- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

LONDON — The heroes of Eastern Europe’s anti-communist movement denounced Fidel Castro’s “Stalinist” regime in Cuba yesterday and demanded action from the West to encourage its peaceful overthrow.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and former Hungarian President Arpad Goncz made their call in a letter to the Daily Telegraph and several other leading European newspapers.

The letter from men who were themselves victims of communist oppression is likely to bring a furious response from the Cuban regime, which is acutely sensitive to attacks from countries which were once its closest allies.

Writing six months to the day after the regime sentenced 75 opposition figures to lengthy terms of imprisonment, the three men described the Castro regime as weak and desperate, but condemned current European Union and American policy as a failure.

In particular, they said Europe’s “constructive engagement” with the regime was failing to change Mr. Castro’s behavior.

“Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Fidel Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it commences a process of political liberalization,” they said.

Spain and Italy have invested heavily in the island’s tourism industry and are now responsible for 20 percent of Cuba’s foreign trade. But relations are at a low ebb following Mr. Castro’s violent assault on the EU after it criticized his jailing of dissidents.

The Walesa-Havel-Goncz letter also attacked the U.S. trade embargo, which many critics say has allowed Mr. Castro to shift responsibility for the acute privations suffered by ordinary people.

Instead, the former political prisoners asked Europe and the United States to seek a common policy to pressure the Cubans.

“It is the responsibility of the democratic world to support representatives of the Cuban opposition, irrespective of how long the Cuban Stalinists manage to cling to power,” they wrote.

They urged the West to step up its condemnation of Cuba’s human rights abuses in the same way it did in Eastern Europe during the Cold War and to ram the point home with unified diplomatic steps.

The Cubans have a particular dislike for Mr. Havel, who has devoted considerable effort to whipping up support for Cuban dissidents. In 1990, Cubans stormed the Czech Embassy and took hostage several diplomats in apparent protest at the new tone from Prague.

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