Sunday, October 15, 2006

One of the "most beautiful ideas of recent years"

Friends of Cuban Libraries reports that Cuban author Amir Valle issued a ringing denunciation of the Castro regime's pervasive censorship while attending the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. In particular, he commented on the vital role the independent library movement plays in the struggle for intellectual freedom in Cuba:

The theme of the PEN Club event at the Frankfurt Book Fair was Writers in Exile, with a particular emphasis on Zimbabwe and Cuba. In his presentation, Valle warned that the Cuban government is preparing a crackdown against writers on a scale reminiscent of the 1970's, the most repressive decade in the island's recent history. "All of the violations against freedom of expression in Cuba are permitted by the system and the Constitution," said Valle. He described Cuba as a country which has converted art and culture into a political weapon.

The result of this situation, according to Valle, is the total politicization of culture, in which only conformist literature is allowed. In Cuba, he declared, there is a permanent violation of the right to freedom of information, prohibition of the Internet and restrictions on access to books. He said Cuba's National Library plays an important role in preventing uncensored books from being acquired by local branches of the official library system.

As an antidote to the regime's effort to ban books, Amir Valle praised the development of Cuba's pioneering independent library network as "one of the most beautiful ideas of recent years." With the goal of making uncensored books available to the general public, volunteers throughout Cuba have opened hundreds of independent libraries offering books that are unavailable in the official library system. "In Cuba..., he stated, "it is disgraceful that these people have been branded as foreign agents, worms and tools of the enemy." In addition to defaming the independent librarians, said Valle, the regime also subjects them to imprisonment and forced exile and has exerted pressure against their family members. Despite this repression, he noted, the independent library movement continues to grow. Many of the librarians jailed in Cuba have been adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, and International PEN has also campaigned to win their release from prison.

(Emphasis added-DD)


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