Croatian Leader Calls for Support to Free Election in Yugoslavia
by Stephen Schwartz
Marko Veselica, a leader of the democratic opposition in the Yugoslav region of Croatia, is visiting the Bay Area on a national tour of Croatian American communities to drum up support for the region's first multiparty elections on April 22.
Hundreds of Croatian Americans gathered in South San Francisco to hear about the vote and listen to his appeals for donations. Veselica, one of two top opposition candidates, is an economist and a former Communist leader. He is the leader of the Croatian Democratic Movement, which is committed, he says, to ""free-market economic solutions and a recognition that communism has failed completely."
His party is expected to share the majority of Croatian votes with a similarly-named Croatian Democratic Party led by Franjo Tudjman, an associate of Yugoslavia's longtime president, Marshal Tito, and leader of the anti-Nazi partisans during World War II. The Communists are expected to run third.
""This will be the first free election in Croatia in many decades," commented Luka Ukalovic, a Croatian leader in the Bay Area.
Both Veselica and Tudjman are well-known in human rights circles, having served prison terms for ""Croatian nationalism." Veselica was a Communist leader until an abortive democratic movement in Croatia was suppressed in 1971. In 1977 he was designated Amnesty International's Dissident of the Year.
He predicted that the Croatian region would, like the Slovenian region to its north, declare its economic independence from the Yugoslav central government in Belgrade, which Slovenes and Croatians believe to be dominated by the Serbians, the largest ethnic group in the Yugoslav state.
The goal of his movement, he repeated, is to extend an existing ""Croatian perestroika" so as to achieve a ""modern, sovereign, and democratic" Croatia.
Such a country would participate in a newly-defined ""Central Europe" extending from Bavaria in the west to Hungary in the east, and from Poland to Croatia. These nations have traditions of Western religion and culture that makes it incorrect, he argued, to consider them a separate part of Europe. Veselica believes they will organize their own autonomous system within a united Europe.