Talks on Czechs in the works
BY YVES COLON
With President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic refusing any
Havana, Cuban and Czech officials nevertheless said Thursday that the two
countries would soon hold high-level talks over the detention of two prominent
Czech citizens accused of subversion in Cuba.
Miloslav Ransdorf, a member of the Czech Parliament, said Czech
Ministry officials told legislators they would move the negotiations forward.
``We have to look for a solution, and for us to do that it is
important that the two
foreign ministries start communicating,'' said Ransdorf, a member of the Czech
Communist Party. ``It's ridiculous when our embassy is getting its information
from our security people.''
Cuba's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday that said
between Czech and Cuban diplomats could lead to an ``honorable solution'' that
Havana proposed two days ago if Prague asked for the Cubans' ``generosity.''
That prompted Havel's response Thursday that the Czechs had no reason to
There have been no contacts between the two sides following the
arrest on Jan.
12 of Ivan Pilip, a member of Parliament, and Jan Bubenik, a human-rights activist
and former student leader. The Cubans have been using the Czech communists
as the sole channel for negotiations, while the Czech Foreign Ministry has been
insisting on waiting for an official explanation.
Cuban authorities arrested Pilip and Bubenik after they met with
They said the men were carrying electronic equipment and material they were
supposed to deliver to dissidents on behalf of Freedom House, a
Washington-based pro-democracy group.
Pilip and Bubenik, Cuban officials say, are among politicians,
community activists from Eastern Europe with experience in ``democratic
transitions.'' The two have been working, the officials say, with organizations like
Freedom House to destabilize Cuba. The Cubans named specific Czech
diplomats in Havana as troublemakers who coordinate with dissidents.
In what may be a warning to others, the Cubans detailed alleged
between Pilip, Bubenik and Freedom House contacts, along with meetings
between Czech diplomats and dissidents in Havana. The Cubans even reported
the subjects of those conversations.
Ransdorf blames the diplomatic impasse on his country's ``distorted
policy'' toward Cuba during the past decade. The Czechs have co-sponsored U.N.
resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Cuba.
``The pattern we should follow is the pattern of European countries
that have a
balanced and civilized form of relationship with Cuba,'' Ransdorf said. ``I'm
convinced this can create new space for establishing better relations.''
Meanwhile, Romano Prodi, the president of the European Union's
told Havel he will undertake a diplomatic offensive toward Havana, to follow up a
first appeal to the Cuban authorities.
Pilip, 37, and Bubenik, 32, are being held in ``preventive detention''
for up to 60
days until their case comes up for trial.