Video: Mistrusting of Their Government and UN, Haitians Place Their Hopes In US Troops, Aristide

Update: Also big thanks to Valparaiso for adding Japanese captions to the YouTube video! Check out his Caracas Cafe blog for continuing independent coverage of Venezuela, Honduras, and Haiti (in Japanese).

Finally sorted out some video editing problems last night. Here’s a dispatch I completed a few days ago, focusing on an aid distribution near Cite Soleil last week. In Cite Soleil, Chanmas, Grand Goave, Tabarre, Leogane – almost everywhere I go – people are dismissive of UN peacekeepers and the Haitian government, while hopeful that US troops will help lead a robust aid and reconstruction effort. Many of them also ask for the return of ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was pushed out in a 2004 US-backed coup.

Will US troops live up to the hopes some quake survivors have placed in them? Only listening to Haitian voices over in the coming months will tell. I’m returning straight to Haiti after the School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico next week and plan on being here long after most journalists have left.

Many thanks to Chantal of The Haitian Blogger for help with translations. Some of it I did myself, so if any Creole-speaking readers spot errors please alert me.

Below, a quick video shot Tuesday of Canadian soldiers in the heart of Cite Soleil, showing how NOT to do aid distribution. I saw much worse later that day. More video on the way, as long my computer works.

26 thoughts on “Video: Mistrusting of Their Government and UN, Haitians Place Their Hopes In US Troops, Aristide”

  1. In dispatch 3 (, I guess that Samwel Zinus (the first speaker, in the D&G jersey) has his tongue properly in cheek when, after a poetic rap about the quake damage he ironically agrees with the reporter’s hypothetical about a prolonged US occupation of Haiti. The tell is when he adds derisively that he wouldn’t mind some dollars either and all the other American goodies (tout bagay…). By contrast, the unnamed woman in the blue blouse speaking near the national palace clearly rejects the Preval/UN regime, implicitly pointing out that the US ‘owns’ the current political-economic shambles so they may as well fix it before they go.

    1. I’m not sure how tongue-in-cheek Zinus was, but thanks for offering your view. One quibble: there was no “reporter’s hypothetical about a prolonged US occupation of Haiti.” I asked, literally, do you want them to stay? It’s a neutral question.

  2. I just watched the whole video.

    What is this … a propaganda film for the US Army?

    You interviewed Haitians 3 who said they wanted US troops to remain…But you interpreted that to say “they” (all 3 people are the sum total of all Haitian people) and the Haitian people want US troops to occupy their country because they are so good at giving people food and such.

    Man, I can’t believe it.

    Your a nerd. I can tell by the sound of your voice. Just go back to Canada and leave these people alone. You have no business playing the role of ‘helper”.

    You don’t seem to understand the US role in Haiti and all of Latin America and what U.S troops have done historically.

    It’s to keep people poor…and then you come along with your pretentious attempts “to help others” and further screw everything up with misleading reporting.

    Journalists should not be people who come from suburban areas in the US and Canada…you are forever doomed to naivete, pretentiousness and prejudice about who you are compared to who they are…. and you misterpreted what these people ….all 3 were saying.

    WHat they were saying is they need help and they will take from anybody…but you interjected US troops…they don’t give a shit about America or US troops…you don’t understand what desperation is.

    Man, I just can’t believe it.

    1. This is not a comment I can take very seriously. This video is about the hopes for what US troops can do here if they set aside their guns, focus less on “security” and more on working closely with local leaders to help people. Like Captain Selmo says in the video, it’s not normally what they do. A telling statement.

      The situation is so bad here that many Haitians are welcoming of anyone who may be able to help, whether it’s the US or Aristide. This is what I hear everywhere, without exception; I heard it again today talking in Leogane. They said nobody had helped them so far, but they want US and Canadian troops to stay because maybe they’ll be a source of aid in the future. That attitude may change as the troops remain here in the coming months without noticeable, widespread improvement in people’s lives.

      I suggest you read what I’ve posted since the quake and before that, if you think I’m not critical of US policy towards Haiti. Yesterday I filed a report about Haitian neighborhood leaders who are frustrated with the US presence in their city.

