HAVANA TIMES — Some 20 former Cuban political prisoners have camped outside of Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for over two months. They are demanding a five-year extension of financial assistance, recognition of their university degrees and free health care coverage – including payments for dental treatment.
They began arriving in 2010 as a result of negotiations between the Spanish government, the Catholic Church and Cuban authorities, which freed all of its prisoners of conscience. Ninety percent of them accepted offers to immigrate to Spain, while a dozen of them decided to stay on the island, where they continue to engage in opposition politics. In total, 115 ex-prisoners and 500 of their relatives traveled to Spain.
The agreement was “evil”
Douglas Falsas, one of the campers, asserted to us that the agreement was “evil.” According to him: “Everything was a hoax and thievery; they had proposed to give us assistance for five years. However, after only one year they cut us off, leaving us utterly helpless.” He added, “Health care assistance was eliminated and the vast majority of us were never covered for our dental or eye-care needs.”
Another one of the problems faced by the Cuban ex-prisoners is the recognition of their university degrees. Dr. Ismel Iglesias has been unable to be accepted as a doctor though he says that he only lacks his transcripts, which the authorities in Havana are refusing to release. “That’s why I’m not being allowed to perform my specialty,” he told us.
Iglesias said: “I’ve taken and passed courses in first aid, as a Red Cross rescue worker in mountain rescue…I’ve put in 200 hours as a volunteer, but no one will hire me to work. They haven’t even let me take a course in nursing.” He added, “We will remain here (camped out) until the agreement with the Spanish government made in Cuba is fulfilled…including the recognition of our degrees.”
Raisa Albizar, the wife of one the released men, said it was impossible for her to get work in Palma de Mallorca and Malaga, and when the government cut off their aid they couldn’t pay their rent any longer. “The European Union allocated 16 million euros, but they only gave us 183 euros a month per person in addition to rent,” she said.
Former political prisoner Luis Campos accuses Cuban president Raul Castro, Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega and former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos of being behind “this well-orchestrated farce.” Nevertheless, he says that he trusts “the US government will consider our case and grant us visas or it will try to mediate with the Spanish government to find a solution.”
Campos says “asking the current Partido Popular government in Spain for jobs when there are five million unemployed people here would be too much, but it can extend our assistance or find ways to send to us to another country like the United States.”
In the meantime, they are planning demonstrations in front of the Foreign Ministry, the Vatican embassy and the Cuban embassy.