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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Friday, November 19, 2010

"Cholera protests" against UN continue in Haiti

Protests continued in Haiti for a fourth day amid revelations by a Swedish diplomat that an unnamed US official confirmed that the current cholera epidemic was introduced by UN troops. Flashpoints on Pacifica has Ansel Herz on the ground reporting from Haiti's second largest city Cap Haitien. We are joined in the studio by our Senior Analyst and Correspondent Kevin Pina who tells of his conversations with Swedish Ambassador to the Caribbean Claes Hammar. Ambassador Hammar broke the story that UN Nepalese troops were responsible for bringing cholera into the country.

November 18. 2010 - A Haitian mother tries to revive her
daughter suffering from cholera. ©2010 HIP

November 18. 2010 - UN troops fire tear gas at protesters in Port au Prince Haiti ©2010 HIP

November 18. 2010 - Haitian protesters in
Port au Prince confront Haitian police ©2010 HIP

November 18. 2010 - Protesters in Haiti's capital deface a poster of the
ruling INITE party's presidential candidate Jude Celestine ©2010 HIP

November 18. 2010 - Protesters in Port au Prince block
major intersections with burning tires ©2010 HIP

November 18. 2010 - Haitian riot police confront demonstrators
on fourth day of protests against the UN  ©2010 HIP

November 18. 2010 - Haitian mother fearing her children may have
cholera waits for medical attention in Port au Prince ©2010 HIP

Listen to the Flashpoints radio segment on Haiti and Kevin Pina's analysis at the end of the program.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swedish diplomat: US official confirms cholera outbreak in Haiti started with UN troops

Burning election posters of Preval's ruling INITE
party in Port au Prince, Haiti. ©2010 HIP

By Kevin Pina & Jean Ristil

Yesterday the story broke in the Scandinavian press that a Swedish Ambassador had finally confirmed what angry protesters have suspected along, the cholera epidemic in Haiti was imported by the Nepalese contingent of the United Nations.

The Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladets interviewed the Swedish Ambassador to the Caribbean, Claes Hammar who stated, "Unfortunately that is the case. It has proved that the cholera came from Nepal." When pressed for his source Hammar replied, "a diplomatic source. It is 100 per cent true. Tests were made and the source was traced to Nepal."

Claes Hammar, Swedish Ambassador to the Caribbean
PHOTO: Svenska Dagbladets

The Helsinki daily HELSINGIN SANOMAT followed up with a second interview where Hammar gave more details about his source, “I consider my source to be a reliable one. It is a US official, but I cannot say who.” HELSINGIN SANOMAT added that Hammar told them the tests taken by the US official were "at a camp of Nepalese UN workers."

This new information follows two days of denials by the UN who have accused protesters in Haiti of trying to destabilize the country before much touted elections. Three protesters were killed by UN troops in Haiti's second largest city of Cap Haitien over the past three days. Adding to growing frustration over the UN's denial of the source of the cholera epidemic in Haiti are their recent statements that protesters were shot by "local gangs " and not UN troops in Cap Haitien.  A Haitian journalist interviewed yesterday in Cap Haitien via telephone commented, "The UN has lost all credibility. Rather than showing people they are accountable and taking responsibility they react with guns and then lie about it. People no longer believe anything they say."

Protestors paint "UN=cholera" and "thief' on the back
of a Haitian government vehicle ©2010 HIP

Anger also spilled into Haiti's capital of Port au Prince yesterday with roving bands of demonstrators burning tires and ripping down election posters belonging to candidates of current president Rene Preval's INITE party.

The UN is bracing itself for more demonstrations today in Port au Prince and Cap Haitien. Today's protests  have special significance in Haiti as they mark the 207th anniversary of the Battle of Vetieres where General Jean-Jacques Dessalines led an army of former slaves to defeat the French. Winning this crucial battle led to the establishment of the world's first black republic, the Republic of Haiti, on January 1, 1804.

