14ymedio, Havana, 15 October 2022 — Lázaro Luis Pons Pérez, a Cuban who has lived in Navarra for ten years, took to the streets of Pamplona on October 12 with the Spanish flag draped around his shoulders.
In the center of the city, a group of left-wing Basque nationalists, or abertzales, protested against the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Day. When they saw Pons with the Spanish flag, they began to insult him: “N__, go back to your country, you can’t be here: this isn’t Spain.” Pons remained firm and serene.
“I didn’t go out to provoke anyone,” says the man, interviewed by 14ymedio. “Above all, I am Cuban,” he clarified over the phone, “but I have the right to walk the streets with the flag of this country, which I also feel I’m a part of.”
The abertzales tried to snatch the flag from him to burn it, since one of the postulates of their ideology is independence from Spain. One of them approached Pons and spit at him. He spat back and then they tried to hit him.
“They started yelling ‘take the flag away from him!’ and ‘let’s kill him!’, says Pons, who had to dodge the punches and did not attack any of them. The nationalists did not dare to confront him directly, they cornered him in a group and jumped close to him without being able to snatch his flag.
At the same time, one of the demonstrators approached a Navarra Television cameraman, who was recording the scene, and broke his camera. The video, however, was able to be broadcast on the local network.
“I know them,” he says, “it’s not the first time I’ve seen them.” Pons is the founder of the Cuban Association in Navarra (Acuna) and it is common for nationalists to try to sabotage their demonstrations and make their appearance shouting slogans in favor of the Revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
“The best thing in the world is respect,” he points out, “In this country, everyone chooses their own ideology. There is freedom to think and act for oneself. I respect them, even if I don’t agree with them and even if, to the contrary, they are true instigators.”
The assailants dispersed and Pons returned to his house to avoid another confrontation. “If nothing in Cuba prevented me from saying ‘Down with Fidel!’ Now I’m not going to shut up because of them,” he assures.
For Pons, celebrating Columbus Day is remembering Cuba’s links with the country that welcomed him in exile. In addition, the date also evokes, due to its proximity to Cuban Independence Day, the date Carlos Manuel de Céspedes freed his slaves and invited them to fight for freedom.
“It is the same freedom that I have now achieved in Spain,” says the man, who worked as a teacher at the School of Sports Initiation (EIDE) and at the Higher Institute of Advanced Athletic Training (ESPA) in Villa Clara.
“When the 11J protests took place, a group of Cubans met spontaneously in Pamplona. Ever since that moment we knew we should create an association”
He is still capable of reciting Santa Clara streets and locating his old neighborhood accurately, near Cardiocentro, not far from Parque Vidal.
He emigrated thanks to his marriage to a Spanish citizen with whom he fell in love in Cuba. “My wife supports me and defends our cause. She is Spanish and Navarrese, but she is also very Cuban,” he says.
“When the 11J protests took place, a group of Cubans met spontaneously in Pamplona. Many journalists interviewed us about what was happening in Cuba. Ever since that moment, we knew we had to create an association.”
This is how Acuna was born, of which Pons turned out to be vice president. Its objectives are to help Cuban political prisoners with food, money and whatever can be sent to their families. In addition, they welcome recent emigrants to look for jobs, food and lodging in Navarra.
Cubans state that violence only begets more violent actions, but that it may be Cuba’s only alternative at this point. “You have to fight in the streets,” he says, “and unfortunately, it won’t be peaceful. The streets are the only way: until they hand over power.”
Concerned about the infiltration of Cuban State Security agents in Spain, Pons also denounces that many companies launder money from the Island’s dictatorship in Europe. “There is a lot of complicity: those spies would never have entered en masse if it weren’t for the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez,” he says.
Cuban diplomacy promotes reactions and attacks such as that of the abertzales – frequently extolled by the Cuban official press – in Pamplona, says Pons. “When we managed to get the Navarra government to cancel some aid it had for the regime, the consul himself told me to forget about going to Cuba.”
“Why should I want to go?” says Pons, whose mother died last year and who has little family left in Santa Clara. “When I went to see her, three years ago, I visited many friends. They all had resigned and sad faces. I came back and told my wife: I’m not going anymore.”
Pons’s work does not stop. The racist and xenophobic aggression of the Basque nationalists has given more visibility to exiles from Cuba and demonstrates, for mankind, the intolerance that characterizes the Spanish radical left: the same one that finances the Cuban regime with public funds.
There is another sector: the one that has a romantic vision of the Revolution. “One has to explain history in detail to those, because they think that Cubans are protesting against the ‘blockade’.”
“We are alone,” laments Pons, commenting on the complicity of many governments with the Cuban regime. “I always tell my colleagues in Cuba not to expect anything from the European Union or the United States, that they could have supported Cuban democracy a long time ago and they don’t because they just don’t feel like it.”
“It is important to clarify that I have no ties to any political party here or anywhere. My association is one: Acuna,” he says, since several political representatives have contacted him since October 12 asking about him and asking what they can do for Cuba.
“I don’t want anything,” he says, “only that those who do it, stop sending money to Díaz-Canel. We alone have to walk the path to freedom.”
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