Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sham Elections in Haiti

Ballot box and ballots thrown into ravine on election day November 28 ©2010 HIP


Protesters take to the streets of Haiti in response to recent sham elections: We’ll speak to Flashpoints Senior Correspondent, Kevin Pina in studio, and Ansel Herz live in Haiti. Listen to this Flashpoints report that originally aired December 7, 2010.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Wikileaks Haiti Cables: US Embassy, Port au Prince (FULL TEXT)

Rene Preval ©2010 HIP

By now most have heard of the extraordinary US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks over the Internet. Due to frequent attacks on their servers many people have asked HIP to post the US Embassy cables written by then Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson pertaining to Haiti with assessments of Haitian president Rene Garcia Preval.

If your looking for another Haiti connection with Wikileaks: On December 7, MSNBC News quoted Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan who called WikiLeaks' disclosure "dangerous" and said it gives valuable information to the nation's enemies.  

Col. David Lapan was the mouthpiece for the Pentagon in Haiti when US marines were involved in backing the Haitian police in deadly assaults against poor communities following the ouster of Aristide in February 2004. The US marines also conducted deadly raids on the homes of Lavalas sympathizers to execute extrajudicial and arbitrary arrests including folksinger Annette Auguste (So An). Lapan is featured justifying the brutal US military assault on the home of Annette Auguste in the final version of the documentary Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits

Comprehensive assessment of President Preval's decision-making process and leadership style.

US Embassy cable dated March 7, 2007

DE RUEHPU #0408/01 0601750
O 011750Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/26/2017 

REF: STATE 5107 

Classified By: Classified by Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson for reasons 
1.4(b) and (d). 

1. (C) Introduction: Reftel asks for a comprehensive 
assessment of President Preval's decision-making process and 
leadership style. As noted in reftel, post has reported on 
many of the specific topics inquired about over the course of 
Preval's re-election campaign and the first year of his 
second term. We welcome the opportunity to reiterate key 
judgments that we believe will become increasingly important 
as the Preval administration approaches completion of its 
first year in office. In sum, we believe Preval's commitment 
to building democratic institutions, promoting political 
stability, and developing the economy corresponds with our 
own interests. However, Preval's weaknesses as an executive, 
his reflexive nationalism, and his disinterest in managing 
bilateral relations in a broad diplomatic sense, will lead to 
periodic frictions as we move forward our bilateral agenda. 
Case in point, we believe that in terms of foreign policy, 
Preval is most interested in gaining increased assistance 
from any available resource. He is likely to be tempted to 
frame his relationship with Venezuela and Chavez-allies in 
the hemisphere in a way that he hopes will create a 
competitive atmosphere as far as who can provide the most to 
Haiti. Additionally, Preval has displayed a tendency to 
fixate on a particular issue at the exclusion of all others 
and then to move on to other issues without leaving much to 
show for his efforts. Since taking office in May 2006, 
Preval has been the education president, the roads president, 
and now the anti-narcotics president. All of these issues 
are worthy of his time and attention, but require a coherent 
approach to policy implementation in addition to rhetoric. 
End Introduction. 

2. (U) The answers below are keyed to the questions in 

Question A 

3. (C) How Does Preval make policy decisions? What sources 
of information does Preval draw from when making decisions 
and how does he process that information, e.g. is he 
receptive new information, does he seek advice or rely on his 
own intuition? Does Preval tend to see policy issues in 
black and white or in shades of grey? 

4. (C) We judge that Preval largely relies on his own 
intuition and experience in formulating policy. We see that 
experiences from his first presidential term are nearly 
always a touchstone on key bilateral issues, even when 
circumstances have significantly changed or the conclusion he 
is drawing is not directly applicable to the issue at hand. 
Preval's recent insistence that the U.S. does not do enough 
to combat narcotics traffic through Haiti is a clear example 
of an attitude carried over from his first term. Likewise, 
Preval's current resistance to making a placating gesture to 
China after the GoH voiced support for Taiwan at the UN is 
based in part on Preval's belief that China behaved 
unreasonably when renewing UN mission mandates during his 
first term. 

