- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Czechs back Cuba

Czech Ambassador Martin Palous denounced Fidel Castro and offered to help Cuba develop a democracy after the aging communist dictator dies or resigns.

Mr. Palous, in an article scheduled to appear in the next Czech Embassy newsletter, said the democratic transition of the Czech Republic after more than 50 years of repression under the Nazis and then under communism can serve as a model to help organize a Cuban civil society that respects human rights.

“I am an outsider,” he said, “but I am adding my voice to the voices of Cuban dissidents looking toward the future and calling for a real open national dialogue in which all Cubans could participate.”

Mr. Palous urged Cuban refugees in the United States and democratic activists in Cuba to work together to build a new society.

“One of Castro’s strategic weapons is, and has been, to keep Cubans divided, to separate those under his domination from those elsewhere whom he pejoratively calls ‘the Miami mafia,’” the ambassador wrote.

Mr. Palous said Czechs can help Cubans by sharing their experiences “on the difficult moral, legal, political and economic issues that we had to work through in our own transition.”

“The Czech experience confirms that [political dialogue] is the only way to begin a successful transition to democracy,” he said. “It is the only way to renew and reformulate what was lost in the decades of a totalitarian regime: the basic social contract that can steer Cuba through the seas of international politics on a successful voyage to democracy.”

Diplomatic detention

The State Department contacted Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha to demand an explanation for the detention of a U.S. diplomat in Damascus earlier this week.

In Syria, U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey delivered a similar protest to the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday said the diplomat was detained for about a hour on Monday, after watching a street demonstration. He did not release the diplomat’s name.

“The detention of diplomats, no matter how brief, is a violation of the Vienna Conventions [on international relations] and is not acceptable,” Mr. Boucher said in a statement.

“Our ambassador in Damascus formally protested in the strongest terms the March 8 arrest of a U.S. diplomat, who was simply observing a peaceful demonstration.

“The [State] Department in Washington has been in contact with the Syrian ambassador … to protest this incident and express concern over Syrian actions against those peacefully demonstrating for their freedom of expression.”

Mr. Boucher said Washington still is waiting for the Syrians to respond.

Envoy leaving Seoul

Thomas Hubbard is planning to step down from his position as U.S. ambassador to South Korea later this year, according to Asian news reports.

Mr. Hubbard is expected to be replaced by Christopher Hill, ambassador to Poland, Japan’s Kyodo news service and South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported yesterday.

Mr. Hill served as an economic officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul in the late 1980s.

Madagascar aid

The U.S. ambassador to Madagascar yesterday released $50,000 in emergency aid to help victims of the tropical cyclone Gafilo, one of the strongest storms to strike the African island nation in 20 years.

Ambassador Wanda Nesbitt also is discussing additional assistance to help the government deal with vast number of citizens affected by the storm. About 50,000 people have been left homeless.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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