The U.S. State Department website declares: “On January 12, 2021, the Department of State designated Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. The Secretary determined that the Cuban government repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.”
Award-winning Cuban journalist and documentary filmmaker Liz Oliva Fernández says that designation is not only wrong but a “death sentence” for Cuba, a country she believes is continuously misrepresented in American media. Fernández will bring two short films supporting that contention to Berkeley’s La Peña Cultural Center on Nov. 12. The event will also feature a presentation by Fernández, and an opportunity for questions about Cuba today.
Uphill on the Hill “identifies the economic and political interests driving U.S. policy toward Cuba,” according to Belly of the Beast, the organization of journalists and others creating videos and films about Cuba. The film features interviews with diplomats, policy experts, Cuban-American business leaders and elected officials including Rep. Jim McGovern, Democrat from Massachusetts; former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez; and former Congressman Albio Sires, Democrat from New Jersey.
Hardliner on the Hudson is one of a series of videos in The War on Cuba, executive produced by Oliver Stone and Danny Glover. In it, Fernández investigates the “murky past” of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and “reveals how he became the de facto powerbroker for Biden’s Cuba policy.”
Currently on tour throughout the U.S. with the films, Fernández spoke by phone to the East Bay Express. Stereotypes and misinformation conveyed in American media target not only Cuba, she said, “but the entire Global South. They sell the idea that every country is in bad shape” and do not depict the many inspirational stories coming out of these countries, she said.
The tour is Fernández’s second visit to the U.S. During her first, she met with Washington politicians and was very discouraged by their attitudes and responses. “They kept saying, ‘This is not the time’ and ‘please wait,’” she said, as she pressed them to help change U.S. policies toward Cuba affected by the Trump administration but kept in place by the Biden administration. “How long should we wait?” she asked.
But on this second visit, she has been heartened by the response from those attending her events and screenings. “The reception has been incredible,” she said, describing a visit to a high school during which many kids came up to her, asking, “How can we help?”
“I feel hope through these people,” she said.
Fernández especially wants her message to reach young people and Black American dissidents. As a Black Cuban actively fighting for racial justice in her own country, she believes Black Cubans and Black Americans have many things in common. “Black people [in both countries] face many challenges,” she said.
Asked if she feels the anti-Cuba, anti-Communist rhetoric often quoted from Miami’s large Cuban expatriate community can be confusing to mainstream Americans, she said, “If you speak to them, even they do not support the sanctions. The sanctions are the umbrella most Cuban programs are under,” even affecting Cuba’s vaunted healthcare system.
“In Cuba, health care is considered a human right for all citizens … Cuba’s health policy emphasizes prevention, primary care, services in the community and the active participation of citizens. These emphases have produced an impressively high ranking on major health indicators, despite economic handicaps,” U.S. National Library of Medicine website PubMed states. But “this embargo has raised the cost of medical supplies and food,” according to the National Institute of Health.
Find out more at the La Peña event, which is sponsored by the Bay Area Cuba Solidarity Network; Venceremos Brigade, Bay Area; and the Richmond-Regla Cuba Friendship Committee.
Uphill on the Hill/Hardliner on the Hudson from The War on Cuba, plus a presentation by journalist/filmmaker Liz Oliva Fernández, Nov. 12, 4pm, La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Tickets: bit.ly/lizoliva2023. More info at: [email protected]