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    Czech ambassador says his country’s experiences may be useful to Cuba’s transition to democracy

    Posted on Wednesday, 12.11.13

    Czech ambassador says his country’s experiences may be useful to Cuba’s
    transition to democracy
    BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
    JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

    For the Czech Republic’s ambassador to the United States, Petr
    Gandalovic, Cuba’s future might well follow the path of his country’s past.

    His European nation of 10 million people lived under Communist rule from
    1948 to 1989, when the Velvet Revolution led by dissident and playwright
    Vaclav Havel ushered in a peaceful, if at times, rocky transition to
    democracy.

    “One day when Cubans get their freedom they will face the same
    challenges,” Gandalovic said during a meeting Wednesday with editors and
    reporters at the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. “We have a lot of
    experience to offer.”

    Cuban ruler Raúl Castro’s recent economic reforms have been positive, he
    said, “but we have no illusions that things have changed significantly”
    in the government’s respect for human rights.

    The Czech Republic and its prior incarnation as Czechoslovakia have long
    been strong supporters of Cuba’s dissident and civil society groups,
    hosting training sessions for them in Prague and giving them access to
    the Internet at the embassy in Havana.

    Several of the dissidents allowed to travel abroad after the Jan. 14
    easing of Cuba’s migration controls were received in Prague by Foreign
    Minister Jan Kohout and his predecessor, Karel Schwarzenberg.

    Gandalovic was in Miami for Tuesday’s kick-off of the Vaclav Havel
    Initiative for Human Rights and Diplomacy as part of Florida
    International University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

    The Initiative, designed to provide training, study programs, research
    and policy analysis on democratic transitions around the world, is
    headed by the former Czech ambassador to the United States, Martin Palous.

    Its first project will be “Preparing Miami for democratic transition in
    Cuba,” funded with a two year grant from the Knight Foundation,
    according to an FIU announcement.

    Tuesday’s kickoff included a performance of the multimedia play
    Anticodes, based on a collection of Havel’s poetry and performed by the
    Czech Republic’s famous Laterna Magika theater troupe.

    Gandalovic also joined a ceremony in Miami on Tuesday where the Cuban
    Democratic Directorate awarded the “Pedro Luis Boitel Freedom” prize for
    2013 to four anti-Castro activists, including one jailed for 37 years
    and a former Bacardi president.

    • Jose Manuel Rodriguez Navarro, an activist in the Eastern Democratic
    Alliance, based in the eastern towns of Guantánamo and Baracoa, who was
    arrested in October and sentenced to four years in prison for “social
    pre-dangerousness.”

    • Armando Sosa Fortuny, who was jailed for fighting against the Castro
    dictatorship from 1960 to 1978. He went into exile in Miami but returned
    in 1994 with four other armed exiles and was captured after a shootout
    in which one Cuban was killed. Sosa Fortuny was sentenced to 30 years.

    • Havana activist Julián Enrique Martínez Báez, secretary general of the
    Cuban Human Rights Party, freed in 2006 after serving three years in prison.

    • Manuel Jorge Cutillas, a former president of Bacardi Limited and
    descendant of the company’s founder who was active for years in Cuban
    democracy campaigns. He died in November at the age of 81.

    The Boitel prize, created in 2001 by the Directorate and seven
    independent groups from Eastern and Central Europe, is named after a
    Castro opponent who was jailed in 1961 and died alter a lengthy
    jailhouse hunger strike in 1972.

    Source: “Czech ambassador says his country’s experiences may be useful
    to Cuba’s transition to democracy – Cuba – MiamiHerald.com” –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/11/3812606/czech-ambassador-says-his-countrys.html

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