5. (C) On balance, we see that issues where Preval has a 
fixed view, for example relations with China, he is 
remarkably resistant to policy advice. On other issues, 
where Preval is not so engaged either because of lack of 
personal interest or lack of experience, Preval seems readily 
open to new information and flexible in his approach. This 
seems most apparent in issues relating to economic policy. 
Rather than separating Preval's thinking into black and white 
or shades of gray, we believe it is more useful to bear in 
mind that Preval often appears not to fully think through the 
implications or consequences of a particular issue. He 
neglects to carry out the kind of study or put in place the 
administrative structure required to turn an idea into 
workable policy. This was most obvious in his approach to 
negotiations with gang leaders, his focus throughout the 

PORT AU PR 00000408 002 OF 007 

summer of 2006. Due to a lack of results however, he 
abandoned the effort. Preval's entire policy seemed to be 
encapsulated in the formulation, ''disarm or die.'' He 
never appears to have coherently addressed the issue central 
to the negotiations -- the future of the most violent 

Question B 

6. (C) Does Preval seek advice from a wide array of sources 
or only look to certain people, if so, whom and on what 
issues? Does he trust any of his advisers or ministers to 
make key decisions in his stead? How does he deal with 
dissension or criticism from his advisors? What tone does he 
set when he meets with his advisers - e.g., does he encourage 
them to work collegially, competitively, or within the formal 
bureaucratic structure? Has Bob Manuel's influence with 
Preval diminished, and if so, why? Does Manuel continue to 
informally oversee the security portfolio? If not, who does, 
is there another adviser poised to succeed Manuel as Preval's 
''right-hand man.''? 

7. (C) Preval seems open to a wide array of sources -- he 
reportedly reads and pays attention to the media on a wide 
variety of subjects and maintains a broad circle of friends 
-- but appears to limit the number of people from whom he 
actively seeks advice. Some, most notably Robert Manuel, 
have complained that the number is growing smaller and that 
his fiancee, Elizabeth Delatour, is the only advisor with 
whom he has meaningful discussions. Fritz Longchamp, 
Secretary General of the Presidency, appears to have gained 

access and influence to Preval regarding the dispute with 
China. As a former foreign minister, Longchamp may also be 
advising on broader foreign policy issues. Gabriel Verret 
remains Preval's closest advisor on economic issues. Lionel 
Delatour, Elizabeth Delatour's brother-in-law, maintains 
somewhat regular access due to his family ties and his direct 
involvement with the effort to promote HOPE legislation, 
however Delatour himself has complained that Preval often 
ignores his advice. With a few exceptions, Preval appears 
not to trust his advisers or ministers to make key decisions, 
or even to implement key decisions. The most recent account 
of the council of ministers meetings provided by Gabriel 
Verret to the Ambassador describes Preval going through the 
action items of each ministry and demanding status reports. 

8. (C) With the Embassy and USG representatives, ministers as 
a group are deferential and mostly subdued in Preval's 
presence. There is little air of give-and-take or 
willingness among ministers to extemporize. In meetings with 
USG officials Preval has abruptly cut off Prime Minister 
Alexis on two occasions, disagreeing with his views. On 
another occasion he cut off Minister of Public Works Frantz 
Varella, who had offered an observation regarding security, 
telling him that security was not his responsibility. We 
hear of very little, if any, substantive criticism or 
dissension among the cabinet in private. The most visible 
intra-cabinet dissension, so far, has been between the 
judiciary and security officials; most recently, a rift 
between the justice minister and chief prosecutor Claudy 
Gassant. Preval has pointedly refused to intervene. Many 
among Haiti's chattering classes attribute this to a strategy 
on Preval's part to keep members of his government divided 
and weak. We judge rather that his attitude is more in line 
with his overall passivity as an executive. 

9. (C) Having observed the Preval-Manuel relationship over 
the past two years since Manuel's return to Haiti to join the 
Preval campaign, we judge that Manuel's role is most 
accurately described as Best Friend. Manuel remains Preval's 
closest confidante, and Preval still uses him as his personal 
emissary, but the influence of Manuel's own views on any 
given subject appear limited. For example, against Manuel's 
advice and own wishes, Preval involved Manuel in his first 
negotiations with gang leaders in the summer of 2006. With 
Manuel's displeasure with this policy unabated, Preval simply 
cut him out of the process. Manuel appears still to be 
charged with the management of Preval's personal security, 