ADDENDUM: After nearly two months of denials by UN Chief Edmond Mulet in Haiti,  more conclusive evidence announced of the cholera strain being imported by Nepalese troops:

Expert report says Haiti cholera outbreak came from UN camp

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 21:13:00 12/07/2010

PARIS - The cholera outbreak ravaging Haiti began at a camp for UN peacekeepers from Nepal, according to an expert report submitted to the French foreign ministry, a source close to the matter told AFP Tuesday.

Respected French epidemiologist Professor Renaud Piarroux conducted a study in Haiti last month and concluded the epidemic began with an imported strain of the disease and broke out at the Nepalese base, the official said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero would not discuss the conclusion of the report, but confirmed that the foreign ministry had received a copy and said that it had been passed on to the United Nations' investigation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

US response to cholera in Haiti, fund exclusive elections

The absence of democratically elected successors could potentially plunge the country into chaos, adding a political crisis to the death and destruction caused by the January 12 earthquake. - Sen. Richard Lugar's (R-Indiana) report, "Haiti: No Leadership - No Elections," to fellow members of Committee on Foreign Relations.

By Keane Bhatt

In the face of a cholera epidemic that has claimed the lives of over 1000 people, infected many thousands and is feared to intensify due to widespread flooding in the wake of Hurricane Tomas, officials have stated that the elections scheduled for November 28 will go ahead as planned. While some candidates have questioned the wisdom of holding elections during such turmoil, a rising chorus of critics is disputing the elections' very legitimacy and is urging the US, a primary funder, to take responsibility in guaranteeing a truly democratic process.


