Monday, January 23, 2006

Lech Walesa Tells Cubans To Be Ready For Democracy

Former Polish President Lech Walesa advised Cuban dissidents to be ready for an inevitable democratic transition, telling them Saturday that activists in his country had been unprepared for the collapse of East European communism. The former Solidarity labor leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate took questions from Cubans in a morning Internet teleconference at the home of the top American diplomat in Havana.
Lech Walesa
''When liberty arrives, it's going to be difficult,'' Walesa said from Poland. ''We made a lot of errors. We were not prepared.'' The Cuban government says no such transition will occur on the island and that the current economic and political systems will remain after 79-year-old President Fidel Castro is gone. Castro and other Cuban authorities have criticized a U.S. presidential commission report detailing how American aid can be used to promote a democratic transition, calling it a thinly veiled blueprint for regime change. About 100 people attended the event, including almost a dozen of Cuba's better-known dissidents. The Cuban government, which has grown increasingly critical in the last year of former East European nations that offer moral support to Cuban dissidents, did not comment on the event.
The meeting at the home of U.S. Interests Section chief Michael Parmly came days after U.S. officials hooked up an electronic sign to broadcast human rights messages along the side of the American mission. Poland was an ideological ally of Cuba before the breakup of the former Soviet Union and subsequent collapse of communism across eastern Europe. ''For me, for many Cubans, you are a symbol of liberty, of liberty, of the defense of the rights of man, a courageous leader,'' the independent Cuban journalist Angel Polanco told Walesa.