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» ICDC: International Committee for Democracy in Cuba

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2006-11-20 / Jiří Knitl

Two ICDC members Mr. Rexhep Meidani, former president of Albania and Mr. Arnold Vaatz, German MP, participated in so called “ICDC Virtual Embassy” to Latin America. The ICDC delegation was supported and accompanied by Laszlo Nagy, Slovak MP and the Slovak Parliament Human Rights board Chairman. Jiri Knitl, representative of Czech NGO People in Need and Hernán Alberro representative of Argentinean NGO CADAL accompanied the delegation as well.

Between October 31, 2006 and November 11, 2006 the delegation visited Montevideo (Uruguay), Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). During the trip the delegation members participated in two conferences (Montevideo and Buenos Aires) and had many very important meetings with local authorities, politicians, intellectuals etc. on current situation in Cuba, support of Cuban democratic opposition and relation between Latin America countries and Cuba. The delegation members also set out their declaration to Latin-American Summit of Heads of State and Government in Montevideo. In the declaration they called for more support to Cuban democratic opposition and for respecting Viňa del Mar Declaration signed by Cuban representatives in 1996 (entangling Cuban regime to respect human rights).

The main objectives of the ICDC delegation were to exchange opinions on the foreign policy of American an EU countries towards Cuba; to apply participants experience with detente policies to current relations with Cuba; the strengthening of cooperation of organizations, parliamentarians, representatives of the Church, and intellectuals working with Cuban opposition and to create certain degree of sympathy and sensitivity amongst political, intellectual and opinion leaders from Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina.

On Wednesday, November 1st, 2006 the delegation participated in “Forum of Freedom and Democracy in Latin America” (A decade since Vina del Mar declaration on Governance and Democracy) which took floor in Legislative Palace of Uruguay, Montevideo. During the event following topics were discussed: What Cubans do for freedom and democracy in Cuba; Pluralistic participation as an instrument of democracy in Vina del Mar Declaration”; The defeat of communism in Europe and its example for Cuba; Political actions in support of freedom and democracy in Latin America from the parliamentarian view; etc. In mentioned panels and discussions took part as well significant and important persons as former presidents: Armando Calderón Sol (El Salvador), Luis Alberto Monge (Costa Rica), Julio Maria Sanguinetti (Uruguay) and Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera (Uruguay), farther Manuel Espino (PAN - México), Otto Guevara Arreche (Movimiento Libertario - Costa Rica), Facundo Guardado (Former member of Frente Martí para la Liberación Nacional - El Salvador), Representative Cristian Castaño (PAN - México), Representative José Amorín (Partido Colorado - Uruguay), Representative Patricio Walker (Partido Demócrata Cristiano - Chile), Representative Jaime Trobo (Partido Nacional - Uruguay).

One of the most interesting meetings in Montevideo was a meeting with National Representative Sandra Etcheverry, during which a possible stronger cooperation from Uruguay’s politicians and leaders was discussed. Both Rexhep Meidani and Arnold Vaatz expressed the necessity of a higher concern for democracy in Cuba from Latin American countries. Mr. Meidani proposed the creation of an organism which would assume functions similar to the OECD ones during Eastern country’s transition to democracy process. Member of Parliament Etcheverry expressed the necessity of talks with the leaders of the Blanco Party and Colorado Party (opposition parties) in order to get support not only from some of their members, but from the whole party as an institution, and by this mean to incite Frente Amplio, the leading party, to take a similar decision.

From the others meetings in Montevideo could be mentioned also a dinner with María del Milagro Méndez Castro, President of the Comité Costarricense de Solidaridad con la Democracia en Cuba and member of the Comité de Mujeres por la Democracia en Cuba as well as a meeting with Martín Elgue, member of the Comité de Jóvenes por la Democracia en Cuba and the founder of its Uruguayan branch or meeting with journalist Nelson Fernández.

From Montevideo the delegation moved to Rio de Janeiro and later to Sao Paulo (Brazil). For ICDC representatives it was first visit and possibility to meet and speak with partners from Brazil. Very important for the Brazilian part of the mission therefore was support of Patrícia Carlos de Andrade (Executive Director of Instituto Millenium) and Silverio Zebral (Co-Founder of Instituto Millenium) who help the delegation to arrange all the meetings in both cities.

In Brazil the delegation had important meetings with politicians, intellectuals, media representatives and scientists. For example could be mentioned meeting at Rio de Janeiro Mayor House with Rio de Janeiro’s Deputy-Prefect Octavio Leite (PSDB), his adviser Gilberto Braga and Prof. Augusto Cattoni (Rio de Janeiro Prefect’s adviser on international affairs). Farther a meeting with journalist Lucila Soares (Veja – Brazilian magazine), meeting at Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) with program coordinator Gustavo Santos, meeting with Political Columnist, Merval Pereira (Newspaper O Globo) or meeting in Instituto Liberal with its vice-president Roberto Fendt.

The delegation had also very interesting meeting at Trade Association of Sao Paulo with Marcel Solimeo, Amaruy de Souza. Firstly the delegation introduced to Marcel Solimeo, Director of the Asociación Comercial de San Pablo, the aim of the meeting and of the ICDC Virtual Embassy. Then political analyst Amaury de Souza gave a panorama of Brazilian foreign policy, to which the main preoccupation, he said, is Venezuela and Hugo Chávez’s role in the region. As the Asociación Comercial proposed to do something, it was agreed to try to organize between Instituto Millenium, Instituto de Estudios Empresariales, CADAL and People In Need some seminar on companies’s social responsabilty towards democracy, in which the democracy in Cuba Topic could be included into the democracy in Latin America one, stating that promoting one helps promote the other ones.

Among the most important meetings in Sao Paulo must be mentioned also meeting with the Government of Sao Paulo State secretary Dr. Hélcio de Abreu Dallari Júnio.

From Sao Paulo the delegation moved to its last destination Buenos Aires where took part in a commemorative event „Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall“ organized by CADAL. Mr. Meidani and Mr. Nagy had their speeches there on experience with totalitarian regimes and transformation to democracy. During the event the delegation met and spoke with local significant persons: Gabriel C. Salvia, chairman of CADAL, Ricardo López Göttig, Ph.D. in History (Karlova University, Prague), researcher of Friedrich A. Von Hayek Foundation and Associated Researcher of CADAL, Fernando J. Ruiz, professor at Communications College of Austral University, Fernando A. Iglesias, journalist and writer and Christoph Korneli, representative in Argentina of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

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This project is supported by funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic through the Transition Promotion Program.