Czech Republic: Romani party defends choice of "trafficker in poverty" as candidate
News server Romea.cz has prepared a series of brief interviews with Romani candidates in the upcoming local elections. This interview is with Miroslav Rusenko, campaign officer and political secretary for the Romani Democratic Party (RDS).
Q: If your party's candidates are elected, what is the most important intention or issue you plan to enforce?
A: The most important thing is for our towns to be clean, to have as much greenery as possible and fewer automobiles than there are now. We also want to improve housing policy. Apartments should be available at affordable prices. We want to raise the dignity of the citizenry, that's important. Not just when it comes to housing, but also when it comes to equal access to employment for everyone. Businesses and entrepreneurs who discriminate against citizens of the Czech Republic on the basis of nationality or skin color must be strictly punished. The same goes for the owners and operators of businesses open to the public that don't permit all citizens of the Czech Republic equally to enter them. We would also like to reduce the cost of public transportation, if possible, to around CZK 10 per ticket and make it completely free of charge for children, students and pensioners. Officials should also take a more humane approach toward the public than they do today - and again, they should practice equal treatment. There will be an effort to help ameliorate the impacts of poverty, including homelessness. Towns should, in short, always do their best to help improve the standard of living of all their citizens who find themselves in difficult living situations.
Q: How specifically do you want to help improve coexistence between the gadje and Roma, both in the places where you might be elected and throughout the country as a whole?
A: For the coexistence of gadje and Roma what is very important is that people from the majority society begin accepting us as we are, that is, they must realize that we have our own culture and traditions. We want to contribute to solving the burning problems in the towns and villages, to bring non-Roma and Roma together and to do our best to get rid of what is negative by joining forces. Our aim is good coexistence in a society where the Roma too will have their own space. This is about the common fate that we all share equally, which is why we can't just passively watch while these problems overwhelm us all.
Q: In Ostrava the leading candidate for your party is Vladimír Leško, a "trafficker in poverty" who, as the owner of a residential hotel where people live in horrible conditions, collects high amounts of housing benefits from the state in the name of his tenants, a phenomenon that is having a very negative impact on the lives of impoverished Romani people and on the state budget. Why are you running him as a candidate?
A: The chair of the RDS in the Moravian-Silesian Region, Mr Malár, tells me that Vladimír Leško is currently one of the best Romani leaders in the Czech Republic and he hopes he wins. Mr Leško is, in his opinion, a businessman who works conscientiously and pays his taxes. The city of Ostrava owns around 700 unoccupied apartment units, but it will not lease them to Romani tenants. Leško buys buildings, repairs them, and then offers rental housing to both non-Roma and Roma. He doesn't require a deposit like other businesspeople do, even though such deposits are very lucrative and legislation makes it possible to require them. It is not true that he charges overpriced rents.
Note from the editors:
Vladimír Leško has admitted that he charges his tenants as much as CZK 4 500 per adult per month. He houses large families in the rooms of his residential hotels, which means the rent charged per room sometimes exceeds CZK 20 000 per month. In his residential hotels on Cihelní Street, for example, there are just a couple of common toilets, sinks and showers per floor as well as a single small communal kitchen. Several years ago, dysentery broke out in his facilities. At that time tenant Iveta Horvátová was living there with eight children, and for the one small room in which they all were forced to live, she paid Vladimír Leško CZK 17 000 per month. For prices approximating CZK 20 000 one could lease an apartment with five or even more rooms in Prague.
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