Puente Democrático
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A Czech wins the Award of Committed Diplomacy in Cuba 2013-2014 and the Swedish Embassy in Havana receives a special mention
May 25, 2015
It is the fourth time that CADAL’s Program for International Democratic Solidarity presents this award. It is unprecedented democratic work in Cuba, which points out the supportive work of foreign diplomatic working in embassies in Havana. Between 2003 and 2014, 11 foreign diplomats were honored for their humanitarian work in Cuba, two Czechs, two Germans, a Swede, a Dutch, a Pole, one British and three Americans. This time, CADAL announces the winner of 2013-2014 and the special mention, on the day of the National Day of Argentina, with the hope that very soon the Cuban democratic actors will be invited to it for the National Day.

Czech diplomat Frantisek Fleišman received 167 votes and was nominated by 11 different groups and leaders of the Cuban civic movement from different parts of Cuba. He was voted unanimously by the Ladies in White, who nominated four foreign diplomats.

Frantisek Fleisman

In total, during this period 8 foreign diplomats were nominated for their charitable work. These diplomats served in Cuba between 2013 and 2014: a Czech, a Belgian, an Italian, a Swede and four Americans. In addition, a Special Mention to the Swedish Embassy in Havana was granted for facilitating internet access to Cuban democrats.

Among those who nominated the Czech diplomat said the following:

"Mr. Frantisek has been a great friend of Cuba. He had from the very beginning of his diplomatic mission in Havana a direct, sustained and professional contact with all representatives of Cuban civil society. He personally visited every province and projects of Island and repeatedly met the protagonists of the work, initiatives, associations and parties. At the same time he was respectful with the authorities. He held an ongoing dialogue with members of the independent civil society in order to know about the reality in the country. He promoted close relations between the Czech and the Cuban people and unveiled the most representative of the Czech culture and civil society.

- "He supported the Writers Club in all cultural and commemorative activities and provided at the embassy invaluable support for the coordination of activities of the Writers' Club."

Frantisek Fleišman, winner of the Award of Committed Diplomacy in Cuba 2013-2014, was born on October 16, 1980 in Klatovy, Czech Republic. He studied law at Charles University in Prague, and then Diplomacy and International Politics at the University of Economics in Prague. He entered the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic in September 2007. Between 2010 and 2014 he worked as Third Secretary of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Cuba. Currently he works as First Secretary of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Portugal.

When being notified about obtaining the Award of Committed Diplomacy in Cuba 2013-2014, Frantisek Fleišman sent the following message:

"It is a great honor for me to receive the Award of Committed Diplomacy, especially because it reflects the views of the same Cuban democrats to whom our attention is directed. These are people who every day show their courage by demanding, in very difficult conditions, rights not only for themselves but also for others. They are admirable and solidary women and men and I am honored that I got to meet many of them. I am very pleased about their appreciation of my work in Cuba.

At the same time I believe that this award belongs not only to me. It belongs also to all my colleagues in the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Cuba, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and others in the Czech Republic who made my work in Cuba possible. The Czech Republic for many years maintained due to its own historical experience, its commitment to human rights. That position is not always easy and it is very gratifying that the effort is appreciated and recognized.

I cannot fail to mention the excellent work of CADAL, which contributes significantly to encourage and support the struggle for human rights in Latin America. "

Special mention of the Swedish Embassy in Havana

Several Cuban democrats consulted for getting this award for the period 2013-2014 emphasized the solidarity service by the Swedish Embassy in Cuba, allowing them to break the information blockade which they are suffering from. In this regard, an independent journalist said:

"I just visited the Swedish Embassy in order to access information in the internet. Neither I know other diplomats, nor do I have information on the support given to the opposition in Cuba. I have learned from you, each year when you give out awards, who are those who have distinguished themselves in this work. Given that this is our tool to receive and send information and that a USB is a weapon for a Cuban journalist, I think that the embassies and all those who help us and support us in this, deserve at least a mention. I agree with colleagues that only the Swedish embassy provides – I would not say a service, but a valuable and priceless assistance. In this embassy and the internet I've met with all members of the opposition, known and unknown. Everyone would agree if asked, the cordial treatment and the help that have been given to everyone personally and patiently year after year, every time that lock with this through the internet that only a few dominate".

