A Librarian Speaks
on the Cuba Controversy
Por Ann Sparanese, Mls
The "independent librarians are neither "librarians"
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
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!
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
ANN SPARANESE, MLS >>
The writer is a two-term elected member of the American
Library Association Council.