Wednesday, February 2, 2022

New Documentary About the Cuba Embargo

"Frenemies - Cuba and the U.S. Embargo"

"Set to the pulsating beats of Afro-Caribbean music, the feature-length documentary film Frenemies examines the fraught relationship between the island nation of Cuba and the United States. Blending 1950s archival footage with contemporary shots of Cuba's economic decay and vibrant culture, the film paints a vivid portrait of a nation fighting for survival against the world's longest-running embargo. "  

Film trailer click here    

                              Youtube video of zoom here

Zoom discussion with award winning 

Brazilian American filmmaker Mirella Martinelli 

and with 

Dr. Philip Brenner

Emeritus Professor of International Relations and History,   American University

Jorge Quintana

Executive Director, Center for Democracy in the Americas

 Stephanie Burgos

Senior Strategist at Oxfam America 

Paul Johnson

Executive Director, United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba 

Jorge Ignacio Fernandez

President, Hope for Cuba Foundation 

John McAuliff

Executive Director, Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Tuesday, February 8, 4 p.m. ET  

Cosponsored by the Center for Democracy in the Americas

Mirella Martinelli is an Award-Wining Filmmaker, born and raised in Brazil. Living in Sarasota, FL Mirella edited Pool (2016, directed by Leandro Goddinho), which received 33 awards in international film festivals, including Best Foreign Language Short Film at the Orlando Film Festival, the Audience Award for Short Film at the Tampa Bay Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and the jury’s Honorable Mention at the Outshine Film Festival in Miami. Mirella Martinelli received the Sarasota Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota Ringling Tower Fund grant and a Puffin Foundation grant to produce Frenemies. Mirella Martinelli worked as a film professor in Brazil and the United States, where she taught film at Columbia College Chicago and the University of Tampa. Mirella was awarded by American Cinema Editors, and her film Land of the Sea was funded by the Rockefeller and MacArthur Foundations. She worked in the Brazilian film industry for three decades as an editor, screenwriter, director, and producer. Mirella received numerous awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Editor.

Philip Brenner is Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at American University (Washington, DC). He has been engaged in research on Cuba for more than 40 years, and has published widely on U.S./Cuba relations, U.S./Latin American relations, contemporary U.S. foreign policy, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dr. Brenner’s most recent books are Cuba Libre: A 500-Year Quest for Independence (co-authored with Peter Eisner), and Cuba at the Crossroads (co-authored with John Kirk and William LeoGrande). He received his doctorate in political science from Johns Hopkins University and his B.A, in history from Columbia University.


Jorge Quintana has over 20 years of experience practicing law and comes to the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) from eight years of service as the Chief Legal Counsel for Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. Jorge was a longtime leader in the Montana Democratic Party, having represented Montana on the Democratic National Committee from 2010-2021 and from 2016-2020, serving on the DNC Resolutions Committee and as Vice-Chair of the DNC Hispanic Caucus.

As a strong supporter of rapprochement with Cuba, Jorge founded Cuba Connections Corp., a nonprofit dedicated to forming relationships between Montanans and Cubans. The son of Cuban immigrants, Jorge received his B.A. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law.

Stephanie Burgos is a Senior Strategist at Oxfam America, where she works on equitable development issues in Latin America and manages land rights policy and programming. She has worked on US policy issues in Latin America for 40 years, nearly half of that time at Oxfam. An international confederation working to build a future free from the injustice of poverty, Oxfam has been working in Cuba for nearly 30 years to contribute to citizen participation and local development, food security and sovereignty, gender justice and women’s rights, inclusive disaster risk management and humanitarian response. In 2021 Oxfam published “Right to Live Without a Blockade” to show the impact of US sanctions on the daily lives of those in Cuba, women in particular.

Paul Johnson is the Chair of the United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba and partner at FocusCuba. He works closely with the business and political communities to improve trade relations and investment between the United States and Cuba. His focus is on improving agriculture production, trade, investment, and the sustainability of our shared natural resources.  He has traveled to and for extended periods lived in Cuba as a student of its culture, language, history, and commerce. His Masters thesis on Havana's economic development, researched in 1999, sparked interest in doing business in Cuba.