PORT AU PR 00000408 003 OF 007 

overseeing the Presidential Protection Unit (USPN) in the 
palace, but Preval himself appears to have taken complete 
charge of security policy. Manuel, along with the justice 
minister, is charged with preparing President Preval for the 
upcoming drug trafficking summit in the Dominican Republic on 
March 16, but our contacts with Manuel on narcotics issues so 
far indicate that he does no more than to restate Preval's 
own views, often with more passion. Manuel confided to the 
Ambassador that he is frustrated with Preval's unwillingness 
to listen to him and heed advice and that he wants to leave 
Haiti, preferably as Ambassador to Mexico, but that Preval 
has been non-committal about the timing of his appointment. 
Whatever the state of their relationship on policy issues, 
Preval clearly values Manuel's friendship and may be 
reluctant to let him go. 

Question C 

10. (C) What is the nature of Preval's relationship with 
Director General of the Haitian National Police Mario 
Andresol, Foreign Minister Jean Reynald Clerisme, Secretary 
of State for Public Security Luc Eucher Joseph, Secretary 
General of the Presidency Fritz Longchamp, and economic 
advisor Gabriel Verret. 

11. (C) Preval's relationship with Andresol does not appear 
to extend beyond their formal association as president and 
the chief of police. Preval and Andresol had no personal 
connection to speak of before Preval inherited and then 
re-appointed Andresol director general of the HNP. For his 
part, Andresol has, on several occasions, expressed 
frustration that he has not been able to gain more trust from 
Preval. Likewise, Preval's relationship with Eucher seems 
limited to their formal roles: Eucher is not otherwise a 
close of advisor from whom Preval seeks counsel. Preval and 
Clerisme have a large number of mutual acquaintances from the 
rural/populist movements, however they do not have a close 
personal bond. Preval has reportedly taken personal charge of 
all important foreign policy issues, leaving Clerisme with 
little influence. Longchamp is both a trusted advisor and 
personal friend. With Preval limiting PM Alexis' direction 
of the cabinet, and not having named a chief of staff, the 
importance of Longchamp's position has steadily increased. 
Finally, Gabriel Verret, perhaps even more than either Robert 
Manuel or Longchamp, is the other advisor in the palace who 
can claim to be both a trusted confidante and influential 
policy advisor, as Preval remains open to advice on economic 
matters. In the same way, Elizabeth Delatour, who is also 
formally charged with providing economic advice, might be the 
single most important influence on Preval. 

Question D 

12. (C) What are Alexis and Foreign Minister Clerisme's 
perceptions of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide? 

13. (C) Based on Alexis' long-standing personal association 
with Preval from his previous administration through his 
active role in the most recent presidential campaign, we 
surmise that Alexis' views on Aristide hew closely to 
Preval's own (i.e. that Aristide betrayed the Haitian 
people). If Alexis believes otherwise, he gives no hint of 
disagreement with Preval. We are less familiar with 
Clerisme, but note that Clerisme's political engagement began 
with his involvement as a liberation theology priest working 
in the rural, peasant movement in Haiti's northeast. Most of 
this movement's leaders became disillusioned with Aristide 
during the mid-1990's. Whatever Clerisme's views, as with 
Alexis, to the extent they do not correspond to Preval's, he 
keeps them to himself. 

Question E 

14. (C) Is Preval influenced by ideology, and if so, what are 
the major influences? What motivated him to return to 
politics? What role do Catholicism, voodoo, and 

PORT AU PR 00000408 004 OF 007 

liberation-theology play in his worldview? What is his full 
educational history and experience working in private 

15. (C) Preval seems profoundly uninfluenced and uninterested 
in ideology at this stage in his life. Despite his 
involvement in radical/communist circles as a student in 
Belgium and his entrance into Haitian politics through a 
populist movement deeply influenced by liberation theology, 
Preval's public and private discourse is practically devoid 
of any notions reflecting that background. In the context of 
the developing world, we would most accurately describe him 
as a neo-liberal, particularly in that he has embraced free 
markets and foreign investment. 

16. (C) At the same time, Preval's discourse regarding 
Haitian politics remains framed in the context of his past. 
He still refers broadly to ''the people'' and ''the 
bourgeois'' in referring to Haitian society. His leftist 
views reportedly caused a deep rift between himself and his 
family, particularly his father, who although opposed to 
Duvalier held traditional Haitian upper-class views. This is 
as close to an insight as we may venture into his motivation 
to return to politics, which is something of a puzzle. While 
a canny politician and an effective campaigner Preval evinces 
little of the ambition or overt drive typical of most 
politicians. It may be simply that he rightly recognized 
that he was the only leader in Haiti who legitimately 
represented the broad-based popular movement that toppled 
Duvalier and first brought Aristide to power. 

