Monday, May 09, 2005

Cuban Libraries Update

Here are two recent news items courtesy of the Friends of Cuban Libraries Web site:

Sensitive to growing international concern over reports of human rights violations, in late April the government of President Fidel Castro conducted a secret trial of two Cuban librarians, Elio Enrique Chávez and Luis Elio de la Paz, and sentenced them to prison on a charge of "dangerousness."

The two librarians from eastern Cuba are registered delegates to the Assembly to Promote a Civil Society, a conference of more than 300 non-governmental organizations scheduled to convene in Havana on May 20. If the Civil Assembly takes place, it will be the first nationwide public meeting of non-governmental organizations held in Cuba since the establishment of the Castro regime in 1959. Alarmed by the prospect of this unprecedented challenge to its authority, the government is using threats and arrests to prevent the Civil Assembly from taking place and is pressuring member organizations to revoke their support for the gathering.

Sending librarians to prison for the charge of "dangerousness". Only in a totalitarian police state. Surely the American Library Association will speak out? Don't hold your breath.

While ALA maintains its disgraceful silence on the suppression of intellectual freedom in Castro's Cuba, one unlikely source is speaking up: Che Guevara's grandson, Canek Sánchez Guevara. One of the arguments made by the pro-Castro hard left in ALA is that only right-wing neocon warmongers like myself support the independent library movement, out of our desire to brainwash the Cuban people into rejecting the wonderful existence they enjoy in Fidel's workers' paradise. Sanchez Guevara, an anarchist, puts the lie to this nonsense by showing that support for Cuban libraries spans the political spectrum:

Ultimately, a leftist alternative for Cuba should emphasize with strength and determination the problem of the most basic freedoms.... Because, tell us: How would a socialist project of construction be affected by the fact that 12 million Cubans - among other prerogatives which can be imagined - had the possibility of expressing, arranging and organizing themselves in the forms that seem best to them? We reproduce one of your comments: "All of the young people who are now asking political questions, the ones worth listening to, are always on the left, anarchists or Trotskyists, etc. But ALL of them are revolutionaries [i.e., supporters of the Communist Party]...." Do you know, or do you not know, that these revolutionaries [in present-day Cuba] don't have a right to open a library to the public, to broadcast a radio program, to hold meetings without permission, to have their own newspaper or to freely defend their viewpoints within trade unions or within groups focused on young people, neighborhood activism, gender, environmentalism, etc.? These things require a degree of freedom which today is nonexistent and which calls for, not the intervention of the State, but rather autonomous authority; they require nothing more or less than the socially guaranteed possibility of every collective group, however they may define themselves - as long as they don't violate the liberty of others - to set their own rules. You enjoy a privileged position, Celia, and you must have noticed the obsession [in Castro's Cuba] with surveillance, control, repression, etc. And freedom is something entirely different.

(emphasis added-DD)

Standing with the independent librarians of Cuba should be a no-brainer for an organization committed to the defense of intellectual freedom. Unfortunately, the leftist politicization of ALA makes such a stance all but impossible.


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