Indifference to Censorship

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Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a r...

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a result of the Cuban Revolution

Source: The Trentonian – By Nat Hentoff

In 2003, the security police of Fidel Castro arrested and imprisoned 75 journalists, members of opposition parties, and owners of independent libraries. The charge: “crimes against national sovereignty.” The librarians had been making available to Cubans books that were banned in the state’s libraries. Among them were a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

During the one-day trial, Castro’s judges ordered that all confiscated works burned. I obtained copies of those incendiary court rulings that then, and now, characterize the Cuban “revolution.”

At first, I had expected immediate protests from the American Library Association (ALA). The core credo of this largest national library association in the world has been “the freedom to read.”

In the many columns I’ve written since about the abandoned Cuban librarians, I’ve cited the ALA’s refusal to speak out. In 2003,, Michael Dowling, then director of the ALA’s International Relations Office, said: “There has been no definitive evidence that books are banned and librarians harassed.” There had been international press coverage of the raids!

As my commentary on the imprisonments went on, I was targeted by the director of Cuba’s National Library, Eliades Acosta: “What does Mr. Hentoff know of the real Cuba?” I know this: If I were a Cuban, I’d be in prison.

Polish and Latvian library associations did call for the release of the Cuban prisoners of conscience.

In 1995, as a longtime admirer of Ray Bradbury (author of the classic novel of censorship, “Fahrenheit 451”), I sent him some of my columns on the Castro book burnings. Publicly, Bradbury responded: “I plead with Castro and his government to take their hands off the independent librarians and release all those librarians in prison, and to send them back into Cuban culture to inform the people.”

No comment from Fidel — or the ALA.

Last year, on May 19, the Mario Chanes de Armas Independent Library was raided by Cuban State Security police, who confiscated 360 books. I do not know the whereabouts of the director of that library, who had telephoned this news under the regime of Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother.

But, in yet another appeal to the ALA last year, the American-based Friends of Cuban libraries sent a letter to then-president of the ALA Camila Alire, “asking for your urgent and compassionate aid in saving the life of a fellow library worker, Guillermo Farinas (director of the Dr. Roberto Avalos library).”

The Friends group noted that the Parliament of the European Union had adopted a resolution expressing concern for Mr. Farinas and voicing the hope that the American Library Association would finally join “the worldwide effort to help in saving his life.”

This plea was ignored by the American Library Association.

The ALA should be reminded reminded that in 2005, Canek Sanchez Guevara — the grandson of the murderous Che Guevara, still a hero to Fidelists around the world and in the United States — spoke in Stockholm of the Cuban regimes’s “obsession with surveillance, control, repression.”

The American Library Association should invite Che Guevara’s grandson to address one of its conferences to encourage its governing council to end its obsession with ignoring the persistently persecuted Cuban independent librarians.

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