When the Motherland is Really a Mother

Madrid has offered Spanish nationality to political prisoners released by the Daniel Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Madrid, 18 February 2023 — There is a rhetorical way of referring to Spain: “The Motherland.” But sometimes that fits reality and is said without hypocrisy. Especially, when it involves some sacrifice and a certain price has been paid. The socialist government of Spain, contradicting its minority partners in the coalition with Podemos, the communists, has offered citizenship to 222 Nicaraguan opponents. The comrades are going nuts.

That’s very good. The offer was made by José Manuel Albares, the Spanish chancellor, and there are 222 European Union passports. If the satrapy formed by Ortega and Murillo, president and vice president, (and also a married couple), planned to leave those who dared to do politics in Nicaragua without nationality, they were meticulously wrong. The Spanish passport opens the door to 27 nations. In addition, they can fly to many places without having a visa.

The Venezuelans are settled in the Salamanca neighborhood of Madrid, a place that doesn’t know trouble judging by the high price per square foot. There are, more or less, 400,000 that have settled in the Kingdom of Spain. There are hundreds of entrepreneurs who benefit from franchises or who create them. Thousands more work as clerks in the stores that serve Venezuelans.

If the flood of Dominicans, Ecuadorians and Peruvians who arrived earlier — there are one and a half million Hispanic Americans living in Spain — was characterized by poverty, with some exceptions, these Venezuelans, the rich and the poor, have skills and modernity in common. Cubans, another substantial source of emigrants, always saw Spanish destiny as a step towards their integration into the United States, which has always made things easy for Cubans.

Spain is correcting numerous mistakes. Passports have been offered to the descendants of the Sephardim (not the English who expelled the Jews in 1209, or the French in 1306). On such a significant date as 1492, from the kingdoms in which they had lived for hundreds of years, they were expelled from Castile and Aragon. A century earlier, in 1391, the popular pogroms occurred in which they killed numerous Jews and burned the Jewish quarters.

It was the classic case of shooting oneself in the foot. Suddenly, the investments dried up and the counselors to the kings of Castile and Aragon by such a distinguished community disappeared, almost in their entirety. It is uncertain how many Jews were affected by the expulsion decrees (there were two edicts), but from March 31 to July 31, 1492, apparently about 100,000 people were expelled, and they had to sell their properties at great discounts during that period. The Catholic Monarchs, while teaching Spanish to the New World, a magnificent gift that unified several hundred pre-Columbian languages and dialects, inadvertently created, with the expulsion of the Sephardim, a very special commercial network in the eastern Mediterranean.

In truth, during the Franco regime, the exiled Cuban students who came to Spain, to finish their careers interrupted by communism, were taken in. But Franco died at the end of 1975, and the exiled Cubans had the same fears as the Spaniards: that all the passions repressed since 1939 would be unleashed. Not in vain, Cuba had been strongly linked to Spain until 1898 and was the last of the American colonies that was emancipated. However, what happened was exemplary and unexpected: a surprising peaceful transition to democracy and freedoms. Certain Cubans, on and off the Island, took note. It was totally possible to break with communism without the experiment crumbling in their hands. In any case, they would have to wait until communism imploded, something that happened between 1989 and 1991.

After the news that the Caudillo had died, events began to accumulate. In 1976, Adolfo Suárez was already head of government, and the Cuban opposition depended, on the Island, on the Spanish diplomat Jorge Orueta, and outside, on Carlos Robles Piquer and his brother-in-law, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, and on his willingness to present a story, El radarista [The Radar Operator] by Commander Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, Hispanic-Cuban, a social democrat and one of the most important leaders of the Revolution.  Eloy had to wait in the harshest of prisons, where he was severely tortured, until Governor Felipe González released him.

Felipe González, who crossed Moncloa with the opposition to Castroism and, at the same time, called Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari and asked him to listen to the opposition — for which Fidel never forgave him — was replaced by José María Aznar after exemplary elections. One of Aznar’s first diplomatic successes was to achieve a common diplomatic position on the Cuban issue within the European Union. The proposal of the “Common Position” was essentially written by Miguel Ángel Cortés in 1996, a deputy and senator for Valladolid within the Popular Party.

Aznar’s two mandates were characterized by a very clear policy against Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. This did not prevent Fidel from calling him on the phone to beg him to intercede for Chávez’s life during the coup in April 2002, which he did. What was not subject to any change was the Common Position, which remained inalterable. Guillermo Gortazar, historian and deputy of Alianza Popular, at the head of the Hispano-Cuban Foundation and the collection of Revista Hispano-Cubana, admirably curated by Grace Piney Roche, gives a good account of this.

The Common Position was supported by the 15 nations that were then part of the EU (today there are 27). It remained until it was not possible to sustain it within the socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. In June 2008, just three months after the elections that had given him a second term, Spain changed its vote. But he could not avoid the contempt of Havana for his insistence on the release from prison of the dissident Raúl Rivero (2005) and his wife Blanca Reyes, a legendary lady for having walked, Sunday after Sunday, with the Damas de Blanco [Ladies in White]. Rodríguez Zapatero defended himself against these accusations on the grounds that he had not granted citizenship to Rivero.

That was before, in the time of Zapatero. Now it’s the turn of the Nicaraguans and Sánchez. With a stroke of the pen, 222 people have been granted citizenship. That’s what a mother does. She comforts and encourages her children not to shrink from adversity.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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