Sunday, July 18, 2010

Welcome to Spain, Suckers...

Carlos Eire, Yale University professor, Cuban exile and award winning author wrote this for Babalú readers which offers an excellent summary of what the former Cuban prisoners of conscience are now experiencing and calls us to action to keep them together and improve their conditions. It is being reproduced here in an effort to get the word out.

By Carlos Eire

When it comes to news from Castrolandia, which always stinks to high heaven, the deeper one digs beneath the surface, the worse the stench becomes. In the case of the recently released prisoners, the rottenness of the deal struck by Raul Castro and Miguel Angel de Moratinos and the stench generated by it, have reached toxic levels, enough to qualify as poison gas.

The Spanish newspaper ABC has revealed in a recent string of articles that the ex-prisoners are being harassed in a number of ways, almost as if the hand of the Castro regime were still pulling the strings. None of this information has surfaced yet in English-language reports.

The most significant points are these:

  1. The Spanish government has lodged the released prisoners on the outskirts of Madrid, in Vallecas, at the very remote and prison-like Welcome Hostel, which Spanish authorities use as a shelter for illegal aliens.Their isolation is easy to detect on Google Maps, which allows you to view the entire neighborhood at street level. It is a largely industrial area, and the hostel is completely surrounded by warehouses, other large industrial buildings, and vacant lots. Getting back and forth from this remote location is extremely difficult. In one of the articles, one of the wives complains about how isolated they are. Central Madrid is full of cheap hostels which cost less than the one they've been sent to. (Rooms rates at the Welcome Hostel)Come to think of it, this is double exile — not in Cuba, not really in Madrid either.
  2. The hostel at Vallecas has no private bathrooms. One of the prisoners is suffering from chronic diarrhea and has to use the bathroom constantly. He had this to say: “I don’t have the privacy that I need after being tortured for seven years in Castro’s prisons… It is very hard for me to share a collective bathroom with others, given my illness… We are not asking for a five-star hotel, only for something that meets our most basic needs.”
  3. Even though the ex-prisoners have begged to remain together, the Spanish government is hell-bent on splitting them up, claiming that they don't have enough resources in Madrid to take care of them.

    Some will be sent to Valencia, others to Malaga. And you can bet they will not lodge them in a central location. At Malaga, they will be housed at a shelter for illegal African immigrants. In Valencia, they will also be housed at a public shelter (centro de acogida). Julio César Galvez, one of the prisoners, had this to say: “All of us want to stay together, but I have no say about my own fate here in Spain. I am in a prison without bars.”

  4. The Spanish government has only committed to offering aid to the prisoners for 24 months. Spain has unemployment rates of over 20%. Buena suerte ...adiós.
  5. The ex-prisoners are painfully aware of the fact that they are in a “legal limbo” of sorts, since the Minister of Exterior Affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos has classified them as “immigrants” rather than refugees. Yesterday, July 15, they asked at a news conference to be treated with more dignity. One of them, Ricardo González, said : “It is obvious that we are not criminals and that we didn’t come here because of poor economic conditions in our country; we are being persecuted for our ideas.”Another ex-prisoner, Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, said: “If the Zapatero administration has agreed to receive us in Spain, I think that they should at least have the decency of granting us the status and the living conditions that we deserve.”

So, things are really far from hunky-dory. All of these items indicate that the Spanish authorities are complicit in a very heavy-handed attempt to dilute their presence and their impact abroad, and to demoralize them and keep them out of the public eye.

Carlos Herrero at ABC apologizes to the ex-prisoners for the deal struck between Moratinos and Castrolandia, and for the way in which they have been forced into exile. Herrero points out that none of the leading lights of the Left in Spain have come forward to greet the ex-prisoners, even though they are always grandstanding about “prisoners of conscience” elsewhere. He sums up the whole deal by saying: “Welcome to Spain, anyway, and enjoy the sacred right of freedom. Our government is full of cretins, but here, at least, you can’t be thrown in jail for saying that.”

This information needs to be broadcast far and wide.

And... an international campaign needs to be mounted so the freed prisoners can all stay together.



  1. Is there any way I can trace someone who left Cuba at the time of the revolution and went to Spain, and thence to Rome? She's now in Miami, but I only have her married name of Sonia Leoni, from when I knew her in Rome. Thanks. Gail

  2. I imagine you've already tried this but you could try searching the white pages in Miami, FL online to see if she's here under that name. Another tact would be to track down her maiden name assuming that Leoni is Italian and that she was married in Rome, or reach out to her husband's family. Sorry I can't be of more help.