Jorge Ignacio Fernandez is President and CEO of Hope for Cuba Foundation.  He was born in Havana, and has been active in the international corporate arena for over 30 years including extensive worldwide travel. His senior executive corporate posts include material handling, telecommunications, food industries, pharmaceutical and bio organizations both at the Fortune 100 and mid size level companies as well as start ups.  He was Executive Director and Co Founder of Americans for Humanitarian Trade with Cuba formed in 1998.   He has  worked closely with the Catholic Church in Cuba and the US and with the Vatican since 1997.

John McAuliff is the founder and director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.  He seeks to contribute to the full normalization of US relations with Cuba as he did with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  John has visited Cuba sixty-one times since 1971, all but the first visit from 1997.   His program focuses are expanding travel as well as educational and cultural exchange.  He collaborated with the Canadian-Greek Cuba Cruise and partners with Opera de la Calle and the magazine Temas.  A special interest is the role of Irish and Irish Americans in Cuban history and the Celtic links between the traditional music of Ireland and Cubans who immigrated from Asturia and Galicia.  <>


For additional background

"Cuba: The U.S. Embargo After Sixty Years" a webinar presented on January 28 by the National Security Archive and the Washington Office on Latin America with Dr. William M. LeoGrande, Dr. Ricardo Torres Pérez, Gail Reed, and Peter Kornbluh   View it here

"Today marks 60 years of the Cuban embargo. What exactly is it?" by William LeoGrande February 3,2022 Responsible Statecraft

"Sixty years after U.S. embargo, its imprint affects Cubans' daily lives"  by Ed Augustin
Feb. 4, 2022   NBC News

"Cuba Embargoed: U.S. Trade Sanctions Turn Sixty" Compilation of documents by National Security Archive

"The US should use agricultural trade to help Cuba and build lasting economic bridges" by Paul Johnson January 10, 2022 Chicago Tribune


Presented by the Fund for Reconciliation and Development
To make tax deductible donations to support the zoom discussion, click here
For further information, contact



