Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Filmmaker Kevin Pina Screens New Documentary in Detroit on Haitian Crisis

Documentary highlights brutal occupation by United Nations forces

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

DETROIT, 13 October, 2005 (PANW)--Renowned filmmaker Kevin Pina visited the city of Detroit on Thursday at the invitiation of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) in order to present his new documentary entitled "Haiti: The Untold Story". This documentary, which was filmed between January and July of 2005, provides a shocking account of the draconian conditions under which the people in Haiti live while being occupied by the United Nations military forces.

Since February 29, 2004, when President Jean Bertrand-Aristide was overthrown, kidnapped and forced into exile by the United States military along with the assistance of France and Canada, the people of Haiti have demanded the return of their democratically elected head of state. Aristide, who has since been granted political asylum in South Africa by President Thabo Mbeki, has been denied the opportunity to return to his country while his Fanmi Lavalas political party has suffered mass arrest and murder of its top leadership still remaining inside the country.

"Haiti: The Untold Story" is a 53 minute film which chronicles a series of mass demonstrations in support of the ousted President Aristide and the United Nations military response to these manifestations. Pina is a broadcast journalist for the Flashpoints radio program that is hosted by Dennis Bernstein at KPFA radio station, a Pacifica affiliate in the Bay area of California. He is also the associate editor of the Black Commentator website.

According to Pina, "the US, France and Canada worked to destabilize the democractically-elected government of Jean Bertrand-Aristide. They funded through organization like the United States Agency for International Development (AID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), so called NGOs or Non-Governmental Organizations, which worked to build an opposition to that democratically-elected government, to overthrow it. It's also what they worked for to get all those photos of the opposition in the mainstream press. What you never saw in the mainstream press were the photos of and images of the much larger demonstrations that were going on at the same time demanding that Aristide be allowed to fulfill his five year term in office."

Pina said that "while they were presenting you with one side of the story, I'd be going to these major, major demonstrations and I'd be the only guy there with a camara. They just utterly, completely ignored it. The press was culpable. The US press, the Associated Press, Reuters, the Canadian Press, its amazing to see how much they parrot the US embassy, the Canadian embassy, the French embassy, but when comes to really showing the voice of the majority of the poor of that country who supported Aristide's government, who live in abject poverty, they remain silent and in my mind culpable."

"What I have witnessed is a systematic campaign to murder, to jail, to force into hiding, to force into exile, the majority political party, the party of Jean Bertrand-Aristide. The Haitian National Police working hand-in-hand first with US Marines, French Foreign Legion and Canadian Special Forces to kill people and stop them from demonstrating and demanding the return of democracy to their country. And then afterwards working under the veneer and cover of legitimacy provided by the United Nations."

Pina continued by saying that "some people have a hard time understanding what the UN is doing in Haiti.... They have worked hand-in-hand with this US-installed government to dismember the Lavalas movement. When I say dismember I mean kill and murder in the streets, shoot unarmed demonstrators. Going into poor neighborhoods...and summarily execute young men they believe were associated with the Lavalas Party. We then find that the United Nations is doing the killing itself in Haiti."

The filmmaker said that he "tried to be a judicious as I could in images of violence. At the end of it I finally decided that no one would ever know that these people existed, that they had lives, that they lived, if not for the fact that they are in this film and that you see them die. But this was the only way I could contribute to their lives and to acknowledge their existence unfortunately was by showing their deaths."

Pina mentioned key personalities in the oppressive apparatus in Haiti. Andy Apaid, who is one of the leaders of the opposition to Aristide and is often refered to as civil society member. He is a large scale business owner who is wealthy as a result of the massive exploitation of Haitian labor. According to Pina, Apaid has been linked to funding gangs in Cite Soliel to kill Lavalas members. Reginald Pulos, who is president of the Chamber of Commerce in Haiti was also mentioned. In addition, Charles Henry Baker, who is also a member of the Group 184, is a major player in the current US-backed regime. He is now a candidate for the president of Haiti.

Pina then made reference to people who have been persecuted by the current regime. Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a Catholic priest, who has fought tirelessly for the rights of the poor. He has a feeding program that provides food for hundreds of children every week. Father Jean-Juste is an ally of President Aristide and an outspoken critic of the current US-installed government of Gerard Latorture. Father Jean-Juste is currently a political prisoner in Haiti. He has been deemed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Lack of recognition of US-installed regime

What was striking about the analysis of the coup against Aristide was that the entire Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which is the 15 nation organization within the region, has refused to recognize the US-installed regime. Also the governments of Cuba and Venezuela have spoken out against the current situation in Haiti and the role of the United States.

In addition, the African Union, the 53-nation community on the continent has also withheld recognition to the Latorture regime. President Thabo Mbeki, who had supported Aristide prior to the coup, has led the campaign in Africa to facilitate his return to Haiti.

President Mbeki was the only head-of-state of a major nation to attend the Haitian 200 year anniversary celebration in January of 2004. Aristide was kidnapped on February 29, 2004 and taken to the Central African Republic. Soon afterwards Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California and Sara Flounders of the International Action Center flew to Bangui, the capital of the CAR, and demanded that he be released. President Bozize of the CAR then released the ousted president and Congresswoman Waters and Ms. Flounders facilitated his re-location to the Republic of South Africa.

Pina estimated that between 7,000-10,000 people have been killed since the February 29, 2004 coup against President Jean Bertrand-Aristide. "No one can challenge me on that figure because no human rights organization has devoted the resources and had the courage to challenge the Haitian government or the United Nations to set up a program where they can take the testimony of the victims and the testimony of the family members who have disappeared. There is no accounting for them. They should open up the offices for birth certificates and find out what happened to the victims of the violence."

"When we talk about political prisoners," Pina continues, " they say there are about 1,000 political detainees, but they are only talking about the capital. I say there are thousands because they do not include the countryside. How difficult would it be for Amnesty to at least take all nine departments and the largest two cities in all nine departments, eighteen cities, and go into all the jails and interview people and see how many people are being persecuted and held in jail for no other reason than their political affiliation. Therefore if you get a fundraising appeal from Amnesty or Human Rights Watch, its garbage, throw it away. Or you can write on it: what about Haiti? And then send it back to them."

"Amnesty has not had a permanent team on the ground in Haiti since the coup," according to Pina. "To me that is unconscionable given the evidence of human rights abuses that have occured."

Haiti Information Project

Kevin Pina is a representative of the Haiti Information Project, which is a grassroots organization based in San Francisco since 1991. The organization is designed to provide independent sources of information on the unfolding situation inside the country. The Haiti Information Project is the producer of the film "Haiti: The Untold Story", which was directed by Kevin Pina.

Pina lives in Haiti and was recently arrested by the government while filming the ransacking of the home of Father Gerard Jean-Juste. He remained in detention for three days and was released after an overwhelming campaign directed against the Latorture regime from supporters of Haitian democracy throughout the world.

He is currently on tour throughout the United States and Canada. His tour took him to Halifax, Windsor and Toronto, Canada. He is planning to go on tour in Europe after leaving North America.

For more information on the Haiti Information Project and the documentary, "Haiti: The Untold Story" just log on to the websites below.

To view the trailor of the documentary just click on:
http://www.teledyol.net/HIP/about.html

For general information on Haiti Information Project click on:
http://www.haitiaction.net/

For information on the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice click on:
http://www.mecawi.org

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