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More dissidents arrive in Spain


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More dissidents arrive in Spain

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MADRID – As two more Cuban dissidents flew into Spain, the seven who preceded them rejoiced yesterday in their newfound freedom despite an uncertain future in a nation mired in Europe’s debt crisis.Some of the Cubans still appeared dazed after arriving with just a few suitcases, or in one case, with no change of clothes. They were accompanied by wives, children and some older parents, part of 52 activists being released in stages by the Cuban government after being imprisoned in a 2003 crackdown. In all, 20 are expected to land in Spain.Lester Gonzalez didn’t sleep at all during his first night out of a Cuban prison, saying that being in a modest Madrid hotel was so disorienting that he felt “like I’m in a place where I’m dreaming.”“We have to learn to live in freedom,” added Julio Cesar Galvez, a 66-year-old journalist.The two who arrived yesterday, Normando Hernandez and Omar Rodriguez, were whisked away from Madrid’s airport along with ten family members to the hotel where their compatriots were staying. An tear-filled reunion played out at the hotel as Hernandez saw his mother, Blanca Gonzalez, after eight years of separation.“I have not seen my son since I left Cuba,” said Gonzalez, who flew into Madrid from Miami. “I am very tense, very nervous, very emotional.”
Mixed emotionsDespite mixed emotions over losing their homeland and embracing a new country, the other seven men were beaming as they went for a stroll around the city and saw that their arrival Tuesday was front-page news.Pablo Pacheco fulfilled a lifetime dream by seeing the massive stadium where the Real Madrid football team play, and said Yankee Stadium in New York was next on his list.But with a brother still imprisoned in Cuba, the 40-year-old journalist said he could not celebrate yet. And he doesn’t plan to apply for residency in the United States, even though his mother and two brothers live in southern Florida, because he believes his 2002 application for political refuge in the United States landed him in prison.“The US government denied it and then the Cuban government gave me a 20-year prison sentence,” Pacheco said. “I don’t have anything against the United States, but that is the reality and it means a lot.”The Spanish government is assisting them, but finding jobs may be tough for the dissidents — most of them journalists. Spain has been struggling with 20 per cent unemployment after a two-year recession and its journalism industry has seen many layoffs and hiring freezes. (AP)

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