16:27:10 From  John McAuliff : To support the film, donate here
16:31:05 From  Jorge Quintana
16:34:51 From  Stephanie Burgos   Oxfam’s report “Right to Live Without a Blockade”
16:37:14 From  Arnold Trujillo   to   Hosts and panelists : What bothered me about the video is that no one representing the Cuban government explaining why they have such tight control, they are under siege, in a war footing, and are trying to protect the revolution.
16:38:48 From  Jan Strout   to   Hosts and panelists : Could Stephanie share her excellent resources in the presentation?  Thank you.
16:40:03 From  Stephanie Burgos   to   Hosts and panelists : YouTube link to short on Zulu
16:42:26 From  Stephanie Burgos   to   Jan Strout and all panelists : Thanks Jan - did you see the link I shared for our paper and the short video I shared?
16:45:11 From  Jan Strout   to   Hosts and panelists : They haven't appeared in my chat.   I'm involved with the US Women and Cuba Collaboration ( and would love to chat off-line as well.  Thanks
16:48:28 From  Stephanie Burgos : Oxfam’s report “Right to Live Without a Blockade”
16:48:54 From  Stephanie Burgos : Oxfam video on Zulu
16:49:31 From  Stephanie Burgos : Oxfam video on agriculture
16:50:07 From  Mirella Martinelli : For more information on the documentary film “Frenemies - Cuba and the U.S. Embargo”, including upcoming screenings:
16:57:45 From  Michelle Cohen   to   Hosts and panelists : @ Paul Johnson: Greetings from our common friend, Leonel Capote (via Michelle Cohen).
16:58:19 From  VICKI LUNDY-REVELS : Thanks for the update.  Prayers for "Cuba Libre"    Love to see the Obama poster on the wall - I have one too from New York Times travel Show.
16:58:53 From  Kwabena Lumumba   to   Hosts and panelists : Can someone speak to the economic disparity of Black and White Cubans caused by majority White Cuban remittance since the Special Period?
17:00:13 From  Merna Gill   to   Hosts and panelists : Thank you Mirella for your beautiful, informative and timely documentary!!
17:00:39 From  Mirella Martinelli : Thank you, Merna!
17:04:13 From  Emily Tracy   to   Hosts and panelists : Such a good point - it doesn't always have to be about Florida!
17:04:36 From  Mirella Martinelli : If you want to watch the documentary film Frenemies again, visit our website:
17:04:48 From  Mirella Martinelli : You can also send me an email and I will put you on our newsletter (sent out no more than twice a month):
17:05:28 From  lisa valanti   to   Hosts and panelists : Since Cuba has not collapsed despite all the suffering the US has unleashed in Cuba, and the entire world views its threat to the sovereignty of any country, there is more than just apathy or domestic policy, I think now it is Cuba’s success with biotechnology and covid vaccines which Cuba wants to share with the world…the US wants a monopoly on biotech, germ warfare…so much misdirection on the US giving a $#%# about people, human rights, etc.
17:05:34 From  Jorge Quintana he/him @cda_dc   to   Kwabena Lumumba and all panelists : That is an excellent questions and one we have tried to address in our publications.
17:05:43 From  Paul Johnson   to   Hosts and panelists : Leonel  - good to see you here. Great to have a Cuban farmer represented.
17:06:53 From  Jorge Quintana he/him @cda_dc   to   Kwabena Lumumba and all panelists : We agree that the population of Cuban-Americans differs from the population in Cuba and that difference leads to structural and systemic problems.
17:07:17 From  CYNTHIA CARRIS ALONSO   to   Hosts and panelists : It’s not Biden or his staff that does not want to end the embargo, it’s about the mid-term elections and gaining Dems in FL. I think we may see some change after the mid-terms
17:07:38 From  CYNTHIA CARRIS ALONSO   to   Hosts and panelists : Especially if Rubio is dethroned
17:08:08 From  lisa valanti   to   Hosts and panelists : If Cuba could market its biotech it would become rich.
17:08:33 From  Jorge Quintana he/him @cda_dc   to   Kwabena Lumumba and all panelists : That being said, the remedy isn't to get rid of remittances entirely, but to allow donative and commercial remittances that would allow US NGOs and non-profits to invest in communities, like Afro-Cuban and LGBTQ+ communities.
17:09:55 From  Kathryn Hall-Trujillo   to   Hosts and panelists : Thank you for this encouraging conversation.  I am involved with the Cuba-US Medical School Scholarship Program and co-teach US students, policy makers and health and social service providers at ENSAP.
17:14:32 From  Merna Gill   to   Hosts and panelists : Thank you John for hosting. Sorry I have to leave I've another meeting that I need to join. Appreciate all you are doing.
17:22:12 From  CYNTHIA CARRIS ALONSO   to   Hosts and panelists : Thank you, John!
17:22:22 From  Mirella Martinelli :
17:22:46 From  Mirella Martinelli :
17:23:05 From  Sandy Waters   to   Hosts and panelists :
17:24:16 From  Barbara Walker   to   Hosts and panelists : Mirella, please put me on your email list.
17:25:29 From  Denise Villamia : Great Question
17:25:58 From  Mirella Martinelli : yes, Barbara
17:28:18 From  Mirella Martinelli : Embargo impact - example: Filmmaker Miguel Coyula had the money he raised through crowdfunding for his next film, blocked by the embargo
17:28:28 From  Josue Lopez Lozano : Hello
17:29:42 From  Annie Betancourt   to   Hosts and panelists : Hi John, I joined late but I find this conversation very interesting.
17:29:55 From  Teresita Terga   to   Hosts and panelists : Thank you very much! As a Cuban American residing in the midst of sugar country, I am totally against the embargo - and know that once the embargo is lifted disappear the people of Cuba will have a chance!
17:30:19 From  Mirella Martinelli : Thank you, Teresita!
17:34:35 From  Stephanie Burgos : Thank you for raising this important point, Arturo.
17:34:42 From  Cynthia Wright   to   Hosts and panelists : Thanks for these points, Arturo
17:34:51 From  Mirella Martinelli : Why is the U.S. so afraid of communism? Might it be better for the majority than capitalism?
17:36:05 From  Josue Lopez Lozano : Biggest issue of all actually
17:36:19 From  Josue Lopez Lozano : No bank will ever come close to Cuba if Cuba still on that list
17:36:32 From  Tania De La Torre   to   Hosts and panelists : I think the US is also afraid to lose the Goliath image to a David.
17:37:39 From  Mirella Martinelli : Cuba is used as an illustration that “Socialism doesn’t work.” However, it’s not a fair illustration as Cuba has been embargoed for so long.
17:37:46 From  Steve Katz : Communism might be better for the majority (aka the masses), but not for the capitalists that own the U.S. government.
17:38:28 From  CYNTHIA CARRIS ALONSO : If anyone is interested in further conversation, please contact me via the Facebook page for my book: A Taste of Cuba: A Journey Through Cuba and Its Savory Cuisine, Includes 75 Authentic Recipes from the Country’s Top Chefs -
17:39:07 From  Arturo Lopez-Levy : I just want to share a program I host about Latin American issues, with focus on Cuba and USA-Cuba relations. In case you want to see it look here:
17:40:33 From  Mirella Martinelli   to   Josue Lopez Lozano and all panelists : please send your contact
17:41:06 From  Stephanie Burgos : Thank you, Josue, for mentioning the importance of focusing on pressing for Biden to reverse all of the executive orders that Trump put in place. As you said, Biden can do that with a stroke of his pen, and it would make a BIG difference for people in Cuba!
17:41:36 From  Josue Lopez Lozano : Thank you Stephanie
17:41:52 From  Irene Kaufman   to   Hosts and panelists : Thank you for this opportunity to see this excellent film and hear this discussion.  I am in Florida.
17:41:59 From  Josue Lopez Lozano : I met with McGovern today, we had a great meeting.
17:42:24 From  Josue Lopez Lozano : Would love to stay in touch with anyone pushing this policies forward.
17:42:25 From  Mirella Martinelli : Donations for Frenemies if you can:
17:42:52 From  Josue Lopez Lozano : Jorge's point is spot on!
17:43:08 From  Mirella Martinelli : Contact me if you want to continue this “mission”:
17:43:15 From  Irene Kaufman   to   Hosts and panelists : I agree that Biden should use Executive order!  But will do my part as a voter in Florida.
17:45:48 From  Josue Lopez Lozano : I run rooms on The Cuba Clubhouse every once in a while
17:46:10 From  Josue Lopez Lozano :
17:46:16 From  Norman Pearlmutter   to   Hosts and panelists : Also on YouTube, watch the visit of First Lady Jill Biden in Cuba during the Obama thaw.
17:46:18 From  Tania De La Torre   to   Hosts and panelists : Thank you to the panelists for putting this together. En Solidaridad!
17:49:42 From  Emily Tracy   to   Hosts and panelists : Excellent film and excellent discussion!
17:49:56 From  Kwabena Lumumba   to   Hosts and panelists : In the words of MLK, we should shout “Why We Can’t Wait!”
17:50:09 From  Rhonda Villamia : Very insightful & informative.  Thank you John for hosting this, to all the panelists who participated, & to those who asked all the thought-provoking questions. Cuban families have suffered long enough…
17:50:38 From  Mirella Martinelli   to   Kwabena Lumumba and all panelists : yeah, sister!


