The Miami Herald
February 10, 2001

Czech envoy vows to continue pressure on Cuba


 Despite speculation to the contrary, the Czech Republic announced Friday that it
 would once again this year sponsor a resolution condemning Cuba's human rights
 record at the annual meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in April.

 For the past two years, the Czech Republic, along with Poland, has sponsored
 the anti-Cuba resolution at the meeting in Geneva, but diplomatic negotiations
 leading to the release last week of two prominent Czech citizens jailed in Cuba
 prompted reports that the Prague government had quietly agreed to alter its
 anti-Cuba stance.

 In a telephone interview with The Herald, the Czech ambassador to the United
 States, Alexandr Vondra, said his country would continue its activist role in
 pressuring Cuba to improve its human rights record.

 ``Of course we will. Today the spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry
 announced that the Czech Republic will sponsor the draft of the resolution again,''
 Vondra said.

 Czech legislator Ivan Pilip and former student leader Jan Bubenik were arrested
 Jan. 12 in Cuba for meeting with island dissidents, but instead of being placed on
 trial in a revolutionary court, they were released 10 days ago after days of quiet
 negotiations that involved diplomats from several countries.

 Vondra said the Cuban government yielded to international pressure to put an end
 to the diplomatic row.

 ``What Castro definitely did not like was the reaction to the arrest abroad.
 Perhaps he underestimated the public reaction and the media reaction and the
 expressions of solidarity,'' Vondra said.

 The Czech envoy said that at the same time that international pressure was
 rising, Castro held a six-hour meeting with Czech Senate Chairman Pit Pithart
 and also received a group from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which has a
 meeting planned for Cuba in April.

 Vondra said there was little doubt that the arrest of a Czech member of
 parliament -- and the subsequent outcry from the European Union and other
 leaders in Europe -- placed that meeting in doubt.

 ``The fact is there were two dialogues with the Cubans,'' Vondra said.

 ``One was the Czech dialogue. At the same time there was the delegation of
 Inter-Parliamentary Union, and they met with Castro as well. I think that they
 played a role in the release.''