The former Czech president Vaclav Havel has again spoken out strongly against recent moves taken by the European Union to normalise diplomatic relations with Cuba. In an open letter published on Monday in a leading Czech daily, Mr Havel said that the EU had entered into a "shameful deal" that "spit on all the principles" of democracy and human rights espoused in the draft EU constitution. The EU froze diplomatic relations with Cuba in June 2003 after some 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced to up to 28 years in prison. But in recent months, Cuba has re-established contacts with EU member states, after they agreed to stop inviting Cuban dissidents to official embassy events. The communist island nation first re-established contact with its closest ally, Spain, and finally with those most hostile to the Cuban regime: the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, as well as the EU as a whole. Vaclav Havel, himself a former dissident who was imprisoned many times by communist officials, is the founder of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, an organisation that supports the families of Cuban dissidents.
The parliamentary deputy Zdenek Koudelka has become the first politician to officially announce his candidature for the post of Social Democratic party vice chairman. The deadline for the registration of candidates is on Friday. Mr Koudelka is considered to be an ally of Labour Minister Zdenek Skromach, who is in competition with Prime Minister Stanislav Gross for the position of Social Democrat party chairman.
Microsoft Corporation chairman Bill Gates will pay a one-day visit to Prague on Wednesday, where he will deliver a speech at the close of the Government Leaders Forum, a kind of talking shop for information and communication technology insiders and leading politicians, sponsored by the U.S. software giant. About a dozen current and former heads of government and European Commissioners are expected to attend. While in Prague, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is due to meet separately with Czech president Vaclav Klaus.
The Czech National Bank (CNB) announced on Monday that it posted a record loss of nearly 54 billion crowns in 2004 - nearly three times the loss of the previous year - due to the decline in the value of the central bank's foreign reverses, by over one-third. The reason for the loss is that the Czech currency has continued to firm in recent years not only against the weakening US dollar but also against the common European currency, the euro.
Police have arrested an immigration inspector suspected of illegally helping Vietnamese and other foreign nationals get Czech residence permits. In a raid this weekend, police found over 4 million crowns in cash - the equivalent of about $175,000 -- at the inspector's home. It would have taken the man some 25 years to earn that amount on his immigration inspector's salary.
Daytime highs should remain just above freezing. Continued light snow and freezing rain is expected throughout much of the country on Tuesday.
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