Chairman Henry Hyde
Reception Honoring Czech Emissaries of Freedom
March 14, 2001, 6:00 p.m., 2172 Rayburn
I want to thank Adrian Karatnycky for his kind introduction. Under Adrian’s leadership, Freedom House continues to give hope to those who are shackled by totalitarian regimes. I am pleased that Freedom House could organize this reception and that the Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Alexandr Vondra, and so many other friends could join us.
We are here tonight to recognize two Czech citizens—Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik— for their honorable actions as Emissaries of Freedom to Cuba.
The great poet and national hero of Cuba, Jose Martí, believed that, and I quote, "Men of action, above all those whose actions are guided by love, live forever." In the case of these two men, Martí would recognize their love of freedom. They were, as you know, arrested and held for 23 days by Fidel Castro’s security police simply for meeting with two Cuban dissidents.
Their ordeal is now over. But it serves to remind us of the hundreds of prisoners of conscience who have been arbitrarily arrested and thrown in prison for vague crimes against the state such as "dangerousness." The truth is that, in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, prison walls extend around the entire island. Not long ago, a visitor to Havana was approached by a Cuban who whispered to him plaintively: "You do know what this is here don’t you? Its Orwell’s 1984."
Cuba today suffers under the last vestiges of Stalinism. The efficiency of the secret police is matched by the reflexive fear that ordinary Cubans feel in the hearts. But, there is hope. There are many brave souls who insist on being free. These are the dissidents and others who understand what Czech President Vaclav Havel once said: "I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions."
Clearly, Mr. Castro and his government know this too. That is why free people around the world must heed the example set by these two Emissaries of Freedom from Czech Republic. We must resolve not to bend to bullying and intimidation. We must resolve, rather, to reach out our hand in peace and friendship to help the brave Cubans who are keeping liberty alive in Castro’s Cuba today.