Documentary Review: Haiti – We must kill the bandits


5-08-07, 11:17 am

Documentary Review: Haiti: We must kill the bandits Director: Kevin Pina Production company: Haiti Information Project, 90 minutes 2007

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 prcent 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 countryís 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.

While the documentary's production qualities are generally good, there are a few shortcomings. For instance, the interview with former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune is barely audible and the inclusion of subtitles would have been helpful. However, overall Pina's 'Haiti, We Must Kill the Bandits' is a powerful documentary that pierces the web of lies and distortions clouding our understanding of contemporary Haiti.

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