A Librarian Speaks on the Cuba Controversy

A Librarian Speaks on the Cuba Controversy

A Librarian Speaks on the Cuba Controversy

New Jersey


New Jersey

The section titled “Cuban Library Controversy,” in Joseph Huff-Hannon’s otherwise laudatory report on US librarians [posted August 22], seems to fault the American Library Association (ALA), for not defending dissidents in Cuba who call themselves “independent librarians.” The “independent librarians,” as Mark Rosenzweig correctly states, are neither “librarians” nor “independent, and here’s why:

Those imprisoned were convicted of taking money, equipment and direction from the US government in violation of Cuban law. Similar laws exist in the US: We too are forbidden from accepting foreign money or direction without registering as an “agent of a foreign power.” Our “Trading with the Enemy Act” criminalizes the acceptance of any goods or cash from the Cuban government. And yet, the US carries out a multimillion dollar program of internationally illegal support for the opposition in Cuba. The Bush Administration’s Cuba Transition Team 2006 report makes the goal perfectly clear: regime change. Is it any wonder that the Cuban government also has laws to protect its political and economic system against foreign intervention?

ALA did not join in the reflexive criticism of Cuba in spring 2003 because ALA has actually studied the issue since 2001! The result of delegations visiting Cuba , testimony given before our international relations committee, and months of deliberation by two committees and the 170-member ALA Council, was a final report expressing concern over the imprisonment of the so-called “independent librarians,” but no strident condemnation of Cuba and no embrace of the prisoners as our “colleagues.” I believe this was the appropriate response to events in which our own government has obviously played a pivotal, negative role.

Not one real librarian in Cuba has ever joined the “independent librarians.” Not one “independent librarian” has ever even been associated with libraries before their recent incarnations. Ramon Colas, a psychologist, was a long-time dissident before he became an “independent librarian.” When he emigrated to the US, his first job was with the right-wing Cuban American National Foundation–and not as a librarian.

Finally, there have not been “library associations around the world” that have drafted “forceful statements of condemnation.” In August 2006, a meeting of the International Federation Library Associations ((IFLA, the organization of libraries worldwide) in Seoul, a resolution condemning Cuba offered by the Latvian Library Association, never even reached the floor for lack of a second!

Mr. Colas and Mr. Kent–neither of whom is against the US embargo, the US travel ban, or Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act–are the ones who are interested solely in political victories. If they really wanted their heroes out of prison, rather than the downfall of socialist Cuba, the most useful approach would be to end the hostile, dangerous and interventionist US policies towards Cuba and to seek normalization of relations.


The writer is a two-term elected member of the American Library Association Council.

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