HAVANA TIMES, April 12 — “My name is Barbara Dueñas. I’m one of the relatives of the former Cuban political prisoners who arrived in Spain in August 2010. I’m the ex-wife of Marcelo Cano, from the “Group of 75” [imprisoned in 2003]. I live in Tarragona and I’m alone with my daughter. Since February 19, I haven’t received any assistance and I don’t know what to do.”
Barbara’s letter appeared in en Periodistas en Español, where she says: “There hasn’t been one day that I haven’t cried since I came to this country. I feel like a helpless prey. I’m sick, both me and my daughter. Now, Social Services want to take my daughter away from me for not being able to maintain her.”
Almost at the same time, we learned of the suicide in Palmas de Gran Canarias [Canary Islands] of Albert Santiago Du Bouchet, who was a dissident Cuban journalist and a former political prisoner exiled in Spain since he was released in Cuba last year.
The crash could be seen coming. A year ago, walking around Madrid, I met some of those who had been released. They asked me to do a report revealing the appalling living conditions which they were suffering under the government of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).
Months later, another colleague published an article about a group of dissidents who camped outside of Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protest the government-run shelter that had kicked them out, accusing them of rowdiness.
In the Plaza Sol, the then recently released dissident Orlando Fundora explained that they had conflicts with the PSOE because “our ally is the [conservative] People’s Party (Partido Popular or PP).” That’s why I was so surprised that the now PP government of Mariano Rajoy would cut off their financial assistance.
They didn’t expect such a position from a right-wing government and now they are truly angry. “I didn’t leave one dictatorship to get mixed up with another one,” said dissident Randol Roca who arrived in Spain a year ago.
He told a reporter, “I want freedom,” though actually he wasn’t protesting any restrictions on their ability to speak, assemble or associate. Rather, he was upset over a cut in aid of $117 (US) that they each received at the beginning of every season to buy new clothes.
According to EFE, the socialist government had created an 18-month transitional assistance plan to support the released Cubans, giving each family 700 euros a month for rent and providing each household member with 180 euros, for a total allocation that reached a considerable sum.
Authorities explain that the period of assistance simply ran out, though Roca suspects they’re stealing his check. “My Lord, where’s the money for political refugees in Spain?” he asked, but then he responded by saying, “It’s being diverted somewhere.”
“We left Cuba with nothing, and on the plane that brought us to Spain they promised us a place to live and work,” said Roca, but he claims that now nearly all of the released prisoners and their families — around 700 people — are unemployed.
Some of them left for the US, but things there aren’t much better. A recent report done in Miami showed the mother of Orlando Zapata (who died on a hunger strike) mopping floors to survive.
In addition, Washington is reluctant to grant visas to the released prisoners and their families. So far these have only been obtained by the “Group of 75.” The rest were denied political refugee status because they live in Spain, where no one is persecuting them.
For the US, political asylum doesn’t even fit the case of the dissident Carlos Martinez, who is awaiting trial in a Malaga jail cell as the result of a street brawl. Previously, he had spent 10 years in prison in Cuba, explained his wife Marcia.
She is a woman who seems desperate. She says she cries every day and is starting to suffer a nervous condition. No wonder, her government assistance has been cut, she’s unemployed, lives in a house where “there are mice and cockroaches,” and her husband is back behind bars.
Marcia is demanding a visa for the US, where she thinks that things would go better for her. However if Washington doesn’t yield, she’ll ask for authorization from Havana to return to live on the island, “We, the family members, should be able to return to Cuba.”
Ricardo Gonzalez, another dissident in exile in Spain, summed it all up saying that the frustration of those who were released is due to the gap between the expectations they had when leaving Cuba and the reality they found once they arrived in Spain.
“I dreamed I would be here, from when I was in a crowded prison. I dreamed I would see myself in a more flattering condition,” wrote the Spanish writer Calderon de la Barca, who concluded by recalling, “Every life is a dream, and dreams, are dreams.”
An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.