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
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,
to leave Havana late Thursday.
Former Czech Finance Minister Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, a student
during Prague's 1989 Velvet Revolution, were arrested Jan. 12.
The Cuban government has charged the two Czechs with subversion,
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
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,
professor at Florida International University and the author of The Cuban
Arresting the two Czechs may have been a mistake, Pérez-Stable
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,''
``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.