“Ghosts” – A Cheap Shot at the People’s Struggle in Haiti
by Shirley Pate; July 26, 2007
A recently released film, "The Ghosts of Cite Soleil," tells the story of two young men, Bily and 2pac, who live in Cite Soleil, a poor neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
Most people who have reviewed the film suggest that viewers are at once titillated and repelled by these young men because of their violence-ridden lifestyle. We learn that they are "chimeres" (a word that loosely means "monster" and used for several years to demonize supporters of former Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide). It’s a label that adds a certain drama, if you are looking at it from a cinematic standpoint, but its political implications are serious. Several years ago, a mainstream journalist introduced “chimere” broadly into the international media suggesting that President Aristide had a corps of violence-prone monster-creatures responsible for attacks on his political opponents. The introduction and extensive use of “chimere” by journalists was part of an international plot to turn world opinion against Aristide paving the way for a coup d’etat that would oust him in 2004 and lead to the murder of thousands of his supporters.
While “Ghosts” appears to be the belle of the blogs and various newspapers, many of the reviews, analyses, and discussions about the film are unenlightened by facts concerning Haiti’s history and politics.
Filmmaker, Asgor Leth, is under the mistaken impression that his movie is a documentary. Actually, it is a staged fraud of a movie that exploits the poverty and social circumstances of life in Cite Soleil. Just below the film’s veneer of gangster rap, sex, and violence lies an unmistakable and intentional subtext: supporters of Aristide are violence-prone sub-humans who, because of their overwhelming majority and continued demand for the return of Aristide, must be contained and then eliminated. A lack of context might lead viewers to assume that the “chimeres” are the primary aggressors in Haitian society. Quite the opposite is true. Those labeled “chimere” during and after the coup were met with certain incarceration or execution by the Haitian National Police – many were accused over Haitian radio. Rather than aggressors, those labeled “chimeres” have been, and continue to be, the victims.
Not long after the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH, arrived in Haiti, it began to raid poor, Aristide- supporting neighborhoods. Yet, the indiscriminate attacks were causing it a public relations problem. In need of a propaganda advantage, MINUSTAH came up with its own term for the “resistant” population that remains loyal to Aristide – “bandit.” This term may not be as exotic as “chimere,” but with its roots in the 1915-1934 US occupation of Haiti, where the mere utterance of the word provided Marines carte blanche to kill, it resonated well and has become pervasive in the media and a major theme in speeches by the UN Secretary General’s representative in Haiti, Edmond Mulet.
And, this brings another political reality to the fore. MINUSTAH’s mandate calls for bringing security to Haiti yet, security for all Haitians is not part of its agenda. Make no mistake, MINUSTAH was sent to Haiti by a US-dominated UN Security Council to do one thing: make the coup of February 2004 “stick.” Elite Haitians and international business interests are banking on an Aristide-less Haiti. Aristide was on a path of shifting the balance of power into the hands of the majority of Haitians who are poor by doubling the minimum wage, dedicating 20% of the nation’s budget to education, instituting widespread literacy programs and struggling successfully with international financial institutions to not privatize all of Haiti’s state-owned companies. The last thing the business class needs in Haiti is a better-paid, better-educated workforce.
No documentary about post-coup Haiti can be authentic unless it “outs” those responsible for the carnage, asks hard questions and pursues answers relentlessly. “Ghosts” never tried to do any of these things. If “Ghosts” wants to collect its “documentary” credentials, it will have to admit that Bily and 2pac are not the real bad guys but, rather: the US, France, and Canada who planned, financed and implemented the coup that ousted President Aristide; the US-installed de facto government of Gerard Latortue that maintained an extraordinary atmosphere of impunity making summary incarcerations and executions of Aristide supporters effortless and without consequence; and the US-dominated United Nations Security Council and its peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, which is making the coup “stick” by committing massacres of unarmed Haitians in poor neighborhoods.
Asking the right questions and pursuing the answers is the only way to honor the struggle of the people of Haiti. In addition, those answers will tell us far more about the lives of Bily and 2pac than “Ghosts” ever could. While there are many questions that can and should be asked, I propose the following:
What was intended for Haiti's economy and education, health and social structures when the US coordinated an embargo on loans to Haiti by international financial institutions beginning in 2000 and not ending until Aristide's forced departure four years later? Who in the international press collaborated with the coup makers to demonize Aristide and criminalize his supporters by labeling them "chimeres?" How long before the coup did the US, France, and Canada map out the plan to destabilize Haiti politically by financing "opposition groups" and fake human rights organizations that fingered "chimeres" for summary executions by the Haitian National Police? How many thousands of guns did the US give to the Dominican Republic that went to Haitian "rebels" hiding out there to invade their own country and kill thousands of Aristide supporters and, for god’s sake, how many of those guns are still in their hands? What kinds of state repression tactics did the unelected Prime Minister of the illegal interim government of Haiti employ to "contain" the overwhelming majority of Haitians who demanded the return of their democratically-elected president? How long before the coup did the US-dominated UN Security Council develop its occupation plan for Haiti involving first, soldiers from the three countries that orchestrated the coup and then followed by a UN “peacekeeping” occupation? Why, for the first time in UN history was MINUSTAH the only peacekeeping mission deployed without a peace agreement to enforce? How many Haitians died because MINUSTAH ignored the assassination of unarmed demonstrators by Haitian National Police sharpshooters? Why does the present government of Haiti allow MINUSTAH to continue to label Haiti’s citizens as “bandits” for supporting the return of Aristide and resisting a cruel occupation? Finally, what monster, under the guise of pursuing “bandits,” authorized UN raids into Cite Soleil and other poor neighborhoods involving hundreds of UN soldiers, tanks, and assault helicopters resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of unarmed Haitians?
Luckily, there is one documentary that can answer these and many other questions about what happened in Haiti. It’s a film called “Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits,” by acclaimed filmmaker, Kevin Pina. Finally, the people of Haiti have a film about their struggle that is honest, well-researched, hard-hitting, and dead serious. Most importantly, “Bandits” features Haitians telling their own story about their fight for justice, peace and security. You can find more information about the film at this website: http://www.haitiinformationproject.net/.
Shirley Pate is a Haiti solidarity activist in Washington, D. C. You can contact her by email at: email@example.com. For other articles written by her, please go to: http://hcvanalysis.wordpress.com.