Q & A

I am curious who the audience is for the film. It is clearly not the solidarity or progressive communities, given that the two main Cuban participants are (relatively) well-known dissidents. Bill Montross

The audience is you, your friends and family. Please spread the word! True progressives do not condone human rights abuse or attacks to civil liberties. Both the US gov and the Cuban gov incur in those. The US embargo against Cuba is itself an act of abuse of human rights. Lifting the embargo shouldn’t be bound to any conditions since it’s not fair in the first place. Cuba never attacked the United States.

If the embargo is ended, how do we know that the Cuban government will not keep goods for themselves??? Anonymous Attendee

There is no question that the Cuban government will try to obtain some of the funds coming to the island. But the government is not corrupt. Historically it has used hard currency earnings to provide food, medicine and education for the Cuban people.

What is the status of the Cuban Trade Act once it was introduced? Gonzalo Lopez

S. 249 (United States-Cuba Trade Act of 2021) was introduced in February 2021. The administration has not supported it, and given its opposition by Sen. Robert Menendez it is effectively dead for this session of Congress.

Are there presently motions in Congress to end or modify the embargo? If YES, what are their numbers and sponsors? Ada Bello

S. 249 (United States-Cuba Trade Act of 2021) was introduced in February 2021. The administration has not supported it, and given its opposition by Sen. Robert Menendez it is effectively dead for this session of Congress.

