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Czechs back Cuban exiles' goals
Miami Herald ^ | July 11, 2003 | BY ELAINE DE VALLE

Posted on 07/11/2003 12:38:45 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife

Leaders of the Czech Republic will meet with Cuban exiles in Miami next weekend to explore ways of cooperating in seeking the release of political prisoners and bringing democratic reforms to Cuba.

Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda will meet with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington on Monday, said Martin Palous, Czech ambassador to the United States.

They will fly to Miami on July 19 for a 24-hour visit that will include a cultural event at Bongos Cuban Café, breakfast with Czech consuls from around the country and a dinner at which the honorary consul in Miami, Alan Becker, will be promoted to honorary consul general.

But the talks with exile leaders -- whom Palous described as ''a limited number'' from a ''wide spectrum'' -- is a key purpose of the trip. A preliminary itinerary has the two ministers joining Cuban Americans on a short yacht cruise before meeting a group of former political prisoners on Fisher Island.

''The message is that there is European support for democratic reforms in Cuba,'' Palous told The Herald this week. ``We have a slogan that characterizes what we want to achieve: Everybody on the same boat.''

The Cuban government's crackdown on dissidents, and the recent summary trials and long sentences given to 74 journalists, librarians and human rights activists have swayed public opinion in Europe, providing an opportunity the exile community should seize, he said.

''You have much more open criticism against Fidel Castro,'' Palous said. ``Finally, in Europe, we have prevailing opinion that there is no justification for that. Now is the time to internationalize a policy toward Cuba.''

Joe Garcia, executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation -- which will be represented at the meeting -- said the Czechs have the history and perspective to get the audience's attention.

''You don't have to explain what communism and totalitarianism are to these people. They lived it,'' Garcia said.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Cuba; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: communism

1 posted on 07/11/2003 12:38:45 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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