By Juan Carlos Pereyra for Progreso Weekly
HAVANA TIMES – If someone had told Cuban dissident Gilberto Martínez what would happen to him in Spain, he wouldn’t have believed it. He might have chalked the prediction to Castroite propaganda.
On May 7, Spanish police evicted Martínez, 50, from the house in Alicante where he lived with his wife and three children.
Martínez is one of 115 Cuban oppositionists who left prison and resettled in Spain beginning in July 2010, along with more than 600 relatives, thanks to an accord between the governments of Cuba and Spain mediated by the Catholic Church, after talks with the Ladies in White.
A reporter from the Spanish daily El País quoted a weeping Martínez as pleading, “All I ask now is that you send me back to Cuba.”
After almost three years in Spain, Martínez has not found work – his age and lack of technical training militate against him – and survived only because of the 995 euros a month that he received from the Red Cross and the Spanish government. Not enough for a family of five.
“Now we receive no aid of any kind,” the Cuban émigré told El País, adding that “if I had been told in Cuba what’s happening in Spain, I would have stayed home.” Other prisoners chose to remain on the island after their release and resumed their political stances. Their departure was not obligatory.
The process of release began when the Cuban ecclesiastical authorities asked the prisoners, one by one, for their decision. That decision was doublechecked by Spanish diplomats at Havana Airport, where they asked each freed prisoner if he and his family were traveling to Spain willingly or if they had been pressured to leave. There is no record that anyone mentioned preconditions.
But all that is water under the bridge. Today, Martínez and his family see how their status as persons has been reduced to more numbers added to the list of evicted tenants, which last year numbered 32,500, most of them Spanish citizens.
Martínez and the other thousands are people with rights, among them the right to a roof over the heads. Isn’t that right?
“They brought us over under false pretenses. We’re on the street. We’ve gone from one place to another. The truth is that the politicians take care only of themselves and fix nothing,” Martínez said, faced with reality. He blamed the change of government in Spain for the cutoff of aid.
The political parties are not the problem. The problem is a deep crisis that can be attributed to all institutions, a systemic crisis where – as on the Titanic – the first-class passengers are privileged enough to save themselves in a reduced number of boats. That thing about the 1-percenters and the 99-percenters is not a slogan. It’s the stark truth.
“Save the banks and the financiers. Throw the others on the effing street,” a resident of Madrid told this correspondent while sitting in a park bench on San Bernardo Avenue.
When I told him the plight of the Cubans, he told me about the woman who months ago jumped off her apartment window. He also told me about the thousands of people who, unable to pay their mortgages, lose everything they’ve invested into their homes. The banks repossess the homes and the former owners, now penniless, are left without any credit in a world that moves on plastic cards.
“That’s how globalization works,” my interlocutor said. But the crux is not globalization; it’s how it’s handled and who handle it.
The phenomenon of evictions has led to the creation of an organization calling itself Stop the Evictions, which has come to Martínez’s defense, confronting the police with shouts and denunciations in the Alicante neighborhood where the Cuban family lived.
When the police carried out the eviction, Cuban compatriots and Spanish citizens, members of Stop the Evictions, challenged the police officers. Three of the demonstrators – two men and one woman, all Cuban – were arrested, taken to court and tried for contempt of authority and resisting arrest. They were sentenced to two years’ probation.
What roof will shelter this family of compatriots? Where can they find work in a country where more than 6 million people are unemployed, a figure that represents 27.2 percent of the workforce? To what country in human-rights-minded Europe can Martínez go to find work so he can feed and shelter his family?
The unemployment rate in the eurozone is 12.1 percent, a figure that represents a considerable potential for dissidence.