The New York Times on the Cuban prisoners of conscience forcibly exiled to Spain two years ago after the Spanish government and the Cuban Catholic Church helped the Castro dictatorship rid itself of over 100 dissidents:
Exiled Cubans Living in Spain Feel Abandoned as Benefits Dry Up
MADRID — Afternegotiated their freedom from prison nearly two years ago, 115 Cuban dissidents landed here expressing gratitude for the chance to start anew in a country that seemed full of promise. Spaniards, too, were proud of what many considered to be a diplomatic masterstroke and a sign that Spain had taken its place as a player on the global stage alongside its larger European Union counterparts and even the United States.
Fast-forward and today many of the same Cubans are protesting again — this time, over the precarious living conditions in their adopted country, a lack of jobs and their loss of subsidies from a now cash-strapped Spanish government. One, Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, grew so despondent about his circumstances, according to his wife and friends, that he committed suicide in April.
The turnaround has proved an embarrassment for Spain, and underscored its profound and sudden transformation from what once seemed a land of opportunity to one of Europe’s worst economies, as the country slogs through a banking crisis and recession and as it struggles to avert a Greek-style bailout.
In particular, the Cubans, who were transplanted along with 647 of their relatives, have become the most prominent example of the hardships of the more than 5 million migrants — 11 percent of the population — who arrived during Spain’s decade-long boom but now stand on the front line of its economic crisis.
Some of the Cubans have held protests in downtown Madrid, as well as in other cities like Málaga, to demand that their government support payments be extended, and critics and opponents of the government have accused it of abandoning the former dissidents.
“As newcomers to a country that has now over 5 million unemployed, it’s hard to generate any sympathy here,” said Ricardo González Alfonso, a Cuban journalist who was among the first of the former dissidents to land in Madrid. “But our situation is desperate and I don’t know how I will be feeding myself and my family beyond this month.”
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