      I’m not posting your comments about the ICNC, etc., that has nothing to do with this post. As for being nerd – yeah, guilty as charged.

    2. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Go look at Ansel’s other videos and his history. He is nowhere near a kissass to the US government. Also, He is not distorting the truth at all, you heard the interviews for yourself.

      I’m guessing your one of those anti-Army/US people and that it’s too hard to accept that the army can sometimes do good in the world.

      1. But its just a repeat of bad history, for our military is doing nothing but stopping the aid from getting out, just holding guns and occupying a foreign land.

        “If you don’t know history,
        its as if you were born yesterday.”

        Howard Zinn

        1. Are you on the ground in Haiti or just talking out your ass.

          Ansel’s Edit: No need for that kind of language. Let’s keep it civil, folks.

    3. Just the thought of watching the video gives most of us here a great deal of stress, and we thank you for a light that forces such darkness to give way.

      Surely that “School of Authentic Journalism” must be funded by the corporate rich.

  3. Wanting to know what ordinary people in Haiti think is good journalism, clearly, but to assume that desperate people waiting in endless lines for handouts of food from US or Canadian soldiers would express themselves candidly to US or Canadian journalists, and would take them into their confidence, is to assume too much. I would expect some of those people to tell the journalists what they figure the journalists want to hear, others maybe to be playful in a bitter, sarcastic way. Many would probably refuse to talk at all and some might become enraged. Even the best of intentions doesn’t alter the facts of who those journalists are, where they come from and what their countries represent to the hungry people in line.

    Sorry, but I don’t think any well-founded conclusions about Haitians’ opinions in general can be drawn from those interviews.

    1. It appeared to me, that at least one of the Haitians interviewed was more interested in being on TV; than giving a thoughtful answer. The gentleman I speak of seemed to try his hand at humor, not thought. So I would have to agree with David.

      If not sure how much Haitian history, any of the interviewed knew. Therefore, bigger quantity and a broader interview base, would be required. Then we can get a better understanding of what Haitian’s want.

    2. “Many would probably refuse to talk at all and some might become enraged.”

      I respect your views, David, but what the hell does this mean? I haven’t experienced this at all in Haiti. It’s a ridiculous assumption on your part.

      1. Why is it a ridiculous assumption that people in Haiti, having lived through some of the worst of human experiences, might become enraged at someone who, after all, comes from a country that carries a huge responsiblity for what they’ve lived through? Why, in fact, would a thinking, self-respecting person not react that way? If it were against you, it would be misplaced rage, yes, but rage is misplaced a great deal of the time, isn’t it?

        Maybe if they don’t become enraged it’s for the same reasons that they haven’t had a revolution in all these years. Maybe there are psychological mechanisms for survival that keep rage submerged.

        The point I was trying to make was that an interview is shaped as much by the interviewer as by the interviewee, by the complex relation between the two and by how the interviewee perceives the interviewer. A Brazilian journalist interviewing people waiting in line for food from blue helmets might report that Haitians are grateful for MINUSTAH. That was actually the case in an article I sent out a couple of days ago.

        With great respect for your intelligence, your efforts, your courage and your experiences, Ansel, I still think the conclusions you drew, as stated in the headline, were not well founded.

        1. Try to trust me when I say my interview base for those generalizations was wide and deep. I wouldn’t make them lightly. I already mentioned that in response to another comment.

          I’ll try to put up more video evidence when I get time.

          1. I’m sorry Ansel, but I agree with the criticism of your video. As someone who grew up in Haiti, whose family still lives there (including my husband) and who spends months there yearly, I have to say that your commentary on the video are a bit disappointing.

            I do agree that for the time being, Haitians in P-A-P, will be pro-US. Though the US government has proven itself not to care about the well being of Haitians (as you’ve shown in a few videos), the people are hungry, thirsty and are afraid of the coming the rainy season catching them in the streets without shelter. They are also aware that without homes, sanitation will pose a serious health issue. BUT, to say that the Haitian people believe that the US government or their troops (ESPECIALLY their troops) offer hope is naive at best, and just plain stupid at worse.

