For many, the answer to the question would you rather rot in a Cuban political prison or struggle to survive in Spain has an obvious answer. Almost anything is better than rotting in one of the Castro dictatorship’s putrid gulags. But for more than 100 Cuban political prisoners, the question is far from fair. You see, neither they nor their family members were asked this question or given a choice in the matter. In a sinister plot concocted by the Castro regime, the Spanish government, and Cuba’s Catholic Church, more than 700 Cubans were simply packed up and permanently kicked out of their country without any choice or say in a decision that would profoundly affect them for the rest of their lives.
Today, these Cubans are desperately struggling to survive as second-class citizens in Spain. They cannot return home, they cannot afford to go anywhere else, and they are alone without a country and with very little if any hope.
That is the net product of the vile machinations of the Castro regime, made all the more despicable by the help they received from the Spanish government and the Catholic Church to implement and carry out this sinister plan .
700 Cuban refugees taken in by Spain are now struggling to get by
After 23 years, seven months and 11 days, Arturo Suarez was considered the longest-serving political prisoner in Cuba. His first sentence came in the 1980s for painting anti-Castro messages on walls; his last, of 30 years, was handed down after he hijacked a plane in a bid to flee the island.
From his cell, Suarez became a reputed defender of human rights who detailed the abuses suffered by prisoners in the regime’s prisons. In 1998, Pope John Paul II asked that Suarez – who is the son of one of the Ladies in White, the all-female opposition movement made up of wives and other relatives of jailed dissidents – be released.
He eventually was, under an agreement between Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist Party (PSOE) government and Cuba, brokered through the Catholic Church. In 2010 and 2011, 115 prisoners and 650 family members were released into Spanish custody. The work of then-Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and the cardinal of Havana, Jaime Ortega, was hailed as a victory for diplomacy and human rights. The freed prisoners landed in Spain to a wall of camera flashes.
Negative side of humanitarian action
Three years on, however, and the outcome of the operation is a metaphor for the negative side of humanitarian action: good intentions, deficient planning, too many unforeseen factors and few resources. The eviction of Gilberto Martinez in Alicante on May 7 has placed the Cuban dissidents in the spotlight once again. Martinez, who says he was sentenced to three years for “making friends with opposition members,” could not pay his rent after his state benefit of 595 euros and 400 euros from the Red Cross were both withdrawn. “They brought us to Spain deceitfully; they promised us work, a home and aid, but we have nothing,” he says.
His children, aged eight, 15 and 22, live with another Cuban family who are facing eviction on May 26. “If they had told me in Cuba about the crisis Spain is going through, I would have stayed there,” Martinez adds.
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