- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Pressure on Castro

Czech Ambassador Martin Palous denounced Fidel Castro and called for democracies to pressure the Cuban dictator into freeing his people.

Mr. Palous, writing in the latest Czech Embassy newsletter, contrasted the efforts to democratize Iraq with the failure to encourage freedom in the “last totalitarian system in the Western Hemisphere.”

He noted the international outrage over Mr. Castro’s recent brutality against Cuban democracy activists but argued that condemnation is not enough.

“With all of the current focus on the democratization of Iraq, we should not forget about other parts of the world,” he wrote. “Indeed, the list of dictators is still too long. In my view, there is one case that deserves special attention — the case of Cuba.

“During the heart of the Iraqi crisis, Fidel Castro decided to crush the Cuban dissident movement.”

He cited the “bogus trials” that condemned dissidents to long prison terms and the execution of three Cubans for hijacking a boat in a failed attempt to escape from the island.

“Genuine democrats,” he feels, should apply the same goals to Cuba that they are encouraging in Iraq.

“When this spirit prevails in the outside world as well as on that secluded island where the aging ‘commandante’ has maintained his power through harassment and persecutions, the last totalitarian system in the Western Hemisphere will quickly fall and the people of Cuba will be free,” he said.

Mr. Palous also called on his colleagues in other Central and Eastern European states to help Iraqis by explaining their own transition to democracy after communism began collapsing 14 years ago.

“Let us start a dialogue on liberation and the possible roads to democracy across the boundaries of culture and religion,” he wrote.

“Let us begin this exercise in the ‘heart of Europe’ with the intent to move to Baghdad. Let us test our transitional experience against the current Iraqi reality.”

Mr. Palous, whose country supported the removal of Saddam Hussein, expressed worries over the pace of reconstruction and the continuing violence in Iraq.

“What else is needed in addition to the security provided by the coalition forces and the economic assistance that has been organized by governments and their international organization?” he asked.

“Could that missing ingredient be the ethos and experience of the dissidents and human-rights activists whose spirit triggered the liberation of Central Europe in 1989?”

Philippines peace offer

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines yesterday said the United States is prepared to pay for peace if Islamic rebels open talks with the Philippines government.

The United States’ “number one” priority “is underwriting the peace,” said Ambassador Francis Ricciardone said at a Manila press conference with Wendy Chamberlin, assistant administrator for the Bureau of Asia and Near East Affairs at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

He also said the United States Institute for Peace is organizing a group of American specialists in diplomacy “to lend their expertise [and] to speak with the parties in the conflict who do not have confidence in each other’s ability and willingness to keep their words.”

Mrs. Chamberlin said U.S. aid will only be available if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agrees to end its violent struggle for a separate nation on the southern island of Mindanao, and negotiate with the government.

She said the assistance would be similar to the economic aid provided to the former rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace treaty in 1996.

“We will be pleased to provide assistance to help the parties in this conflict to consolidate their peace process and chart a new future for the children of Mindanao,” she said, after meeting with Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“We hope to begin to look at what we can do together in education, good governance and economic [areas]. Through all of these programs, and in a much broader sense, we’re working together to combat terrorism.

“Aid … will only be available if there is peace.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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