17. (C) Like most Haitians, Preval was raised Catholic with 
an exposure to voodoo practices. He is a non-observant 
Catholic but maintains a cordial and respectful relationship 
with Haiti's Catholic hierarchy. He is particularly close to 
Haiti's Archbishop, who was a life-long friend of his 
parents. Likewise, he maintains a respectful and cordial 
relationship with Voodoo leaders. There are unconfirmed 
reports that Robert Manuel, who is a born-again Christian, 
influences Preval's religious views and that the two 
regularly pray together. However, Preval has been jocular 
and once dismissive of Manuel's praying in conversations with 

18. (C) Preval's educational and professional experiences 
listed in open sources are mostly accurate. He studied 
agronomy at the University of Louvain in Belgium but did not 
receive a degree reportedly because he spent too much time 
participating in political activities. Though he obtained a 
position with the National Institute for Mineral Resources, 
apparently as part of Jean-Claude Duvalier's conciliatory 
gestures to his father's opponents, Embassy sources do not 
believe he actually worked at his job. He went into the 
bakery business with several friends in the mid-1970, 
including Michele Pierre Louis, a renowned patron of Haitian 
arts, and through her met Aristide. Preval's bakery was 
successful, but destroyed by associates of the military after 
the 1991 coup d'etat. Among the many incidents of conflict 
between the right-wing and Aristide supporters, Preval 
apparently holds a special grudge against those who destroyed 
his business. 

Question F 

19. (C) What is Preval's relationship to Geri Benoit? Does 
his sister, Marie-Claude Calvin, play an influential role in 
his administration? Does Elizabeth Delatour yield influence 
over Preval's political decision-making? What is the status 
of their impending nuptials? One of Preval's daughters lives 
with him in Port-au-Prince. Where is the other and what does 
she do? 

20. (C) Though Preval and his second wife, Geri Benoit, 
appeared together at times during the campaign, they have 
apparently lived entirely separate lives since his 
inauguration. Mrs. Calvin and Preval are very close. She 
was among the family members on the payroll at his 
agricultural foundation in Marmalade, which was funded by 

PORT AU PR 00000408 005 OF 007 

Taiwan. Calvin acts as his scheduler, keeps an office in the 
palace, and one ambassador reports that Calvin kept him at 
bay for several days when he had an urgent request to see 
Preval. Calvin and her husband also accompanied Preval on 
his second trip to Cuba for medical attention. Mrs. Calvin 
does not appear to play any role in influencing government 

21. (C) It is difficult to assess Elizabeth Delatour's 
influence on policy. She is extremely private and reserved 
and does not generally engage foreign officials in 
substantive conversation. She politely resisted the 
Ambassador's attempts to establish a more social 
relationship. Numerous people close to Preval complain that 
Preval has neglected both his work and limited the input of 
other advisors in favor of Delatour. During the critical 
juncture over the dispute with China regarding the renewal of 
MINUSTAH's mandate, Delatour appeared to play a central role. 
SRSG Mulet chose Delatour as his contact when he argued that 
the GoH must provide China some kind of written apology: 
Preval ultimately grudgingly signed a letter. Delatour 
called the Ambassador in Washington when she was in the 
Department for consultations asking for an update on the 
Chinese delegation's position in New York. Preval's wedding 
plans remain perhaps the best kept secret in Haiti. We have 
confirmed from multiple reliable sources that they are 
formally engaged, but no further reliable news regarding 
wedding plans has emerged. Factors that might be 
complicating their plans include Preval's health and living 
arrangements for Delatour's 11-year old son. 

22. (C) Preval's older daughter, Dominique, lives with her 
mother in Port-au-Prince and runs a stationery store above 
her mother's book store. She is close to both her parents. 
Preval's younger daughter, Patricia, is currently in Sri 
Lanka studying Asian art. 

