Haiti: Ghosts Entertains and Sensationalizes, Offers Few Answers

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, Haiti.

By reading the newspaper accounts and blog posts, it appears that most viewers are both 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,” which was used for several years to smear 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 whose sole responsibility was to attack his opponents. What was not known is that this demonization of Aristide and his followers was part of an overall plot to turn world opinion against Aristide thus paving the way for a coup d’etat that would oust him and lead the murder of thousands of his supporters. Ghosts appears to be the belle of the blogs and various newspapers a well. Yet, many of the reviews, analyses, and discussions about the film are unenlightened by facts concerning Haiti’s history and politics.

Filmmaker, Asgar Leth, is under the mistaken impression that Ghosts 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. Lack of context might leave viewers under the impression that “chimeres” are the primary aggressors in Haitian society. Quite the opposite. Those labeled “chimere” during and after the coup met with certain incarceration or execution by Haitian National Police. No, rather than the aggressor, those labeled chimere 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. Before long, in need of a propaganda advantage, MINUSTAH came up with their own term for the “resistant” population that remains loyal to Aristide — “bandit.” This term may not be as imaginative as “chimere,” but it has roots in the 1915-1934 US occupation of Haiti where the mere utterance of the word provided Marines carte blanche to kill. And this brings another political reality to the fore. 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 various 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 not to privatize all of Haiti’s state-owned companies. The last thing the business class needed from Haiti was a better-paid, better-educated workforce. No documentary about post-coup Haiti can be authentic unless it “outs” those responsible for the carnage and asks the hard questions and pursues the answers relentlessly. “Ghosts” never tried to do any of these things. If Ghosts is really a documentary, it would tell you that the real bad guys are not Bily and 2pac, 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, responsible for numerous massacres in poor neighborhoods trying to make the coup “stick.” Asking the right questions and pursuing the answers is the best way to honor the struggle of the people of Haiti. In addition, it will tell us much more about the lives of Bily and 2pac and the majority of Haitians 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 which the Haitian “rebels” hiding out there used to invade their own country and kill thousands of Aristide supporters? 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 plan for Haiti involving an initial occupation by a multi-national interim force after the coup to be followed by a UN 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 “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 and resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of unarmed Haitians?

Luckily, there is one documentary that can provide the answers to what happened in Haiti: It’s a brilliant new film by acclaimed filmmaker, Kevin Pina, called: Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits. Finally, the people of Haiti have a film that is honest, well-researched, hard-hitting, dead serious and, most importantly, features Haitians telling their own story of struggle. The website can be found at: www.haitiinformationproject.net. You can watch the two-minute trailer here.

Shirley Pate writes for the Haiti Information Project (HIP), a non-profit alternative news service providing coverage and analysis of breaking developments in Haiti. She can be reached at: magbana@hcvanalysis.net. Read other articles by Shirley, or visit Shirley's website.