April 21, 2000
Czech Republic, Cuba - Former
Friends, Now Opponents over Human Rights
Czech Republic, Cuba - Former Friends, Now Opponents over Human Rights Central Europe Online, April 21, 2000
PRAGUE, Apr 21, 2000 -- (CTK - Czech News Agency) Relations between the Czech Republic and Cuba, one time friends, started to worsen after the fall of communism in then Czechoslovakia in late 1989 and the deterioration has climaxed with the UN approving a Czech-Polish resolution denouncing human rights violations in Cuba this week.
The resolution was approved by the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on Tuesday and a 100,000-strong demonstration was staged outside the Czech Embassy in Havana on the same day. Today Cuba accused Czech diplomats in Havana of fomenting "subversive activities" and of plotting and supporting internal counter-revolution in Cuba.
The Czech Republic has consistently been pointing out human rights violations in Cuba over the past ten years and a Czech- Polish resolution similar to the one approved this week was already approved last year. In 1998 a similar resolution submitted by the USA was not adopted. Then Czechoslovakia supported a resolution criticizing human rights violations in Cuba which was adopted by the UN Commission in March 1990.
Czechoslovakia, together with Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland was then denounced by Cuban President Fidel Castro as "mean and shameful." Relations between Prague and Havana were very tense in summer 1990 when a group of Cubans sought refuge at the Czechoslovak Embassy in Havana and held Czechoslovak diplomats as hostages for a couple of hours while another group occupied the residency of the Czechoslovak charge d'affaires.
Cuba then accused Czechoslovakia of provocation, but further developments and evidence given by Cuban dissidents showed that the action was planned by the Cubans.
The incident was preceded by an exchange of letters between Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel and Castro in June 1990. Havel asked Castro to release all unjustly accused Cubans in connection with a trial of seven members of the illegal Cuban Democratic Integration Movement. In his reply Castro said Havel's initiative was "shameful slander" and "a gross violation of Cuban sovereignty."
In December 1990 Czechoslovakia announced that it would close down the Cuban interest section of the Czechoslovak Embassy in the USA. Castro accused Czechoslovakia of behaving as "an agent of imperialism." Czechoslovakia started to represent Cuban interests in the USA in the 1960s when the USA severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after the "Caribbean crisis."
In May 1992 the permanent correspondent of then Czechoslovak News Agency (CSTK), Odnrej Kasina, was several times physically attacked in Cuba.
In January 1997 a diplomatic source in Havana announced that Cuban authorities had detained three dissidents who had tried to compile an independent economic report on Cuba and to engage in independent journalism. Two of them were released after interrogation. The journalists were brought to the police after they visited the Czech Embassy.
In 1993 the Czech Republic lowered its representation in Cuba to the level of charge d'affaires after negotiations on Cuba's debt to Czechoslovakia had been brought to a standstill. Cuba then refused to discuss the debt, saying that the political differences between the two countries were insurmountable and space for cooperation minimal.
The Czech Republic has been trying to raise the level of its representation to the ambassadorial level since 1997. However this has not yet happened because of Castro's resistance and Cuba's reluctance to granted agreement to the Czech ambassadorial nominee, citing Czech support for Cuban dissidents.
Since January 19, Czech citizens who want to visit Cuba for any reason must have a visa. Cuban citizens travelling to the Czech Republic will also need visas issued by Czech authorities.
The first Czech high-ranking government member to visit Cuba after the "velvet revolution" was deputy foreign minister Pavel Bratinka in November 1994. He met acting foreign minister Isabel Allende and economic ministers. In 1996 Cuba welcomed Czech Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy who said after return that Cuban government representatives as well as the central bank had officially recognized the debt towards the Czech Republic.
Former Czechoslovakia was one of the ten biggest business partners of Cuba and fourth among the then Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) countries.
The first long-term economic agreement was signed in June 1960. Czechoslovakia took part in the construction and equipment of many plants which had been built since then. The two countries also cooperated in the fields of culture, education and scientific research. After they rashly left Cuba after 1990, Czech companies are slowly returning there and some 30 percent of electric power in Cuba is generated in Czech-built plants.
In 1999 talks continued on the agreement on support and protection of investment between the two countries. ((c) 2000 CTK - Czech News Agency)
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Dismisses Cuban Accusations / Central Europe Online
Central Europe Online, April 21, 2000
PRAGUE, Apr 21, 2000 -- (CTK - Czech News Agency) Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil dismissed Cuba's accusation today that diplomats at the Czech Embassy in Havana incited "subversive activities" and plotted and encouraged internal counter-revolution in the country. Czech diplomats are not involved in any anti-Cuban activities, Pospisil told CTK yesterday.
The Czech Republic is, on the other hand, trying to raise the diplomatic status of its highest ranked diplomat in Havana so that Prague could send its ambassador there.
The Czech-Cuban diplomatic relations have been on the charge d'affairs level since 1993. Pospisil said that the intention had not been realized so far but he hoped it would change in the future. Cuba accused the Czech diplomats after the UN Commission for Human Rights had adopted a resolution condemning violations of human rights in Cuba on Tuesday.
The resolution was submitted by the Czech Republic and Poland. Twenty-one countries supported it, 18 voted against it and 14 abstained from the vote, out of 53 members of the commission. Pospisil said that the accusation of the Czech diplomats had been caused by misunderstanding of the resolution.
The Czech Republic has repeated several times that the resolution was not an enemy act against the Cuban people.
"On the other hand, we consider the resolution to be a certain form of an offer for dialogue with Cuban authorities which could result in the improvement of human rights. We, the Czech Republic, have certain experienc
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