Question G 

23. (C) How much importance does Preval place on maintaining 
close bilateral relations with the United States? Are there 
aspects of the relationship he values more than others? Does 
he view it as a mutually beneficial relationship? Does he 
see Haiti as having obligations or responsibilities to the 
U.S.? How does he view the U.S.' previous involvement in 
Haiti? What is Preval's relationship with the Haitian 

24. (C) Preval recognizes that the U.S. is Haiti's most 
important bilateral partner and that Haiti's closest societal 
links internationally are with the U.S. His priority on the 
bilateral agenda is to leverage and extract the most 
assistance for Haiti on his own terms and to tap into the 
wealth and resources of the Haitian-American community in the 
U.S. As the president of a small, poor nation in the shadow 
of the American behemoth, he clearly believes that the U.S. 
has far greater obligations to Haiti than the other way 
around, if, in fact, Haiti has any obligations at all. 
Preval numbers a few close friends in the diaspora of whom we 
know. He established a friendship with Dumarsais Simeus 
during the presidential campaign, and they stay in contact by 
email. For the most part, however, Preval does not seem 
closely connected to or interested in Haitian communities 
abroad. He has indicated on a number of occasions that he 
fears that pro-Aristide extremists exert excessive influence 
in diaspora communities. 

Question H 

25. (C) Are cabinet officials involved in any illicit 
activities? How does Preval handle corruption within his 

26. (C) There has been little indication that cabinet members 
have been involved in illicit activities so far. At the time 
of the cabinet's formation, observers noted that the 
ministers had been mostly free of suspicion over the course 

PORT AU PR 00000408 006 OF 007 

of their careers. Indications regarding Preval's own 
attitude toward corruption are mixed. During his first term, 
Preval either tolerated or was forced to accept gross abuses 
on the part of close associates of Aristide. In either case, 
Preval has exhibited a non-confrontational approach with 
passivity toward difficult issues as the hallmark of his 
political career. Preval maintains a reputation for personal 

Question I 

27. (C) How has Preval handled domestic criticism thus far? 
Does he have a public communications or publicity strategy or 
manager? How does he perform under significant stress? How 
does he respond to confrontation, either personally or 
indirectly, e.g. mass unrest? 

28. (C) Preval has been remarkably impervious and 
unresponsive to domestic criticism thus far, which mostly 
centers on his approach to security and the gang activity 
during the fall of 2006, when kidnapping and crime spiked 
upward. There have been no significant incidents of mass 
unrest since his inauguration on which to judge his reaction. 
Based on his intense involvement in the daily review of 
security policy, we surmise that he pays close attention to 
public opinion, even if remaining uncommunicative himself. 
He has a palace spokesman in name, Assad Volce but hardly 
uses him. Nor does he use the minister for communication, 
who is traditionally the government's chief spokesperson. 
Regarding his public relations strategy, he has said on 
several occasions, that he wants to change the tradition of 
Haiti's presidents being the center of attention who make 
promises that they are unable to deliver. ''I will talk when 
I have some accomplishments to talk about.'' 

Question J 

29. (C) What is the status of Preval's Lespwa coalition? Is 
it a cohesive coalition or is it fractured? Do its members 
regard Preval as their leader? What is Preval's relationship 
to Fanmi Lavalas (FL)? 

30. (C) Preval has removed himself from involvement in Lespwa 
and undertakes little visible role in managing relations with 
the parliament. Lespwa is directionless as a party. Though, 
in the general, Lespwa's drift does not particularly stand 
out in the incohesive atmosphere of Haiti's parliament. 
Senate President Joseph Lambert, has emerged as a leader 
among Lespwa parliamentarians, but devotes more of his energy 
to cultivating his image as parliament's chief, rather than 
simply a party leader. No other Lespwa parliamentarian has 
demonstrated a capacity to take direction of the party. 
Lespwa parliamentarians no longer regard Preval as their 
party leader, but recognizing he remains the country's most 
popular politician and still associated with Lespwa in the 
public's mind, they do not generally criticize him in public 
or in private. Preval has virtually no contact with any of 
the various FL factions. 

Question K 

31. (C) How long are Preval's workdays? How many breaks does 
he take during his workday, what does he do during them and 
how long do they last? Under what circumstances? 

32. (C) Preval appears to be keeping an increasingly busy 
schedule, working longer hours and seeing more visitors. The 
Ambassador has taken phone calls from him as early as 6:30 am 
and has had meetings as late as 6:30 pm. Preval told the 
Ambassador recently that he has for many years taken a full, 
in-pajamas 2-3 hour nap every afternoon, allowing him to 
maintain his energy. 