            Ansel, I know that you know about the US occupation of Haiti in 1919. If you can know about it, then the Haitian poor don’t just know about it, they live it daily. I’m sure you know about US support for Papa and Baby Doc. I’m sure you know about both coups against Aristide. I’m sure you know about the human rights violations of MINUSTAH against the Haitian poor… and EVERYTHING in between.

            If you, or anyone else can know about these events, then how much more the Haitian people. They are not stupid. They don’t just know their history; they live it… daily.

            Now, let’s talk about your comments regarding US troops putting their guns aside. Is that what they did in Vietnam? How about Iraq? Grenada? Panama? Afghanistan?

            I expect more from you, Ansel. Wake up, my dear. This is an occupation. The US will use Port-au-Prince as a strategic point between Cuba and ALBA. Wake up!

            And as for your comment regarding the “base for [your] generalizations [being] wide and deep,” where are the slums of Petion-ville in these “wide and deep” reports? Where is Leogane? Gressier? Jacmel? Don’t get me started.

            Please reflect before making arrogant comments.

            I simply expect more.

          2. Thanks for your comment, Pamela, though I wish you wouldn’t call me arrogant.

            Let me share something with you. It was the Monday after the quake when I became really angry, felt de-motivated, stressed out. A BBC crew had asked me to find them drivers, translators, and meet them to help with filming a documentary. They promised us food, lodging, support. They never showed up. We went on the rest of the day working.

            Every time I asked people, “What do you think of the American soldiers? Do you want them here?” The answer was we want their help, and yes, yes, yes, yes. Again, the video shows just 3 out of perhaps a dozen of these interviews that are on film, from around PAP, Leogane, and Grand Goave.

            That same day I heard first-hand testimony of the American military turning away planes full of tons of medicine trying to land in PAP. I felt deeply ashamed of my country. They fucked up the relief effort in the initial days and a lot of lives were lost that could have been saved.

            I asked my new friend and moto driver, a Lavalas supporter who lives near Aristide’s old home in Tabarre, who said he appreciated the US presence: Why do you think they’ll do anything differently than MINUSTAH? You really think they care about Haiti? He said he didn’t know for sure, but there’s no reason not to hope so. He said them seem more friendly than MINUSTAH soldiers.

            And indeed they do. I heard other people say that. In four months I saw MINUSTAH personnel talking with Haitians on the street only once, a group of four Argentinians. I’ve already seen it a number of times with the Americans. They don’t have their hands on their guns all the time, like the UN. Little things like that matter.

            So what was I to do? People seemed to have lost what confidence, if any, they had in Haitian institutions and the UN. They are destitute. And they have a positive vision of what the American military (Aristide, too) could do to help the country. I think it is misplaced hope, but am I supposed to sit on this footage just because of the history of US policy towards Haiti? Do you only want to hear things that agree with your ideology? We can’t imagine something better?

            It’s in the video: nobody wants a militarized occupation of Haiti. They want help, and a lot of people were actually getting it that day near Cite Soleil. The point is only that if US troops are here, this is what they can and should be doing.

          3. Well, I want to apologize actually for being so harsh in my last comment. Just a few days ago, I spoke to a friend in Haiti who said something similar to what you reported. He said that for now, the US military is better than MINUSTAH and Preval’s idiocracy. The only problem, however, is that those of us looking from here (privileged as we are) can see that this is a trap.

            I’ve even heard news coverage that some US military are helping Haitians against the brutality of the TOURISTAH. But, I can feel something brewing under the surface. It’s the American way. I don’t see this benevolence lasting long. I know it’s a veil for something else. I think Haitians know it too. I really do, but for now they need the help, I guess.

            Thank you for your reporting though. My family and I appreciate it!

  4. I needed to check in lest someone think i’ve changed teams and gone to using my real name.
    your new provocateurs remind me of a quote:

    When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.
    Jonathan Swift

    nerd – on ansel!

  5. It seems the US military not only HAS weapons that can cause massive earthquakes (similar to the Russian weapon) but decided to use it in Haiti. This allows the US military to storm in, take over the country, with no coup necessary. My heart goes to the people of Haiti, and all peoples everywhere the Empire decides it wants to go, create a war, steal resources, torture the people who live there, and create another economic windfall for the elites that run planet Earth.

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