Vancouver International Film Festival
Frieda Werden reviews Apology of an Economic Hitman, currently screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival...
Feature-length documentary. Airing in the Vancouver International Film Festival. Last showings at Empire Granville 6, Thursday, October 9 - 7:15 pm, and Empire Granville 2, Friday, October 10, 10:15 pm.
One of the volunteers at the VIFF told me she saw this and wasn't sure it was true. I do believe it is largely true, because I have heard versions of this story so many times from the outside, during 22 years of covering women internationally about what's happening in their countries. This version from the inside fits the facts on the ground all too well.
Perkins says he worked for a private corporation that was contracted by the US government as an economic consulting firm, and his job was to go to newly elected presidents of developing countries in Latin America and tell them that they needed to borrow large sums of money for development projects, and give the contracts to US firms, who would then get the bulk of the money for over-inflated project budgets. In order to finance these deals, the presidents had to drastically cut domestic spending and turn over vast amounts of their countries' gross domestic product to paying back the loans. Many, many countries got into eternal debt amounting to half or more of their GDP by following just this model. When they were in debt to the World Bank - incidentally, headed by not one but two consecutive heads of the Pentagon - these countries also had to open their borders to international ownership of their assets and unlimited trade (an economic rape euphemistically called "structural adjustment").
Once the pattern was obvious, why did leaders continue to do this to their countries? Perkins says his job was to tell the presidents, in short, that "in one hand I have a lot of money that can make you very rich, and in the other hand, I have a gun." They were extorted to corruption, on pain of their own lives and their families'.
Some presidents refuse to take the deal. Next, trouble is fomented in the country by shock troops of this economic mafia. Among presidents Perkins approached who were actually assassinated in the early 1980s were Jaime Roldós Aguilera of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos of Panama. The highlight of this film is Perkins's apology to the daughter of Roldós and an audience of angry Ecuadorians, in a theatre in the round setting.
The film also includes interviews about the vast waste of the funds the US was supposed to be managing for Iraq from the Oil for Food program during the US-led blockade. However, this situation was better documented in a BBC film that aired on The Passionate Eye on CBC a year or two ago.
Apology of an Economic Hitman was produced by a Greek director, Stelios Koul, and a Greek film crew. A few scenes are dramatized, much is footage of old propaganda films, but the most interesting part is Perkins telling his story and facing those he screwed out of their country's wealth. I strongly recommend seeing this film, although it may also make you feel sick and depressed, and then start seeing similar patterns in things like the $700 billion dollar Wall Street bailout. Plan on partying after the film with sex or raucous music.
- Frieda Werden produces WINGS: Women’s International News Gathering Service, which airs on CJSF Wednesdays, 5-5:30 pm.