Question L 

PORT AU PR 00000408 007 OF 007 

33. (S/NF) What family history of alcohol or substance use 
does Preval have? What alcohol or drugs has he been observed 
using, how much, and under what circumstances? Any related 
problems? Has Preval ever been observed to be high or drunk, 
disoriented, trembling or physically jittery, or had memory 
lapses? How many drinks can Preval consume before he shows 
signs of inebriation? Does Preval take any medications? 

34. (S/NF) Preval's parents both lived well into their 
eighties. His father, in particular, reportedly enjoyed 
robust health. No one in his immediate family has or had a 
reputation for alcohol abuse. Preval drinks whiskey and 
smokes in public, including at Embassy functions, but we have 
not observed him inebriated nor seen him take more than one 
or two drinks. Rumors abound about his deteriorating 
physical condition -- intense physical pain, high dosages of 
medication, however; we have no credible first-hand reports 
to confirm this. In our meetings Preval has always been 
completely lucid and has never appeared to be in any great 
pain. Special intelligence indicates that he began taking 
medication after the most recent round of medical 
examinations in Cuba that indicated a possibility of the 
return of prostate cancer. 

Three Year Assessment of Preval's government 
US Embassy cable dated June 7, 2008

161802Z JUN 09


E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/01/2019

Classified By: Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson, reason 1.4(b) and (d).

Summary and Introduction

1. (C) Haitian President Rene Preval has now completed three
years of his five year presidential mandate. Widely touted as
the "transitional president" poised to lead Haiti into a new
era of democracy and economic prosperity, he has had only
modest success thus far. Haiti's problems are indeed
daunting, and redressing them will take much more than a
five-year term. However, Preval's particular world view, his
personality and often indecisive and uncommunicative
leadership style, coupled with Haiti's deeply divided
political class and the devastating events of 2008, have
conspired to defer, if not derail, forward movement here.

2. (C) That being said, Preval remains Haiti's indispensable
man. Legitimately elected, still moderately popular, and
likely the only politician capable of imposing his will on
Haiti - if so inclined - Preval's role over the next 18
months is critical. Dealing with Preval is a challenge,
occasionally frustrating and sometimes rewarding. He is wary
of change and suspicious of outsiders, even those who seek
his success. Managing Preval will remain challenging during
the remainder of his term yet doing so is key to our success
and that of Haiti. We must continue to find creative ways to
work with him, influence him, and encourage him to recapture
the activism of his first year in office. Until he does,
political change and economic progress, so necessary to
Haiti's future, is likely to be incremental at best.

The Politics of Personality

3. (C) Preval's attitude towards his presidency has been
shaped by both experience and personality. As Aristide's
Prime Minister and successor, he was overshadowed by the more
charismatic ex-priest. At our first meeting, Preval recounted
that he was "the last stop after Tabarre (where Aristide
lived) when visitors came", bitterly reminding me that many
USG visitors barely had time to see him when he was
president. Those slights still rankle. A retiring, complex
personality, the president shares little. His inner circle
has greatly constricted during the past two years, with key
advisors including Bob Manuel, all but dropping out. His
involvement with his fiancee, financial advisor Babette
Delatour has colored many of his other relationships,
according to friends, and caused an estrangement of sorts
with his sister and one of his daughters.

4. (C) Even those close to Preval concede that his
chameleon-like character makes dealing with the president
difficult. One close advisor calls it "the roller coaster
that is Rene Preval." Personally engaging - even seductive -
when he so wishes, Preval can be equally harsh with
colleagues and others. Ministers, close advisors and others
have felt the sting of his tongue, both in public and in
private. Stubbornly holding to ideas long past their shelf
life, he rarely welcomes dissenting opinions. His courting
of Taiwan in 2006, which almost led to the Chinese blocking
renewal of the MINUSTAH mandate in 2006, is a case in point.
Preval is highly disinclined to delegate power or authority
and even the smallest detail comes to his office for
decision, a situation which has caused stress in his
relationships with both his current and former prime
ministers. Planning Minister Bellerive described to me a
recent Cabinet meeting where the Prime Minister and the
Cabinet presented a development plan for the long-suffering
northern tier of the country. Preval ridiculed the idea and
when confronted by a united ministerial front, walked out of
the cabinet meeting and told his advisors to strike the
proposal from the agenda.

