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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
East Europe grandees blast Castro
Arpad Goencz, Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa
The former presidents of three Eastern European countries have launched a campaign calling for the peaceful overthrow of Cuba's communist government.

In a letter sent to several leading newspapers internationally, Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Lech Walesa of Poland and Arpad Goencz of Hungary said European countries should set up a fund to help opposition groups within Cuba.

The three, all of whom were dissidents when their countries were ruled by communist regimes, said President Fidel Castro's regime was "at its last gasp" and compared its situation to Eastern Europe in the late 1980s.

Fidel Castro knows well that one day the revolution will die with him
Former presidents' letter
Facing an economic downturn and growing discontent, the Cuban Government in March arrested 75 members of opposition groups.

But the former presidents said in their letter that the dissident movement had not been adversely affected.

"The internal opposition is getting stronger, it has not been brought to its knees by the police round-up last March, times are changing, the revolution is getting old and the regime is getting nervous," they said.

"Fidel Castro knows well that one day the revolution will die with him."

Embargo attacked

The letter said that European governments were being too soft on Cuba.

Fidel Castro
Castro should be treated as a dictator, say the three ex-presidents
"Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Fidel Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it commences a process of political liberalisation," it said.

It also called for a "Democratic Cuba Fund" to support civil society which should be "ready for immediate use in the event of political change".

But it attacked the United States trade embargo, saying that this was allowing Mr Castro to shift the blame for the difficult economic situation.

Europe and the US should seek a common policy on Cuba, the former leaders added.

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Country profile: Cuba
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