Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jailed Cuban Librarians Need Your Support to Uphold Intellectual Freedom

Jailed Cuban librarians need your support now! Make your voice heard now by contacting Barbara Silverman (kidzread@aol.com), Shixing Wen (shwen@umich.edu), and Cristina Ramirez (cdramirez@vcu.edu).

Read more about this at The Friends of Cuban Libraries. I cannot read Spanish but I am told these are pictures of beaten Cuban librarians.

Why is SafeLibraries involved? SafeLibraries attempts to educate communities about American Library Association [ALA] efforts to control the minds of the public in communities nationwide. While talk is loud and frequent about concerns for intellectual freedoms, such as it being age discrimination for librarians to keep children from inappropriate material, the reality is, as the Annoyed Librarian says, the ALA believes "Intellectual Freedom Means the Freedom to Think Like Us!" (See also "Long Live the Revolution.") And, in this very Cuban librarian matter, an ALA Councilor has rudely cut out my own comments in response to an ad hominem attack on me by another ALA Councilor (see "Censorship Love Note by ALA Councilor Rory Litwin"), both of whom hold Cuba harmless and berate our American government for one thing or another.

The point is, the ALA's claim to support intellectual freedom is false and is only used as a shield to ensure children remain exposed to ALA diktat that anything goes, leaving children unprotected by the community. This Cuba matter is an example of that false claim of support for intellectual freedom.

And SafeLibraries supports intellectual freedom everywhere. Allowing children access to inappropriate material is not intellectual freedom, no matter what the ALA says.

So please write to those I listed in the first paragraph and do it now. Support Cuban librarians, all of them, not just the government approved ones.

Thank you.


  1. Wow! Look at this! "Cuban Librarians Jailed: American Library Association Shelves Their Case," by Nat Hentoff.

    And see this, "ALA Spokesman Renounces Vote," about former ALA President John Berry:

    ALA Spokesperson Renounces Vote

    Peacework contacted the ALA to hear their side of the story, and was referred to John Berry, current chair of the ALA's International Relations Committee and President of the ALA in 2001-2002.

    John Berry explained that the vote was so lopsided against supporting the language calling for the Cuban librarians' release, because, "We have conservative members who oppose taking stands on trans-border issues at all. Others didn't want to be perceived as allying ourselves with the agenda of Cuban regime change enunciated by Secretary of State Powell and others."

    "In the International Relations Committee, we're working with and pressuring the Cuban Library Association to take a stand for free expression, including free internet access, within their own country."

    "When I was in Cuba, I visited the independent librarians, and they said they wanted to live in Cuba, a Cuba that was free. They had religious tracts, and copies of Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Some people try to discredit them by claiming they're not professional librarians, but that's not a distinction which I believe is important. I love these people. I wish Castro would let them go. I understand the argument the Cuban government is making, but I disagree, and I oppose it."

    "I was surprised by the overwhelmingly negative vote. Actually, I would have supported the amendment myself."

    To contact the ALA, see www.ala.org, or email feedback@ala.org.

  2. Look at this! The knives have come out for Cuban librarian supporters and even the American government! There are even accusations of spying! False accusations against American soldiers! Watch the "Intellectual Freedom" people in action. The personal attacks on multiple people are supposed to intimidate us into submission!! Are you intimidated?

    On Wed, Jun 25, 2008 at 9:40 PM, Peter Mcdonald (pmcdonald@csufresno.edu ) wrote:

    From Peter Mcdonald
    to alacoun@ala.org
    date Wed, Jun 25, 2008 at 9:40 PM
    subject [alacoun-ro] [alacoun] Re: Fwd: The same old Mis- Corrections
    mailing list alacoun-ro.ala.org

    Dear Colleagues,

    The facts of the matter regarding ALA and Cuba have been plainly spoken by ALA, its finest committees and caring librarians for well over a decade now. No amount of histrionics, evasions, outright lies, overblown hyperbole, bogus "facts" and name-calling, indeed this endless one-note nasal bleat perpetrated against our fine association by the writer below can change the simple fact that what we have here is the same tired old propaganda spewed forth by the "Friends" of Cuban Libraries as they were peddling by the bucket years ago.

