Cuba accuses 2 Czechs of trying to destabilize state
BY YVES COLON
The dispute between Cuba and the Czech Republic
heated up Wednesday with new accusations by the
Cuban government that Czech officials were conspiring
to undermine the Cuban regime.
At the same time, the Czech Republic won important
support in Europe as the head of the European
Parliament demanded in a letter that President Fidel
Castro immediately release two Czech citizens the Cuban officials have accused
Lord Russell-Johnston protested against the alleged reasons for
the detention of
Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, whose arrest Jan. 12 has created an increasingly
strident international dispute. He also protested against the conditions in which
they are being kept.
In a statement placed on the Cuban Foreign Ministry website, Cuba
Pilip and Bubenik were trying to destabilize the state as part of a larger effort
supported by their government. The statement accuses the Czech Republic of
conspiring against Cuba since 1990, after the Czechs overthrew their communist
regime. The document names specific Czech diplomats in Havana as
troublemakers who coordinate with dissidents, ``Miami's Cuban Mafia'' and the
U.S. Interests Section in Cuba.
At the same time, the government hinted that the dispute could
be resolved if the
Czech government appealed to Cuba's ``generosity.''
``If they want an honorable way out to the incident,'' the statement
said in its
concluding paragraph, ``admit we are right, appeal to our generosity, and no
longer commit the mistake of questioning our truth or testing our steadfastness.''
Pilip, a member of the Czech Parliament, and Bubenik, a former
Prague's 1989 Velvet Revolution, were arrested after meeting with two dissidents
in Ciego de Avila. Cuban authorities now say Pilip and Bubenik were carrying a
computer, disks and CDs they were supposed to deliver to dissidents on behalf of
Freedom House, a pro-democracy group based in Washington, D.C.
Michael Goldfarb, a spokesman for Freedom House, would not say
Czechs were carrying equipment for the U.S. based group. The organization does
not release details about who participates in their programs, he said.
``We support free exchange of information and person-to-person
Goldfarb said. ``No one is calling for the overthrow of the Castro regime.''
Relations between Cuba and the Czech Republic have become hostile
Czechs began to co-sponsor a United Nations resolution condemning human
rights abuses in Cuba. When they sponsored that resolution again last year, the
Cubans reacted by holding a 100,000-strong demonstration outside the Czech
On Monday, a Cuban prosecutor ordered that Pilip and Bubenik be
``preventive detention'' for up to 60 days until their case comes up for trial. If the
trial does not take place in that time, the men could be detained for six months.
Pilip's wife, Lucie Pilipova, visited the men over the weekend and said the
prisoners ``are very well, they are being treated very well.''
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday added its voice to the appeals,
Cuban authorities to release Pilip and Bubenik.
``The case of these Czech citizens shows just how flawed the Cuban
code is,'' said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch's
Americas Division. ``Cuban laws provide cover for all kinds of human rights