5. (C) Uncomfortable in formal settings such as summits and
international conferences, Preval seeks personal
"relationships of trust" with his interlocutors. Often
unable to articulate exactly what he wants - except in the
broadest of terms - Preval tends to view issues in black and
white. Nonetheless, he expects a positive - and prompt
response. That is particularly true of his dealings with the
international community. He remains skeptical about the
international community's commitment to his government's
goals, for instance telling me that he is suspicious of how
the Collier report will be used. He measures success with the
international community - and the U.S.- in terms of positive
response to his priorities, rather than according to some
broader international benchmarks of success.

6. (C) Nevertheless, Preval's stubborn and cautious nature
has sometimes borne fruit. In his first year in office, he
was widely praised for reaching out to Haitians of all
political stripes and for attempting to bridge Haiti's
massive political divides. He has shrewdly coopted major
political rivals into his personal cabinet over the past two
years and has, through patient diplomacy managed to get
fractious parliamentary groupings to sit around the table
working on issues ranging from the budget to privatization to
the current minimum wage crisis. He believes strongly that
without his intercession, the international community would
have ignored the impact of the 2008 hurricanes on Haiti, and
that his early efforts at negotiation and discussion with the
gangs of Cite Soleil (which he often reminds me that I
criticized at the time) set the stage for the successful
MINUSTAH operation to clear the area.

A Narrowing Circle?

7. (C) Preval's seeming isolation in the palace during the
past year is striking. Close friends report that they have
little contact - and even less influence - with him. A
businessman who was key to Preval's election said the last
time that he talked to Preval, the president brushed him off.
Shunning newspapers and radio, he has a friend in New York do
a daily press summary for him; otherwise he freely admits
that he neither reads nor listens to the news, either local
or international. He uses one or two cell phones but rarely
shares the numbers with his colleagues. He uses his email to
communicate with family and close friends, but prefers to
talk on the telephone. He seldom leaves the palace except to
travel to his residence each evening and to the retreat he
has bought for his fiancee in the mountains above Port au

The Health Issue

8. (C) Preval's occasionally erratic behavior over the past
year has again sparked widespread rumors that he is suffering
from the effects of his past prostate cancer or that he has
resumed drinking. There is no indication that he is taking
medicine that affects his judgment or temperament, but he has
ignored suggestions from his inner circle, including that of
Delatour, that he do complete medical check-up in the U.S. He
has not been to Cuba for follow-up tests in more than a year.
Preval has increased his alcoholic consumption and often
attends a Petionville night club with friends, but during our
social interaction I have never seen him drink to excess.
Nonetheless, reports of heavy drinking are circulating

An Agenda deferred: Elections, Constitutional Reform, and
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

9. (C) Preval has said that his agenda for his remaining
years in office focuses on three interconnected issues:
elections, constitutional reform, and drugs. He came late to
the election issue, originally suggesting that the partial
Senatorial elections be combined with the lower house polls
scheduled for fall. He backed down in the face of
international pressure, but also as he came to realize that
he would have little success - or support - if he moved on
constitutional reform without a fully functioning senate.
Given the delays in moving this election forward, he no
longer believes that he will see an overhaul of the
constitution. He now expects to focus on two critical
constitutional issues, dual nationality and government
decentralization. He has angrily denied charges that he
manipulated the electoral process through the CEP and its
decision to exclude Lavalas to undermine an already weak

10. (C) Preval's focus on comprehensive constitutional reform
over the past year raised concerns about his ulterior
motives. Many in Haiti's political class drew the conclusion
that Preval was seeking a third term. The President's
refusal to explicitly reject that possibility created
confusion and uncertainty, but I view this development as
highly unlikely. Nonetheless, concerns about Preval's
intentions, coupled with deteriorating relations with
parliament, and his cavalier treatment of major political
parties has undermined consensus on constitutional reform and
he seems now resigned to more limited changes.

11. (C) Preval's fixation on drug trafficking reflects both a
growing frustration with the inflow of drugs into the
country's political process and irritation that his
government is unable to address something that could indeed
pose a personal threat to his future after the presidency.
Shunning all GOH responsibility for the problem, he looks to
hand it over to us. He has yet to believe that we take his
concerns seriously, and that has colored much of his dealings
with us beyond the counternarcotics agenda.