    These "Friends" are a shadowy "member supported" organization with no discernible structure, no dues, no list of members, no organizational officers and no explanation where their money actually does come from. My bet is Miami via U.S. government Helms-Burton slush funds (start by Googling Jorge Sanguinetty). Only Mr. Kent is listed on their website. Hmmmmm.

    My sympathies go out to you my fellow Councilors. We have had to deal now 10 interminable years with Mr. Kent's endless vitriol and misinformation campaigns, indeed virtually since the day he was himself deported from Cuba for espionage when it was clear to Cuban authorities that he was in their country as nothing more than an agent provocateur. Some reports say he was in cahoots then (as now?) with Miami rightwing anti-Castro elements (among other fellow travelers, easily gleaned from net accessible sources, for example: http://www.counterpunch.org/barahona06182005.html but don't stop there, there's dozens of similar sites.)

    As has been said a hundred times, there is not a shred of evidence that any of these Cubans were jailed because they were "librarians", still less that they were even 'librarians' at all. They were by the whole average citizens journalists, teachers, laborers, who were arrested, tried and convicted for knowingly subverting Cuban law repeatedly -- for one, distributing U.S. funded anti-government materials (among other crimes), not from 'libraries' but from their living rooms and store fronts.

    I will grant the terms of imprisonment were harsh, but hey! America has the largest (corporate-run) prison population in the world not only in real numbers of the incarcerated (over a million+ citizens behind bars at last count), but in average terms of incarceration (10-15yrs), and as a percentage of general population in the top echelon. And we have hundreds (not a handful as in Cuba) of U.S.-held prisoners under solitary lock-up by our military who have never even been charged with a crime, let alone tried and convicted. Where's Mr. Kent's outrage on this travesty where, if we're talking library-related, the prisoners' Korans have been routinely desecrated by soldiers and where they have NO freedom to read?

    Sender 'kidzread' might have at least extended Council the courtesy to both identify his/herself and to say (as is customary) why s/he was forwarding these discredited claims of Mr. Kent's to us all. I have emails from 10 years ago from Mr. Kent from which he obviously cut and pastes this one. Basta!

    Peter McDonald
    Dean of Library Services
    Henry Madden Library
    Fresno State

  3. The ALA's Peter McDonald said, as shown in the comment above, "As has been said a hundred times, there is not a shred of evidence that any of these Cubans were jailed because they were "librarians", still less that they were even 'librarians' at all.

    To show just how false and misleading this statement is, consider "A Dissident's Return to Cuba," by Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2008, p.A11. The ALA Councilor goes on to blame the American government and implies a conspiracy is afoot.

    How can the ALA be seen as authoritative on materials recommended for children when they speak and act as they do here and when they so clearly support the Cuban regime and oppose the American one for which they are named? (In making this statement, I have in mind my understanding of the totality of the ALA's actions and statements vis-a-vis Cuba and Cuban librarians, not just those facts present in this particular blog.)


    "A Dissident's Return to Cuba," by Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2008, p.A11.

    On a muggy Friday evening in New York City last month, some 70 people gathered in a midtown office building to hear former Cuban political prisoner Hector Palacios talk Cuban politics.

    Dressed in a neatly pressed white guayabera shirt and khaki trousers, Mr. Palacios could pass for your average Cuban exile. But he has set himself apart from the rest of his refugee community by declaring his intention to return to his homeland next month.

    To anyone familiar with his story of torture at the hands of revolutionary enforcers in 2003-2006, this sounds like certifiable insanity. But as I listened to him and later to his wife Gisela Delgado, who was with him that night, I learned that the couple's decision, while not without risk, is also not without reason.

    Mr. Palacios and Ms. Delgado believe the system is in the throes of death. While their optimism may reflect the triumph of hope over experience, it is equally possible that change is finally within reach.

