- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Many people dream of owning an island. For Fidel Castro, this is a dream come true. He not only has a lovely, floating piece of real estate on the Caribbean, he also owns the people on the island quite an amenity, no?

Fidel can do whatever he likes with the Cuban people and all hapless visitors who drop in. Anyone who angers King Fidel while in Cuba does so at their peril. Indeed, Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik know only too well the wrath of Fidel's temper.

Mr. Pilip, a member of the Czech Parliament since 1996, and Mr. Bubenik, a former parliamentarian and student leader during the Velvet Revolution, were arrested in Cuba on Jan. 12. Their crime? According to the State Department, their only offense "was to meet with Cuban activists who seek peaceful change of Cuba's totalitarian government," reported The Washington Times on Friday.

Indeed, Cuba's official communist newspaper, Granma, fails to identify anything the Czech visitors could have done wrong that is, by international, democratic standards. Granma said they came to the island expressly to "advocate for human rights, democracy and freedom" activities which the publication identified as "counter-revolutionary" and are presumably illegal in Fidel's fiefdom.

"It seems to me that Cuban authorities are acting against all international norms," said Alexandr Vondra, Czech ambassador, at a lunch for the press on Friday. And "They simply don't want to communicate with us," he added. Every time Czech officials try to get more information from Cuba about the charges against their countrymen, the Cubans simply instruct them to read the Granma, he said.

When asked if Fidel could be retaliating against the Czech Republic for having sponsored resolutions condemning Cuba for human rights violations at the U.N. Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, Mr. Vondra said he didn't know for sure, but added, "It's not something Castro likes."

Indeed, Fidel revealed how much these condemnations roiled him. "The Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic, with its haughtiness, arrogance and stridence, has protested the arrests of these men employed by the empire," or the United States, Granma said. "But their hysterical cries have no value, just as the Czech government gave no importance to its shameful role as an instrument of the United States in the infamous accusations against Cuba in the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva."

Oddly enough, the National Council of Churches, which played such a large role in returning Elian Gonzales to Mr. Castro's fiefdom, has yet to be heard on Fidel's assault on international law and decency.

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