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Cuban retirees, fleeced by the State on the island and after emigrating

The coordinator of a citizen platform that demands the right to a dignified retirement talked to DIARIO DE CUBA.

Ilustration. Diario de Cuba

The State pays workers who retire in Cuba pensions that are not enough to cover their needs, condemning them to become a burden for their families, who are burdened, in turn, by the inflation that devours their wages. Those who leave the country after retirement are also condemned to depend on relatives abroad who take them in, even if they have worked more than half of their lives on the island. Leaving Cuba definitively effectively means losing your right to collect retirement, even after years of work.

Many Cubans are not aware how they are being defrauded until they meet emigrants from other countries who collect their pensions, and, when they retire, do not lose the rights they accrued during the years they worked in their countries.

Cubans living in Spain have joined a citizen platform with more than 9,000 members to demand their right to a dignified retirement. One of its coordinators talked to DIARIO DE CUBA about the steps they have taken and the responses they have received from the Cuban authorities. He also explained the demand to the Cuban State, even though pensions on the island are currently equivalent to about five euros per month, and could shrink even more.

"At the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 several claims were filed, mainly by individuals, through letters to the Social Security Ministry. Meanwhile, the initiative had been organized through to collect signatures, for (the Government of) Cuba to sign the Ibero-American Multilateral Agreement on Social Security so that Cubans living in Spain could benefit," explained Antonio Moya, who joined the initiative after hearing, on a Cuban music station, an interview with an emigrant from the island who lives in Barcelona and recounted her situation.

"She couldn't apply for retirement benefits because her years worked in Cuba weren't recognized," he said of his compatriot, who is a member of the group of Cubans who are demanding from Havana their right to receive retirement benefits based on the number of years they worked. "That's what spurred me to start communicating with her and other interested Cubans, and that's how I started to be part of the group."

"As of April 2017, the citizen platform Cubanos en España por una Jubilación Digna (Cubans in Spain for a Dignified Retirement)appeared. The Facebook group has more than 9,000 members, and there are more than 3,000 Cubans who signed the petition supporting the agreement delivered to the Cuban authorities," said Moya.

The platform's only request is for the Government to sign the Ibero-American Multilateral Social Security Agreement so that emigrants can receive the benefits that it entails.

"The agreement entails the aggregation of the contribution periods, which aims to prevent social security rights from being lost or diminished because one has contributed in multiple states," Antonio explains.

"And the agreement states that the contribution periods may be combined. This is a significant point. And there is a second point: the pro rata rule, which means that the years are added together to determine one's type of pension, but each state pays the proportional part of it, which corresponds to the contributions accredited in that state. This means that a Cuban worker who arrives in Spain and, for X reasons, does not manage to pay in for 15 years or more (the number of years required to be entitled to a contributory pension), if there is an agreement they can add the years they worked in Cuba and apply for a contributory pension. That's the big advantage."

"One of the rights that Cubans lose when they emigrate is retirement, or the proportional part of it. Countries that take away that right from their citizens are unseemly. That's where the problem starts. The Cuban regime deprives us of a legitimate right. That's called swindling a worker."

Many may think that it makes no sense to demand a paltry retirement benefit of just five euros. Muñoz insists that it does, even if the goal is that tiny pension. In reality, there is much more at stake for Cubans.

"Ten minutes after joining this initiative, I knew that we couldn't count on the Cuban contribution to our retirement. That's not the point. But if the Cuban regime has to pay me five euros a month, because that is their calculation, with Cuba's miserable economy today, those five euros are still mine," said the emigrant.

"It's a question of human dignity; you don't have the right to steal even five euros from me, which is what is happening. You're taking away a right from me."

"Currently, a Cuban worker, without the agreement being signed, even if he works 13 or 14 years in Spain, and contributes significant amounts during all those years, has practically no right to anything. He would receive a non-contributory pension that could range from 450 euros to 500 or 600, at most. If that person has children in Spain who work, they aren't entitled to that social benefit," he clarified.

"With the signing of the bilateral agreement —(the Government of) Cuba is not in a position to sign a multilateral agreement —the years worked in Cuba are recognized and (people) can apply for a contributory pension. That can translate into 800 euros."

"I was sure that the Cuban regime was going to look for some way. It had leeway to do so, for the agreement to be signed. Not the multilateral one, but the bilateral one, to find a way to solve the problem we have in Spain, " Antonio said.

"I was certainly wrong," he admitted. "For me, July 11 (2021) meant a radical change, being part of this group of the platform. If we start to analyze it, this is just one of the many ways in which the Cuban people are violated. Even if we are abroad, we form part of the Cuban people. That's the reason to fight for this right, not only for the quantitative part."

Regarding the Government of Cuba's justification for not signing the agreement, Moya says that only one meeting was held with the Cuban ambassador. "I think it was December 26, 2018."

At that meeting, they were told that the Government had not decided to sign because there were some technical difficulties regarding the Spanish Government's proposal.

"I would say technical limitations on their part, and also in terms of liquidity. They didn't make it very clear, but the Cuban Government has no economic capacity whatsoever to do such a thing. They said that their attitude was one of dialogue, but it's been like a dialogue with someone who is deaf," explained Moya.

"After the collection of more than 3,000 signatures in Spain, the books were delivered to the ANPP in Cuba, to the Royal House, the Spanish Government, the office of the Ibero-American Summits, the Ibero-American Social Security Organization (OISS) and the Vatican," said this coordinator of the citizen platform, for whom the Nation and Emigration Conference held by the regime in November 2023, and attended by just over 400 emigrants (a figure that does not represent the millions of Cubans forming the diaspora) was "a farce."

Moya told DIARIO DE CUBA that the platform will hold a national conference this year. "Probably in July," he noted. However, he believes that it is also necessary to take to the streets. 

"We have to try to undertake physical actions in the streets," says this emigrant, convinced that these are those that most concern the Government of Cuba.

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