    Mr. Palacios has no illusions about the mercilessness of the Castro regime. He himself was once an ardent communist and a practitioner of regime skulduggery. His epiphany came during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. Watching the mobs, incited by state security agents, attack people who wanted only to leave the island, the scales fell from his eyes.

    Over the years, Mr. Palacios grew increasingly uncooperative with the regime. What got him into trouble most recently was his role in the Varela Project, which led a petition drive for democratic reform. It collected more than 11,000 signatures.

    Fearlessness among the population frightens the regime. For his participation in Varela and his outspoken activism, Mr. Palacios was arrested, along with some 75 other political activists, journalists, writers, poets and librarians, in a three-day crackdown on dissent in March 2003. After summary trials, he was sentenced to 25 years, as were a number of the others. Cubans call that time their Black Spring.

    During his incarceration, Mr. Palacios, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall, was jammed in a metal and cement cell measuring just over 5 feet high, less than 6 feet long and 4 feet wide. Shaped a bit like an igloo, it is kept in the sun with the purpose of baking the occupant.

    Mr. Palacios developed heart problems. He was close to death when the regime, which tries to avoid the bad PR that dead political prisoners stir up, released him to the care of the Spanish government in December 2006.

    Reporting from Spain in 2007, the Cuban exile writer Carlos Alberto Montaner described Mr. Palacios's imprisonment: "Hector lived semi-recumbent and in semi-darkness. He lost 88 pounds. He breathed through the door slit. His company were the rats and the cockroaches that emerged from the hole into which he defecated."

    Spanish doctors repaired Mr. Palacios's heart. But his sentence remains in effect, and when he returns to Cuba he, like the other 19 Black Spring prisoners released for medical reasons, can be jailed again at any time. Fifty-five prisoners from March 2003 are still serving time and suffering horrific treatment.

    Grim though all this is, Mr. Palacios and Ms. Delgado maintain that freedom for Cuba is near because the failure of the system is by now universally recognized, and Cubans are becoming bolder about breaking the rules. Ms. Delgado, a founder of the independent libraries movement, estimates that some two million Cubans have either visited those libraries or borrowed their books. That so many are taking such risks is impressive, and it jibes with other shifts in behavior. The nation's youth has become irreverent toward authority, and others are becoming less reluctant to complain. There is even a movement demanding that the Cuban peso be convertible to dollars.

    Mr. Palacios told me that the aggressiveness of the ministry of the interior has diminished in the past two years. This supports the theory, which has been gaining currency among Cuba watchers, that there are widening cracks inside the regime and among the traditional pro-government set.

    Touring in Spain last month, Cuban-Afro pop star Pablo Milanés startled his compatriots when he said "as a revolutionary, I demand changes." More recently, the former director of Cuba's National Library, Eliades Acosta, who acted as the grand inquisitor in the effort to flatten the independent library movement, is reported to have resigned his Communist Party post in disillusionment.

    Mr. Palacios believes that if Fidel were to die to tomorrow, Raúl would let the political prisoners go free. That's a surprising but not necessarily charitable take on the ruthless Raúl. It suggests that he knows the nation is near insurrection and that only with change can he survive. He certainly knows that dissidents are not going away. Asked by Mr. Montaner when he arrived in Spain whether he could recover his health, Mr. Palacios said, "What's important is that they couldn't crush me."

    Write to O'Grady@wsj.com

    URL for this article:

  4. I find it funny (not) that the American Library Association Council makes statements that sound almost exactly like what appears in the following official Cuban publication:

    "Independent" Librarians with CIA Financing; Now Kent Will Have to Explain his Ties with the Swindler Calzón, by Jean-Guy Allard, Granma International, 1 August 2008.

    The above article link was sent to the entire ALA Council list without commentary in "[alacoun] A Cuban perspective on Cuba's "'independent librarians'", Diaz, Joseph, 08/04/2008. Perhaps the American Library Association should change its name to more accurately reflect its interests. Any suggestions?


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