In October, 120 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), who recently served in the Dominican Republic, argued for the need to ensure free, fair and inclusive elections in neighboring Haiti in a joint letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Many of the petition's signers enjoyed close personal and working relationships with Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent during their service; some played an active role in coordinating medical attention and other relief services for Haitian survivors in the aftermath of January's earthquake.
The content of the petition, largely taken from an open letter sent to Clinton on behalf of over 20 NGOs in the US and Haiti in September, details the exclusionary nature of Haiti's upcoming elections and provides concrete recommendations for the US government, which has offered millions of dollars in funding and assistance for the Haitian elections. This letter was also signed by Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association, which is the leading organization of RPCVs and represents a network of 30,000 individuals. Quigley supports the former volunteers' petition, which urges that the US condition funding for the Haitian elections on the full participation of currently banned political parties and active engagement to ensure that voters among the 1.5 million internally displaced Haitians are not disenfranchised. RPCV Neil Ross ('62-'64), founding president of the NGO Friends of the Dominican Republic, an NPCA affiliate for the Dominican Republic, also signed the petition.
Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Electoral Provisoire, or CEP) is the governing body whose members are selected by President Rene Préval and is tasked with carrying out the elections. For the upcoming November elections, it has banned 14 political parties arbitrarily, including Fanmi Lavalas (or FL), the largest party in the country. Created by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president who was deposed in a coup d'etat in 2004, FL has been banned since the April 2009 elections. According to lawyer Ira Kurzban, one-time legal counsel to both Aristide and Préval, the current situation is akin to a hypothetical scenario under which the US Federal Election Commission "disqualified the Democratic and Republican parties from the 2012 presidential election and declared that only candidates of minor parties could run."
The former volunteers' petition is the latest articulation of a growing wave of high-profile criticism over US funding for the compromised elections in Haiti. In a June report to the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Lugar urged that political parties like FL not be "excluded from the elections because of perceived technicalities." As was reported on October 8, 45 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary Clinton that was similar to the RPCV petition. It warned that "allowing flawed elections now will come back to haunt the international community later ... Haiti's next government will be called upon to make difficult decisions ... such as land reform and allocation of reconstruction projects ... Conferring these decisions on a government perceived as illegitimate is a recipe for disaster."
Their warning appears particularly prescient, as internally displaced persons living in tents faced a dearth of adequate shelter and a continuation of forced evictions in the days preceding Hurricane Tomas. The residents of the camps in Port-au-Prince, who have lived in tents for ten months, were spared the worst of the storm, but the flooding has provoked fears of the more insidious impacts of possible flash floods, mudslides and the propagation of waterborne diseases such as cholera. The members of Congress stress that "Haiti's next government will also have to ask its citizens to make sacrifices, such as losing land through eminent domain, or take risks, such as relocating to a new displacement camp. Citizens are unlikely to sacrifice for or trust a government that obtained power through dishonest means."
The CEP, the Exclusion of FL and the International Community 
The CEP has been mired in controversy and its very authority questioned. As the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy (IJDH) explains, "President Préval's system [of hand-picking its members] ensures that he retain control over all 9 members of the Council." In addition, the CEP has no basis in the Haitian Constitution, which requires the existence of an independent Permanent Electoral Council.
Most damning, perhaps, have been its ongoing efforts to prevent the most popular political party in the country from participating - FL has won every election in which it has been allowed to contest. For the April 2009 elections, the CEP created a new requirement, demanding an original, nonfacsimiled signature from FL's leader Aristide, knowing this would be an impossible task. Aristide is currently exiled in South Africa under what Kurzban asserts to be "a tacit agreement between many governments [to keep] him there," while "the government of Haiti has refused to renew Aristide's passport to allow him to return to Haiti to register his party."
In response, the international community loudly denounced the summary exclusion of the 14 parties; the US embassy in Haiti voiced its view that "under the law, elections should involve all major parties and serve as a unifying force for democracy. An election based on the exclusion ... will inevitably question the credibility of elections in Haiti and among donors and friends of Haiti," and similar condemnations emanated from the OAS and Canada. However, when the CEP did not budge, the US along with other donor countries still went ahead and provided millions of dollars for the compromised elections, paying for 72 percent of the cost.
Following CEP's exclusion of the party for lack of Aristide's signature, FL initiated a boycott that contributed to an estimated voter turnout of between 3-10 percent in the April elections and again in the subsequent run-off round of June 2009. This consistently low turnout cast doubt on the legitimacy of the elections.
Then, according to the IJDH, on November 26, 2009, "the CEP announced that 14 political parties, including FL, would be excluded from elections scheduled for February," despite the feverish efforts of FL leadership to comply with election requirements. For example, Aristide authorized FL representative Dr. Maryse Narcisse to take charge of all issues of electoral registration in an original, notarized and signed letter sent to the CEP, but such measures were met with no success.
