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Ondrej Jurik, MSc., is Head of Latin American Program at People in Need where he oversees programs in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.  He also teaches about media and Latin America at Charles University in Prague. Before joining the Human Rights Department at People in Need he travelled extensively around Latin America. He received his bachelor’s degree from Charles University in Prague and his master’s degree from the University of Westminster in London.

1. What is for you the added value of Europeans in assisting and supporting others in their democratic transformation and transition processes? What role can they play?

Assisting Cubans from Europe is extremely valuable. Many of the issues that Eastern European countries had to deal with in recent history are or soon might be extremely relevant for Cuba.

Since February 2013 Cubans are allowed to travel and many democrats from Cuba have come to the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. Cuban democrats coming to the Czech Republic have been eager to learn from our experience. They want to learn not only about our success but also about our mistakes made during the transition. The fact that they can meet with people that were in charge of these reforms makes the experience of visiting Cubans unique as does the fact that they are able to experience life in a transformed society that 25 years ago was in many respects very similar to that of Cuba today.

Assisting Cubans from Europe is extremely valuable. Many of the issues that Eastern European countries had to deal with in recent history are or soon might be extremely relevant for Cuba.

All EU countries can play a role in preparing Cubans to better manage their transition process. The areas of focus will include:  justice, media and economy.

2. As a practitioner, give us an example of how you have been able to make a difference?

Cuba is one of the few countries in the world where all media are controlled by the communist party (the two leading newspapers often  have an identical front page). The education of journalists is highly politicized and books or manuals for journalists are practically non-existent. Over the last number of years People in Need have been delivering materials for independent journalists and also organizing flat seminars on various media topics in houses of Cuban dissidents and recently also in the Czech Republic. As a result there are now a number of independent press agencies that are ever more professional and produce newspaper-like publications and professionally looking video reports dealing with topics that the state-controlled media would not cover.

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