Dozens protest Cuba documentary screened at Tampa Theatre

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Dozens of people showed up outside the Tampa Theatre Saturday afternoon to protest a controversial documentary.

The documentary, “Frenemies: Cuba and the U.S. Embargo,” deals with the U.S. Embargo against Cuba. It tells the story of the close yet conflicted relations between the United States and Cuba from the 1950s to now. “Frenemies” raises tough questions about the actions of both the US and Cuban governments with a focus on the US Embargo against Cuba.  

The protestors, who were Cuban Americans, believe the documentary is one-sided.

Julissa Orama was one of several people outside the Tampa Theatre Saturday. Many of her family members are still in Cuba. She says the filmmaker didn’t get enough opinions.

“They got the opinions of Cuban people who are pro-communism, they didn’t get the people who are suffering and dying in the street,” Orama said. “If they’re telling us take off the embargo that means we’re wiping the slate clean of a dictatorship. We’re going to fight for Tampa to not allow brainwashing in our backyard.”

Mirella Martinelli is the director and producer of the documentary. She says she invited protestors to watch, stressing that it’s not one-sided.

“People are protesting a film they have not seen,” Martinelli said. “People are not willing to talk and discuss. If we don’t engage in conversation we won’t get out of this gridlock.”

“It’s much better to lift the embargo. These people are complaining there are no human rights in Cuba but the embargo is a violation of human rights,” Martinelli added.

Following the screening of the film, two former U.S. Congressional candidates held a debate on the issue of the U.S. Embargo.

Albert Fox Jr. has long advocated lifting the embargo and believes things were headed in that direction until former President Donald Trump was elected.

“What Donald Trump and his administration did was beyond immoral to squeeze that country and make the people suffer,” Fox said.

E.J. Otero spent his career as a military intelligence officer and does not believe the embargo should be lifted.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of our two countries getting along. I think it’s a matter of the Cuban government deciding that it’s time to go. There is no negotiation on that. You have the same Cuban government that you had in 1959,” said Otero.

The documentary is playing at the United Nations Association film festival at Stanford University at the end of this month.

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