The Miami Herald
February 2, 2001

Czech leader extends stay in Cuba

Senator hopes to meet Castro

 From Herald Staff and Wire Reports

 HAVANA -- Seeking freedom for two Czech nationals jailed here on subversion
 charges, the leader of the Czech Republic's senate, Petr Pithart, said Thursday
 he would extend his stay in Cuba until Saturday in hopes of meeting Cuban
 leader Fidel Castro.

 Pithart, who has been waiting to talk with Castro since Monday, was scheduled
 to leave Havana late Thursday.

 Former Czech Finance Minister Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, a student leader
 during Prague's 1989 Velvet Revolution, were arrested Jan. 12.

 The Cuban government has charged the two Czechs with subversion, accusing
 them of holding ``meetings of a conspiratorial nature with members of subversive
 Cuban groups'' and of being U.S. agents.

 Pithart said he thought the Cubans might be relenting on the most serious
 charges against the two men.

 Cuba's foreign minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, told the Cuban press that Pilip and
 Bubenik were being rigorously investigated and that they would be treated ``with
 the due respect Cuba is used to.''

 Pithart, who met Tuesday with the two detainees, was invited to Cuba by Castro.

 Marifeli Pérez-Stable, an expert on Cuba, said in Miami that the decision to hold
 the two Czechs, and the resulting international outcry over their detention, is part
 of a plan to keep ordinary Cubans mobilized against outsiders.

 In that vein, she said Castro is asking Cuban Embassy personnel in the Czech
 capital Prague to fight to the death over the issue and is calling on his people to
 take to the streets -- the more so if the issues involve the United States.

 ``It's been nonstop since Elián 14 months ago,'' said Pérez-Stable, a visiting
 professor at Florida International University and the author of The Cuban
 Revolution (1993).

 Arresting the two Czechs may have been a mistake, Pérez-Stable said,
 especially since the International Union of Parliamentarians is scheduled to meet
 in Cuba in April.

 ``It would be a crisis of international proportion if they're tried and condemned,''
 she said.

 ``It would be hard to imagine parliamentarians from democratic countries going to
 Cuba if this doesn't change.''

 Herald staff writer Yves Colon contributed to this report.