Vaclav Havel

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La decisión de nuestra sociedad de apartarse por completo del comunismo, y que últimamente ha adoptado forma de ley, ha tenido como consecuencia lógica el que la atención prestada a los acontecimientos de 1968 en Checoslovaquia se limite ahora fundamentalmente a criticar la falta de entusiasmo y el antagonismo interno de los políticos comunistas de la reforma que entonces dirigían el país. Por consiguiente, sería aconsejable, en el XXV aniversario de la invasión de Checoslovaquia por parte de los ejércitos del Pacto de Varsovia recordar también otros factores y dimensiones de aquellos acontecimientos.

Ante todo, no hay que olvidar que los cambios conceptuales y de personas que tuvieron lugar a principios de 1968 en la cúpula del Partido Comunista, así como en el Gobierno, no fueron sólo una especie de golpe entre los líderes comunistas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Václav Havel, who died on December 18, was that rare intellectual who, rather than forcing his way into politics, had politics forced upon him. In 1998, while serving as President of the Czech Republic, he offered the following reflection on the benefits and dangers of his career path.

Does an intellectual – by virtue of his efforts to get beneath the surface of things, to grasp relations, causes, and effects, to recognize individual items as part of larger entities, and thus to derive a deeper awareness of and responsibility for the world – belong in politics?

Put that way, an impression is created that I consider it every intellectual’s duty to engage in politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Hace poco leí un artículo titulado La política como teatro, una crítica de todo lo que he intentado hacer en política. El texto razonaba que en política no hay lugar para algo tan superfluo como el teatro. Desde luego, durante los primeros meses de mi presidencia, algunas de mis ideas tuvieron más vena teatral que previsión política. Sin embargo, el autor cometió un error en una cuestión fundamental: no comprendió tanto el significado del teatro como la dimensión esencial de la política.

Aristóteles dijo una vez que todo drama o tragedia exigen un principio, nudo y desenlace, con sus antecedentes y precedentes correspondientes.…  Seguir leyendo »

We no longer live in a unipolar world. Western nations do not enjoy a monopoly on economic and political power. This is an encouraging shift and one that is bringing greater equality and prosperity to the world. With this progress, developing countries are increasingly influential and, in this regard, China reigns supreme. While China's economic and geopolitical progress over the past three decades is cause for celebration, its support for abusive regimes and the brutal force with which it crushes dissent within its own borders demonstrates that substantial reform is needed if China is to be viewed within the international community as a true leader.…  Seguir leyendo »

Immediately after the imprisoned writer Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this month, for more than two decades of pursuing democratic change in China, the Chinese government responded by calling him a criminal and accusing the Nobel Committee of blasphemy. It sent security agents to the Beijing apartment of his wife, Liu Xia, took away her mobile phone and placed her under house arrest. We have seen this before: in the dark days of apartheid, under the long shadow of the Iron Curtain. Whenever we took a small step toward securing the freedom of our people, we were stripped of our own.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is hard to believe that it was more than 30 years ago that we, a group of 242 private citizens concerned about human rights in Czechoslovakia, came together to sign a manifesto called Charter 77. That document called on the Communist Party to respect human rights, and said clearly that we no longer wanted to live in fear of state repression.

Our disparate group included ex-Communists, Catholics, Protestants, workers, liberal intellectuals, artists and writers who came together to speak with one voice. We were united by our dissatisfaction with a regime that demanded acts of obedience on an almost daily basis: Shopkeepers were pressured to put up propaganda signs that read “Workers of the world, unite!”…  Seguir leyendo »

Editor's note: When a group led by former Czech president Vaclev Havel went to the Chinese Embassy in Prague this week to deliver an open letter in support of the recently sentenced human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, officials would not open the door. The Post reprints the letter below.

His Excellency Hu Jintao. President of the People's Republic of China.

State Council. Beijing 100032. P.R. China

Prague, Jan. 6, 2010

Your Excellency,

On Dec. 23, the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court -- after holding him for over a year without trial -- sentenced respected intellectual and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power."…  Seguir leyendo »

A l'époque où je comptais parmi ceux qu'on appelait "dissidents", je recevais parfois des journalistes venant de l'Ouest. Leurs questions laissaient transparaître leur grand étonnement devant le fait que nous autres dissidents - infime pourcentage de la population - oeuvrions ouvertement en faveur d'un changement radical de la situation alors qu'à première vue, il était évident que jamais nous n'obtiendrions de retournement majeur.

Au contraire, il semblait que tous nos efforts ne pouvaient qu'aboutir à de nouvelles persécutions. Faute du moindre instrument de pouvoir pour appui, faute de la moindre marque visible de soutien de la part d'un secteur significatif de la société, nos aspirations paraissaient vaines.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imagine an election where the results are largely preordained and a number of candidates are widely recognized as unqualified. Any supposedly democratic ballot conducted in this way would be considered a farce. Yet tomorrow the United Nations General Assembly will engage in just such an “election” when it votes to fill the vacancies on the 47-member Human Rights Council.

Only 20 countries are running for 18 open seats. The seats are divided among the world’s five geographic regions and three of the five regions have presented the same number of candidates as there are seats, thus ensuring there is no opportunity to choose the best proponents of human rights each region has to offer.…  Seguir leyendo »

The critical conditions that prevail in Darfur are causing immense suffering. Both sides of the conflict - the government of Sudan and its allied forces, as well as all the opposition groups in Darfur - must understand that civilians should no longer fall victim to their political disputes.The Sudanese government's consent to the deployment of the UN/African Union mission, which aims to keep peace in the region, is a welcome development. But the mandate of this mission must be strong enough to allow for full protection of civilians. Moreover, the force must have sufficient manpower and funding to put this vital objective into practice.…  Seguir leyendo »