UN forces, attacked poor neighborhoods, hotbeds of support for Aristide.

Police rounded up Lavalas members and supporters and imprisoned them, with the UN's backing. 'Without the UN, this government would fall in a week,' said Pina of the US installed Latortue regime. There was resistance to the repression, reveals Pina, as people in the impoverished neighborhoods took up arms to defend their communities against the armed attacks.

As a reward for their services, the Latortue government paid the 6,000 former members of the brutal military and death squads a total of $29 million. The US installed regime then absorbed some of them into the police.

According to interviews with poor Haitians and documentary footage, MINUSTAH forces allowed Haitian police to kill and wound dozens of people who demonstrated peacefully for Aristide's return. In one scene in the documentary, Pina is asking a group of Brazilian MINUSTAH soldiers -- while police fire on unarmed protesters -- why they are not intervening to protect demonstrators. Pina reports that the international media such as the Associated Press and Reuters remained shamefully silent while these horrendous abuses were taking place.

'We Must Kill the Bandits' also addresses MINUSTAH's abusive behavior. UN soldiers conduct operations in poor neighborhoods that often have tragic consequences. In one scene, Pina interviews a young father. Beside him lay the corpses of his two young sons and wife, bullet holes in their heads. He explains that after UN soldiers threw a smoke bomb into his house, he bolted out the door, assuming his family was following him. He returned to find them dead. In another scene, Pina speaks with a traumatized Haitian mother of 6 children whose husband had just been killed by the UN. His blood splattered body is stuffed under a bed behind her. She wonders how she will be able to care for her 6 children.

...Pina's 'Haiti, We Must Kill the Bandits' is a powerful documentary that pierces the web of lies and distortions clouding our understanding of contemporary Haiti.

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Protesters called for the United Nations to leave Haiti and for Aristide
to return in almost daily demonstrations throughout 2004-2006.










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