When do you think the US will realize that the embargo will only leave Cuba vulnerable and if Russia again wants to offer support for Cuba what do you think that will mean for US-Cuba relations? Sandy Waters

The embargo clearly is not a rational instrument of policy to achieve US aims with Cuba. It is rooted in domestic politics. Russia already provides some support for Cuba, but much more support comes from China. The Biden administration seems not to care.

I recall reading that the US Government sends $16 million to Cuba to support "democracy," including the July demonstrations. How does that money get to Cuba? Nicholas Long

The amount appropriated is $20 million. Some of that never gets to Cuba; it is directed to US "consulting firms" some of which create websites in the US available to Cubans for disseminating information. This was the case for the July demonstrations. The website that initiated the demonstrations was based in Miami. For more information, see the blog from Tracey Eation at:

I don't understand why the Biden admininstration doesn't revert back to the Obama administration's Cuba policy Sandy Waters

There is no one in the White House who wants to change the policy. It takes a strong staffer to generate policy changes. Pres. Biden also seems to believe that Democrats can win some seats in Florida this year by maintaining Trump's policy. For additional analysis see:

I don't understand why the Biden administration doesn't revert back to the Obama administration's Cuba policy Sandy Waters

We go back to the Red Scare again… fear of not pleasing part of the electorate who believe that Socialism or Communism is evil and that the US should dictate which political and economic models of other countries

I take exception with: the Cuban government is not corrupt,,, Anonymous Attendee

Should our focus be on improving the lives of the Cuban people and not assuming the only way to accomplish such is by ending the embargo? Given the difficulties of ending the embargo, should we be focused on identifying and exempting those remaining parts of the embargo that impact Cuban citizens? We have dealt with food sales, medicine sales, travel, and remittances to the extent impacted by the Cuban government. Bob Michaels

I have been to Cuba six times between 2003 an 2018, The Cuba I experienced in 2017 and 2018 doesn't look like the Havana portrayed in most of the film. For example in 2018 there was considerable traffic, lots of Chinese yellow cabs and non-Russian cars. Old American cars, prominent in 2003, were a small minority in 2018. What years in Havana are depicted in most, but not all, of the film? Michael Altman

Images in Frenemies were filmed between 2017 and 2019 (besides archival footage in black and white)

If so, what specific items should we deal with exempting the from the embargo? Bob Michaels

We have many reasons to End the Embargo but two big ones are CHINA AND RUSSIA Merna Gill

Will we be able to see the video after this panel is over? I would like to watch it again. Stephanie Jutt

The video is available at:

I mean the Vimeo “Frenemies” but also the panel Stephanie Jutt

If you want to watch the documentary film Frenemies again, visit our website:

You can also send me an email and I will put you on our newsletter (sent out no more than twice a month):

Are there enough Cuban-Americans in Florida to decide and elections? Ada Bello

There’s money in politics and the Cuban-Americans are an important part of the electorate. Not all of them want to keep the embargo either

Why do they only cater to Miami or So. Florida Cuban-Americans?  What about the rest of the Cuban-Americans in the rest of the country?  We don't all live in Miami. Sandy Waters

I agree!  It has always seemed to me that the primary reason that both the democrats and the republicans have supported the blockade is because they think it will help win Florida’s electoral college votes in presidential elections. Certainly it’s never been about caring about the Cuban people. Joel Schwartz

Did you say Barbara Walker Yes:

Thank you. Barbara Walker

"I joined late, but I find this conversation very relevant. Will watch the film later tonight. I’m from Florida and was the Democatic nominee for Congressional District 25 in 2002.  That’s 20 years ago, I ran against Mario Diez Ballart. Annie Betancourt"

Anonymous Attendee Ready to run again?

In answer to Sandy's question, I imagine for the same reason that Florida plays such an outsized role in American politics (think electoral college.) Wendy Sabin

Bob, what specifics things do you see that are causing Cuban problems besides the embargp?  You say there are some, but you don’t say what they are. Dave Langford

Because of the embargo Cuba can't sell their products in the world market - therefore can't take advantage of international trade. Ex: selling Nickel to Japan for car manufacturing, even their rum Ada Bello

John, please ask your cadre of experts to address SPECIFICALLY those items that should be exempted from the embargo. I have only heard generalities. Please remember I am an old time "results oriented" business person. Bob Michaels

Please run again! Norman Pearlmutter

1 comment:

  1. The link to register for the Zoom discussion seems to be broken