A not-always-helpful world view

12. (C) Although Preval's presidency started off well, with
the new president reaching out across the political spectrum
in an effort to create a new political culture in the
country, those efforts have now essentially stalled. The
President, whether by inclination or design, has not fully
developed a vision of Haiti's future. By turns determined or
distracted, Preval is often reluctant to use the levers of
power given to him by the office of the presidency. In one
telling instance, he held off going public in the April riots
until the presidency appeared to hang in the balance.
Skeptical of friends from abroad, and cynical about his own
political class's ability to effect change, Preval believes
that it is best only to speak out after the deals are done.
Pressing him to be more expansive and communicative has been,
in my experience, counterproductive. At the same time, he is
reluctant to let anyone else pick up the slack, and as a
result, the political vacuum in Haiti is often filled by
those who do not necessarily have the nation's best interests
at heart.
13. (C) There are those who argue that the April, 2008 riots
so badly shook Preval's world view that he has become
reluctant to act. We believe this is too simplistic an
explanation. Preval was indeed unprepared for the riots in
the street, but he used them to press some key objectives,
including the removal of then-Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard
Alexis. More to the point, I believe that the President's own
style and outlook, his often unilateral decision-making
style, his propensity to micromanage, and his essentially
cynical (and often justified) view of the Haitian political
process were, I believe, reinforced by what he saw in April,
and he is looking for ways to ensure he is not caught
unawares again.

14. (C) Preval's old friends suggest that in many ways he
remains the radical student who broke with his conservative
father and spent his university days in the political
maelstrom of 1960s Europe. While this may overstate the
case, Preval remains essentially a nationalist politician in
the Haitian sense of the word - suspicious of outsiders
intentions and convinced that no one understands Haiti like
he does. He often takes actions, such as publicly dismissing
the results of the Washington Donors Conference or stalling
elections, which could be construed as working at cross
purposes with the U.S. Preval clearly believes that he can
walk a fine line without losing U.S. or international
community support. Here, however, he runs a risk. Although he
briefly lived in the U.S., Preval does not truly understand
Americans or the Washington policy environment - and he often
ignores advisors who do.

The After-Life

15. (C) Close friends speculate that many of Preval's actions
during the past year - his rapprochement with Alexis and the
Neptune faction of Lavalas, his obsession with constitutional
reform, his anger over drug trafficker Guy Philippe, even his
reactions to the April riots - stem from his very real fear
that politics will prohibit him from returning to private
life in Haiti after his presidency. Thus, they argue, his
overriding goal is to orchestrate the 2011 presidential
transition in such a way as to ensure that whoever is elected
will allow him to go home unimpeded. Based on our
conversations, this is indeed a matter that looms large for
Preval. He has said to me on various occasions that he is
worried about his life after the presidency, that he would
not survive in exile. His concerns seem real, given Haiti's
history, albeit somewhat overblown at this point in time.

What It Means for Us

16. (C) Preval and I entered on duty in our respective
positions at pretty much the same time and we have enjoyed an
interesting, if not always harmonious, relationship during
the past three and a half years. During that period, I have
found him somewhat isolated, less open to ideas and advice,
and more reluctant to use the tools of his office to advance
his agenda than in his first year in office. Some say that
he is reverting to the do-nothing persona of his first term
as president. Like much about Preval, the reality is somewhat
more complicated. What is clear to me, however, is that
Preval has yet to truly provide the strong, consistent
leadership that Haiti's current circumstances demand. In
other places, we could find ways to circumvent or overcome
these weaknesses. Not so in Haiti. Given Haiti's strong
tradition of presidential rule, the blurred constitutional
lines of authority, and his own reluctance to delegate
authority, I believe that Preval - and only Preval - will
continue to set the rhythm and scope of change in Haiti. And
while we may argue with him about pace and priorities, we
will have to adapt to his rhythm. Dealing with Preval has
never been easy. Yet he remains Haiti's indispensable man and
he must succeed in passing this country to a new leadership
in 2011. We therefore must continue to find creative,
consistent ways to reinforce and maintain our engagement - at
all levels of the USG - with Preval and to press him to move
forward the important agenda of change that remains as yet
unrealized here.



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Saturday, November 27, 2010

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

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... 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).


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


 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


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.


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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