The February parliamentary elections were postponed until this November due to the earthquake and the CEP has simply extended the arbitrary ban on the 14 parties to the upcoming elections. The CEP also excluded FL from the presidential elections, also scheduled for November, based on a new requirement that the head of each party must now register presidential candidates in person. Again, as the CEP well knows, President Aristide has been kept out of Haiti since 2004 and cannot personally deliver the candidate list. It appears that crucial US and international promises to fund the elections have yet to be reconsidered or modified.
Worries of Excluding Voters
The RPCV petition also expresses concern over "the lack of effective measures underway to guarantee that the hundreds of thousands of eligible voters among the over 1.5 million people displaced by the earthquake are assured the identification cards (Cartes d'identité nationale - CINs) required for voting as well as reliable and uncomplicated access to the polls on election day." The letter argues for mobile teams to be dispatched to camps of the internally displaced and to remote rural areas to distribute the cards before the November elections, and the need for polling centers near camps and transportation for those who cannot easily access the centers.
Solutions, Democracy Promotion and Activism 
The RPCVs ended their petition with a short list of recommendations for the US: (1) withholding financial support for elections "until the CEP is replaced by a new Council chosen through a process that ensures neutrality, competence and credibility with Haiti's voters"; (2) the adoption of a "clear, firm position on the need for the upcoming elections to be free, fair and open to all of Haiti's political parties"; and (3) "adequate funding and technical assistance for a fairly-chosen CEP to prepare elections." This would include production and distribution of lost or destroyed CINs, the updating of the electoral list and ensuring that polling stations are accessible to internally displaced, poor and disabled Haitians. Extensive voter education was also suggested.
David Garfunkel, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years ('07-'10), is one of the coordinators of this petition. Affected like many other volunteers by the devastation of the earthquake, he organized the collection and shipment of humanitarian supplies like food, water and tents from Santo Domingo. Now working for a microfinance NGO as a small loans coordinator for poor, rural women in Haiti, he reflects back on the effect the earthquake had on his subsequent decision to live and work on the other side of Hispaniola after Peace Corps and his current political activism: "I hated the helpless feeling I had. Day after day, just across the border, I sat and watched the terrible stories unfold on the news. Then, just as quickly as the stories arrived, Haiti completely disappeared from the mainstream media. I decided that I would try to do my part not to forget." He added that although he is still unsure about what kind of impact he is making while working in Port-au-Prince, he does believe that the influence he has as a US citizen is important. "After all of the harm that US policies have done to Haiti - supporting the Duvalier dictatorshipsfunding death squad leadersdestroying agricultural self-sufficiency andadvancing the 2004 coup d'etat, to name a few - the least we can do is come together to support its sovereignty and democracy. I talk to Haitians every day about the elections. They know that they are a sham and they'll show the world that when they don't show up to the polls in November."
He added that while concerns over democracy in China and Iran are pervasive among leaders in Washington, DC, at present, he believed that the US should focus its efforts on promoting human rights and democracy in places like Haiti, Honduras and Colombia, where the US wields enormous leverage. RPCV and signatory Neal Riemer ('06-'10) agrees. "Aside from the theater of shrill posturing, talk about Iran's democratic deficit doesn't accomplish much. In fact, American reprimands of such countries are sometimes accompanied by bellicose threats. When taking into account the use of blunt tools like economic sanctions and the unpredictable reactions from those governments, there can be unintended negative impacts for the citizens of those countries." Riemer called for a simpler and more principled stance: "If we care about promoting democracy, it's just much easier and more practical to not financially and logistically support fraudulent elections with our tax dollars," and "demand real democratic features in exchange for funding." This, in and of itself, would help "empower democratic governance in Haiti and set a precedent internationally," according to Riemer. Remarking on the fact that as UN Special Envoy, former President Bill Clinton plays a key role in formulating policy in Haiti, Riemer asserted, "we are especially obligated to promote American values like free elections in countries squarely within our sphere of influence."
RPCV Joanna Carman ('07-'09), one of the signers of the petition, noted that as a current student in New York, she had had the opportunity to attend a UN Security Council meeting on Haiti. "Throughout the proceedings there was a prevailing sentiment: the need for free, fair and inclusive elections," she said. "The necessity of re-registering over a million people was also mentioned frequently. The whole time, I kept thinking about the email I had received just the day before and what the petition is working towards - promoting meaningful democracy in Haiti - and I'm proud to be one of the signers of this document."
The 120 RPCVs from the Dominican Republic are hosting a modified version of the letter that anyone can sign online, with the aim of urging more members of Congress to endorse the Congressional letter to Clinton. In particular, they hope to encourage participation from RPCVs who have served throughout the world.
For concerned citizens seeking another outlet, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy provides one in a recent opinion piece  in The Huffington Post. He asks, "Shouldn't it be a no-brainer to say that the US shouldn't pay for elections in Haiti from which the largest political party is excluded? If you agree, ask your Representative to sign the Waters letter for fair elections in Haiti. You can reach the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121; ask to be transferred to your Representative's office."
Keane Bhatt is a contributor to HIP and one of the signers of the RPCV petition.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010



In this program we interview independent journalist Ansel Herz about the situation on the ground following Hurricane Tomas and widening fears of a cholera epidemic in Haiti. We also speak with Ira Kurzban, former Counsel General to the Republic of Haiti, about elections in the current context and attacks against Congresswoman Maxine Waters for criticizing the exclusion of Lavalas. Flashpoints Special Correspondent Kevin Pina wraps up the segment with an analysis.