Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla met with representatives of Cuban dissidents in Florida during his official week-long visit to the United States. His meeting with the Cubans, who were political prisoners under Fidel Castro, is a continuation of official Czech support for human rights in Cuba and Cuban political exiles.
Mr Spidla talked on Sunday with Cuban political dissidents in a Cuban restaurant in the center of Miami. Among the significant members of the Cuban exile community whom he met was also the daughter of Cuban president Fidel Castro Alina Fernandez, who leads an open struggle against the regime of her own father. Earlier today I talked about the importance of the meeting with Tomas Janeba from the Czech People in Need Foundation, which has been supporting Cuban dissidents and independent journalists since 1997:
"Vaclav Havel visited Florida last September during his last official visit to the United States. Now as a premier Spidla met with Cubans on Florida and with former political prisoners. And I think that this visit of premier Spidla just shows that Czech Republic and its political representatives are paying attention to what is happening on Cuba and to the situation of Cuban exiles in Florida. And it's a kind of assurance that Czech Republic will keep its course of support of struggle for democracy on Cuba even after the president Vaclav Havel left the function."
Many leading politicians in the Czech Republic are keen to support Cuban dissidents as they themselves spent so much of their lives in a communist society.
"In the past when the Czech Republic was the part of the Soviet block there were numerous contacts between the two countries, and we have a lot of ties. Many Cubans were working or traveling in the Czech Republic or the Czechoslovakia then, and many Czechs traveling to Cuba. That's the first reason. The second one is that we are of course sensitive to what is happening on Cuba, and we were the part of the same evil regime as the Czechoslovakia. I believe that we feel as our moral obligation to help to those ones who are less fortunate and still under the communist rule."
Czechoslovakia and Cuba cooperated during the communism. However, Mr Spidla's meeting with Cuban dissidents did not prepare the ground for possible future Czech investments in the Cuban economy.
"I think that the investments the Czechoslovakia made to Cuba during the communist regime was nothing unusual for other communist states. I think that economic activities between Czechs and Cubans depend solely on people from the Czech Republic and that the Czech government wouldn't be preparing any ground for that. I think that interest the Czech Republic has in Cuba is more of political and material support to democrats and dissidents."
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