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Posted February 02, 2006 by Cubana in Castro's Cuba

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Czech top model Helena Houdova, who was arrested in Cuba last week while taking photographs of Havana’s slums, told journalists that she will display the pictures she took at an exhibition portraying the island not only as a tourist paradise but also as a land of political oppression.

Houdova, Miss Czech Republic 1999, spoke to journalists today after returning from Cuba.

“The revolution’s watchmen rose up because I was taking pictures of something they do not like,” said the top model, referring to the fact that the Communist regime of Fidel Castro denies the existence of slums on the island.

Houdova was arrested along with psychologist and fellow model Mariana Kroftova. The two women spent 11 hours in police custody.
They were not allowed to contact the Czech embassy throughout their arrest and could not communicate with their jailers in English. They in vain requested medical attention.

Upon their release, the women were requested to sign a statement saying they would not travel beyond Havana. They remained under police surveillance until their departure from the island.
The women received the support of locals, as well as of Czech embassy employees.

The Cuban police confiscated the roll of film that was in the Czech women’s camera. However, Houdova managed to conceal the memory card of her digital camera inside her brassiere.

The pictures she thus saved will be included in an exhibition Houdova plans to organise together with People in Need (PINF), a Czech non-governmental humanitarian relief organisation with a track record of supporting Cuba’s pro-democracy opposition.

Houdova said the exhibition should portray Cuba not only as a country with beautiful nature, interesting architecture and a captivating atmosphere but also as a state where people are imprisoned for their beliefs.

Houdova said her meetings with dissidents, the wives of political prisoners, as well as with ordinary Cubans during her ten-day stay in Cuba made her recollect her childhood in Communist Czechoslovakia.

“I am not an expert on the political situation in Cuba but I think some kind of change is necessary there,” she said.

Houdova went to Cuba to find out whether her Sunflower foundation could assist the local children - orphans, the handicapped or those afflicted with AIDS. She pointed out that it is almost impossible to provide any assistance through official means because the Communist authorities refuse to admit anything in their country does not work.

However, Houdova personally ascertained the pathetic situation in several Cuban hospitals.

Although Houdova admitted she cannot predict how long Fidel Castro will manage to maintain his totalitarian regime on the island, she said she believes Cubans will soon live to experience liberty as have Czechs.

For the past two years, Houdova has been living mostly in New York and Los Angeles where she works as a model. At the same time, she tries to raise funds to help physically or socially handicapped children in different countries around the world.

The Czech Foreign Ministry has summoned the Cuban charge d’affairs in Prague to explain the conduct of the Cuban authorities in arresting the two Czech women.

The case provides additional evidence of the frosty nature of official Czech-Cuban political relations. Cuban officials have in the past described the Czech Republic as a lackey of the United States.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on February 02, 2006 by CWS

    Interesting since it says that Houdova did have a political agenda and has a connection with the Czech government, at least through the Czech NGO “humanitarian relief organisation with a track record of supporting Cuba’ pro-democracy opposition.”....As for slums in Cuba, any tourist who walks or takes a taxi through Central Havana, or has his/her eyes open on the ride from Jose Marti airport, will see evidence of seriously critical housing conditions. Granted that Cuba doesn’t promote this fact in its tourist pitch. But does Jamaica? Miami?

  2. Follow up post #2 added on February 02, 2006 by jesusp with 246 total posts

    Living in New York and Los Angeles and working as a model is not what I would call, qualifications to becoming an expert in socio-economic issues. Was her only reason of traveling to Cuba to take pictures of slums? She could have done that without leaving New York or Los Angeles.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on February 02, 2006 by redwood with 18 total posts

    “As for slums in Cuba, any tourist who walks or takes a taxi through Central Havana, or has his/her eyes open on the ride from Jose Marti airport, will see evidence of seriously critical housing conditions.”

    As offensive as I find people who conduct themselves in other people’ houses in ways that are offensive to their hosts, however the host defines it, part of me supports her (unwitting) attempt to define poor housing as a human rights violation.  Let housing improve everywhere.  Of course, she probably doesn’t know that the last thing real estate developers want is for the United Nations to recognize homelessness as a Human Right’ violation. 

    The question I have as an amatuer photographer, though, is how to you take a picture of beliefs? She says she wants to

    “...portray Cuba…as a state where people are imprisoned for their beliefs.”

  4. Follow up post #4 added on February 08, 2006 by Mike

    Cuba is a Wonderland, everything works and local television is more entertaining than America’s 999 channels. Cuba abolished racism and new cars, streets are toll-free and have no pot holes, Venezuelan gasoline is cheaper than Mexican Coca Cola, cops in Cuba all white intellectuals, medicine is free for all, wages have been increased from $15 per month to $16 per month, pizza is pizza and the 300 girls walking La Rampa are part of a cultural program. I love the CUBANA airlines slogan “your door to the world”, $8,000 USD buys you a key.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on February 09, 2006 by Ozzie

    That is funny Mike…:) I needed a good laugh today….thanks!!

  6. Follow up post #6 added on February 12, 2006 by Elias

    There is one fact. There are much more Homeless,Jobeless,Parentsless,Freindless,Lonelyness,Poorness,Crime,
    Prostitution,DRUGS,JUNKIES,Hospital less ,Medicin less,Social segregation,Racism,You name it in the USA , Canada and Europe than in Cuba.
    You Like it or Not these are facts and all the rest is propaganda.
    The perfect world do not exist.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on February 12, 2006 by Mike Seyfert

    agreed, the only good part of the USA is, that I can leave anytime I want, and
    that without converting my 57 Chevy into a hydrofoil.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on February 14, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    Mike:  Enjoy your relative freedoms for now, because every day we’re seeing them being chiseled away here in the good ‘ol USA.  And if they institute the Draft again because of the decades of war that are being planned, we just might see Americans fleeing in rafts or across the desert into Mexico!

  9. Follow up post #9 added on February 16, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    For those of you who like to follow Cuba politics, we have finished our Cuba Politics Forums.

    Take a look here

    Cuba consulting services

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