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E. European Leaders Launch Effort to Oust Cuban Leader - 2003-09-18

Three former Eastern European leaders are urging a concerted international campaign to end communist rule in Cuba.

In an open letter appearing in newspapers across Europe and the United States, former Presidents Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Lech Walesa of Poland and Arpad Goncz of Hungary call for the creation of a "Cuban Democracy Fund" to aid pro-democracy dissidents and promote peaceful change on the island.

The letter states that the government of Cuban leader Fidel Castro is "running short of breath, just as [communist] party rulers in the Iron Curtain [Eastern Bloc] did at the end of the 1980s." It adds that Cuba's internal opposition is getting stronger, that the communist revolution is getting old, and the Cuban regime is getting nervous.

The letter says that both the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba and Europe's policy of engagement with Fidel Castro have failed to bring political reform to the island. It says Europe should make it clear that Fidel Castro is a dictator, and that dictatorships cannot become partners until they embrace political liberalization.

The trio also says "it is the responsibility of the democratic world to support representatives of the Cuban opposition, irrespective of how long," as they put it, "the Cuban Stalinists manage to cling to power." All three authors of the letter are one-time dissidents who came to power after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. They say the goal of the Cuban Democracy Fund is to nurture Cuba's civil society so that it is prepared in the event of political change.