Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jailed Cuban Librarians the ALA Ignores; What You Can Do to Try to Help Since the ALA Will Not

The American Library Association [ALA] continues to ignore Cuban librarians. Having written on this before, I now provide the names of the jailed Cuban librarians with information about how you can help. The ALA won't, so you have to do this yourselves. They were jailed in violation of their intellectual freedoms, but the ALA's "Office For Intellectual Freedom" only wishes they would "drown."

The following message is based on "EU Envoy Urged to Seek Release of Jailed Cubans," by Louis Michel, Committee to Protect Journalists, 17 March 2009. It can be found at "Quarterly Appeal for Cuban Library Prisoners, and Progress Report," by Steve Marquardt, PhD, Cuba451Letters, 19 March 2009:

Please send the following message, or your own variation thereof, on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the crackdown in independent library owners in Cuba. This appeal is based upon an appeal posted this month by the Committee to Protect Journalists, at

I learned of this CPJ appeal only yesterday, March 18, but because there will be subsequent communications between the EU and the Cuban government, don’t let the date of the visit deter you from writing, and be sure to send a copy to Cuba’s new Foreign Minister (airmail 94 cents), so that Cuba hears from you directly.

If there is a “committee to protect LIBRARIANS,” it’s not within ALA or IFLA -- it's YOU, the people in my Cuba451Letters group receiving this message – so I hope that you will act on this appeal. Progress is being made on these cases. Over the past six years, there have been 34 library owners in prison, but thanks to international pressure and releases for health reasons, now only half that number are behind bars. Thanks for your efforts!

Steve Marquardt, Ph.D.
South Dakota State University Dean of Libraries Emeritus
Amnesty International Legislative Coordinator for Minnesota
9383 123rd Avenue SE
Lake Lillian, Minnesota 56253-4700
(320) 664-4231


March 19, 2009

Mr. Louis Michel
European Union Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid
Berlaymont 10 /165
1049 Brussels, Belgium

Via e-mail:

Dear Mr. Michel,

Your planned trip to Havana this week coincides with the sixth anniversary of Cuba's massive crackdown on independent library owners and dissidents. As a librarian, I call on you to urge Raúl Castro's government to release the following 17 independent library owners jailed in Cuban prisons and extend the internationally guaranteed right of free expression to all Cubans:

Ariel Sigler Amaya (General Pedro Betancourt Library, Matanzas)
Blas Giraldo Reyes Rodríguez (20th of May Library, Sancti Spiritus)
Fabio Prieto Llorente (Mir Francisco Mulets Library, Neuva Gerona, Isla de la Juventud)
Fidel Suárez Cruz (St. Paul Library, Pinar del Río)
Guido Sigler Amaya (General Pedro Betancourt Library, Matanzas)
Iván Hernández Carrill (Juan Gualberto Gómez Library, Branch II, Matanzas)
José Luis García Paneque (Carlos J. Finlay Library, Las Tunas)
José Miguel Martínez Hernández (General Juan Bruno Zayas Library, Havana Province)
José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández (Sebastián Arcos Library, Havana Province)
Leonel Grave de Peralta Almenares (Bartolomé Masó Library, Santiago de Cuba)
Lester Gonzalez Pentón (Jorge Mas Canosa Independent Library, Santa Clara)
Librado Ricardo Linares García (Enrique José Varona Library, Camajuaní, Villa Clara province)
Luis Milán Fernández (11th of September Library, Santiago de Cuba)
Nelson Alberto Aguiar Ramirez (Eddy Chibás Independent Library, Havana)
Ricardo Severino Gonzales Alfonso (Jorge Mañach Library, Havana)
Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona (Reyes Magos Library, Pinar del Río)
Pedro González Acosta (Martin Luther King Independent Library, San Juan y Martínez)

I also ask you to assess the Cuban government's compliance with human rights conditions that the European Union imposed in 2008 after lifting diplomatic sanctions.

According to reports in the international and Cuban press, you are visiting Havana on March 18 and 19 to attend a conference on renewed cooperation projects between Cuba and the European Union. During your trip, you are expected to meet with Cuban officials, including newly appointed Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.

On March 18, 19, and 20, 2003, Cuban authorities orchestrated the arrest of 75 dissidents, including 25 independent library owners. The accused were tried in summary, closed-door hearings and sentenced to up to 26 years in prison. Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience, and the EU responded by imposing sanctions on Cuba, including a ban on high-ranking official visits by Cuban authorities to EU countries.

The EU Presidency has also called for the release of these prisoners of conscience on 26 March 2003 and 5 June 2003 (see and, as has the EU Council on 14 June 2004 and 17 June 2007 (see and

During the June 2008 meeting of the Council of the European Union in Brussels, the EU agreed to suspend the 2003 sanctions provided that Cuba improve its human rights record. The Cuban government should have unconditionally released all political prisoners, facilitated access of international humanitarian organizations to Cuban prisons, ratified and implemented the international covenants on human rights signed by Cuba, and granted freedom of expression and information, including through the Internet.

Over the past six years, Cuba has freed a small number of librarians and dissidents in exchange for international political concessions. However, 16 independent library owners another two jailed since 2003, remain in prison, making Cuba the world's leading jailer of librarians. Jailed librarians live in inhumane conditions, their health is deteriorating, and local authorities continue to harass their families.

To date, no international humanitarian organizations have visited any of the imprisoned Cuban librarians. Nor has the Cuban government ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides "the right to freedom of expression," or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, both signed in February 2008 by then-Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque. In a country where the government has complete control of the media, independent librarians continue to be threatened and harassed by Cuba's secret police.

In 2008, the EU announced that its relations with Cuba would be renewed annually after an assessment of the progress and commitment made by the Cuban government on issues that included human rights. I urge you to take this opportunity to address these issues with Cuban leaders, ensure that the EU conditions for the improvement of human rights will be met, and call on the government to immediately and unconditionally release all librarians unjustly imprisoned for exercising their basic human right to freedom to read as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Copy to:
Sr. Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Calzada No. 360, Vedado
La Habana, Cuba


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