- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Anti-government activities in Cuba have increased dramatically in recent years, prompting President Fidel Castro's government to adopt a new hard line that included the detention of two Czech citizens for meeting with dissidents, an anti-Castro group said yesterday.

The Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Directorate said in a report released at the International Republican Institute that the number of documented anti-government activities had risen from 44 in 1997 to 100 in 1998 and 227 in 1999.

Four hundred acts of civil disobedience were recorded last year, said the CDRD, or "Directorio," a pro-democracy organization that is funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Orlando Gutierrez, the author of the report, said yesterday the government in Havana has responded with a crackdown on dissent that includes increased use of the military and the arrest of foreign visitors who meet with known dissenters.

In addition to the two Czechs, who were released Monday after having been held since Jan. 12, Swedes, Lithuanians, Mexicans and U.S. citizens have been detained in recent months for giving money, printed materials, communications equipment and other support to Cuban dissidents, Mr. Gutierrez said.

A foreign diplomat in Washington said the Inter-Parliamentarian Union, which secured the men's release, had threatened to cancel its annual convention scheduled for Havana in April if the men were not freed.

"They had a mandate to seriously put the meeting in doubt if the men were not released," said the diplomat.

The Czechs former Finance Minister Ivan Pilip and former Velvet Revolution student leader Jan Bubenik admitted having unwittingly broken Cuban laws when they met with dissidents at the behest of Freedom House, a U.S. organization.

In another diplomatic tiff, Argentina is fuming over comments by Mr. Castro, who said over the weekend that his South American neighbor was "licking the Yankee boots." Buenos Aires has recalled its ambassador and canceled a trade mission to Havana in response.

Mr. Gutierrez said Mr. Castro's strategy for dealing with dissenters "has changed in the last 18 months as a direct result of opposition activities in Cuba."

After 40 years of media attacks on Cuba's foreign enemies primarily the Cuban-American exiles in Miami and the U.S. government the Castro government has turned its attention to publicly attacking domestic dissidents, he said.

"It was a plus for us. [Mr. Castro] began naming them by name and everyone on the island learned there was an opposition and who they were."

Mr. Gutierrez said the primary responsibility for dealing with dissidents shifted at about the same time from Cuba's police to the military.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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