The internet service provided by the Swedish embassy in Havana was incited by the diplomat Ingemar Cederberg, who won the Award to Committed Diplomacy in Cuba from 2009 to 2010.

In announcing this special mention, CADAL asks the embassies of the countries of the European Union and Norway, Switzerland and Canada, to join the supportive service offered by the embassies of Sweden, Czech Republic and the Interests Section the United States in Havana. In this regard, Gabriel Salvia, Chairman of CADAL and compiler of the book "Diplomacy and Human Rights in Cuba," said, "what these embassies in Havana do, offering the possibility for Cuban democratic actors to connect to internet for a few minutes, should be the rule among democratic countries embassies in Cuba." Salvia added: "I am concerned about the decline in some countries in their democratic commitment in Cuba, such is the case of the embassies of Germany and the United Kingdom, and the insensitivity of countries such as Canada and France strikes me."

The head of CADAL concluded by saying that "by excluding Cuban peaceful opposition of diplomatic exchanges, these embassies of democratic countries are expanding their illegality that the one-party regime imposed on them, which is contradictory with the positions that these same countries have supported in the Human Rights Council of the UN claiming for freedom of association, expression and assembly in Cuba." He recalled that "Vaclav Havel called the policy of exclusion of democratic actors in Cuba 'diplomatic apartheid’ by the embassies in Havana."

On committed diplomacy

Since 2003, the Award to Committed Diplomacy in Cuba points out the supportive work of foreign diplomats on the island, providing recognition, support and protection to those who act peacefully on the island in favor of defending democratic values under a single-party regime that implements strong political repression.

In its four editions, the Award to Committed Diplomacy in Cuba organized by the Puente Democrático Program of the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL) was awarded to three US diplomats, two from Germany, two from the Republic Czech and one respectively from the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and the UK. One of the diplomats awarded; the Dutch Caecilia Wijgers, also won the Palmer Award of the Community of Democracies after being nominated by CADAL considering her exemplary work in Cuba. Meanwhile, the Swede Ingemar Cederberg collaborated with his testimony to the publication of the book "Diplomacy and Human Rights in Cuba: from the Black Spring to the release of political prisoners," co-published by CADAL and Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The recognition to the members of the civic movement in Cuba, by foreign diplomats, means not to limit democratic relations to contacts with officials of the Cuban one-party regime. In a democratic country, foreign diplomats in addition to official contacts with the local authorities-also relate and establish exchanges with a representative sample of the respective society. Committed diplomacy in Cuba involves not to extend the "illegal" character that the dictatorship imposes on the leaders of the Cuban civic movement on them.

The support and protection by foreign diplomats of citizens in the country they work in and who are victims of persecution, repression or political harassment, is what characterizes a humanitarian foreign policy based on international commitment to Human Rights and which is defined as "new diplomacy."

Although the first steps of committed diplomacy can be dated back to World War II, in Latin America very prominent cases can be found especially during the military dictatorships of the Southern Cone. One of them was the American diplomat Allen "Tex" Harris, who was decorated by the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs under President Nestor Kirchner. Harris developed posters of the missing and informed about the real situation of terror during the military dictatorship and even participated in the marches of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in front of Government House. Other cases of committed diplomacy highly valued in the Southern Cone military dictatorships were the Swede Edelstam in Chile, the Canadian Dwight Fulford in Argentina, the Italian Enrico Calamai in Chile and Argentina, the German Johannes Marré and American James Cheek Uruguay.

One of the actions promoted by CADAL’s Puente Democrático Program is adopting a " Common Democratic and Human Rights Foreign Policy Agenda " which includes the implementation of practices of committed diplomacy in countries where severe restrictions and threats to civil and political freedoms are recorded. Besides Cuba, CADAL proposes to implement these humanitarian practices in the other 50 countries that Freedom House considers as Not Free.