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10/11/04 - HAVEL CALLS FOR DEMOCRACY IN CUBA - 2004-10-01

Vaclav Havel is one of the world's foremost champions of human rights. He defied the Communist system in his native Czechoslovakia. He rose to become a key figure in the post-Soviet era of democratic reforms. He became president of the Czech Republic. Throughout his life, Mr. Havel has been on the front lines in the struggle between freedom and totalitarianism.

In 2003, Mr. Havel, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Polish dissident Adam Michnik, and former Russian dissident Elena Bonner founded the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba. The committee is working to bring international pressure to persuade Fidel Castro to abandon the Communist system in Cuba and to respect and uphold the Cuban people’s human rights.

During a recent meeting of the committee in Prague, Mr. Havel cited the arrests eighteen months ago of seventy-five Cuban dissidents whose only so-called “crimes” were calling for freedom for the Cuban people. The seventy-five were given phony trials and received prison sentences of up to twenty-eight years. “Cuba is a giant prison,” said Mr. Havel. “It is inconceivable and unacceptable that people continue to be imprisoned in Cuba because of their ideas and their peaceful politics."

President George W. Bush agrees. Freedom in Cuba, he says, will prevail:

“The struggle for freedom continues in cities and towns of that beautiful island, in Castro’s prisons and in the heart of every Cuban patriot. No tyrant can stand forever against the power of liberty, because the hope of freedom is found in every heart.”

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel says he, too, is looking forward to the end of Communism in Cuba. And he commends those dissidents, both inside and outside the country, who oppose Castro and his system. "Every modern, freedom-loving person,” he said, "feels. . .a sense of solidarity both with those who are prevented from living in their home country or from freely visiting it, as well as with those who are forced to live in their country in a state of constant fear, and who cannot leave it and return to it of their own free will.”