"independent" librarians in Cuba
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 25 17:00:18 MDT 2003
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 05/21/03 16:49
U.S. funds independent librarians in Cuba
by Tim Wheeler
Among the 75 dissidents recently convicted on subversion charges in Cuba
are so-called independent librarians. Their arrest drew howls of protest
from the Bush administration and Cuban emigres in Miami. But Ann Sparanese,
a librarian at the Englewood, N.J. public library who is active in the
American Library Association (ALA), is one of several alert ALA members who
dug into the background of these independent librarians.
They are not librarians at all, she told the World in a telephone
interview. They are on the payroll of the U.S. government, the biggest,
most powerful and richest country in the world that is trying to buy
dissidents in Cuba.
Sparanese wrote a report on the so-called independent librarians as well
as on an outfit in the U.S. called Friends of Cuban Libraries (FOCL)
headed by Cuban émigré Robert Kent, an employee of the New York City
Library. Kent brags that he set up the network of libraries, and visited
Cuba many times delivering cash and anti-government literature until he was
deported in 1999. As early as July 2000, Kent approached the ALA demanding
they denounce Cuban repression and also provide financial and political
support for his network of libraries in Cuba.
Thanks to the efforts of Sparanese and others, ALA convened a hearing on
Kents demands Jan. 13, 2001. After hearing her testimony and that of a
University of California (UC) librarian, Rhonda L. Neugebauer, the ALA
rejected his appeals.
Sparaneses report points out that Cubanet, funded by the National
Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Agency for International Development and
anonymous donors, openly brags of its independent libraries project in
Cuba headed by leaders and officers of dissident political parties whose
declared aim is to overthrow the Cuban government. She concludes her
report, If the ALA takes any action at all on Cuba, it should be to call
for an end to the embargo and the hostile U.S. policy toward Cuba which
harms the democratic rights, including freedom of expression, of both the
Cuban and U.S. people.
She said ALA is so determined to improve relations with the bonafide
librarians of Cuba that a delegation from the ALAs sister Cuban library
association has been invited to attend the ALAs annual convention in
Toronto in June. We will have a panel discussion and all kinds of
welcoming activities, she said.
Neugebauer, a bibliographer in Latin American Studies at UC-Riverside, and
Larry Oberg, a librarian at Oregons Willamette University, went to Cuba in
July 2000 to study the islands system of 400 public libraries and 6,000
school libraries. Today, 97 percent of Cubans are literate, the highest
rate in the western hemisphere. Before the 1959 socialist revolution, they
point out, a majority of Cubans were illiterate and there were 32 libraries
in the whole country.
Neugebauer and Oberg visited over a dozen independent libraries in
several cities including Havana and Santiago. On their return, they issued
a 21-page report titled, Payment for Services Rendered: U.S.-Funded
Dissent and the Independent Libraries Project.
By interviewing the owners of these libraries they discovered that they
were carefully chosen drop-off and contact points for personnel from the
U.S. Interests Section
the independent librarians
told (us) that
they received regular visits from U.S. Interests Section personnel who
dropped off packages on a monthly basis along with money.
The report continues, Since it was the first time any mention of money had
been made in reference to their work, I asked, What is the money for?
For services rendered, the librarian responded. These libraries help
the opposition in Cuba and our leadership in Miami. They tell us what to
do. They receive our reports and news. They give us money so we can do what
we do here, be dissidents and build opposition to the Cuban government.
By coincidence, the report continues, We arrived at one library when a
meeting was being held of independent librarians, independent teachers,
independent trade unionists and some type of independent religious
organization. The 10 dissidents described to us the interconnected nature
of their work against the Cuban government using a variety of front groups
they called independent. However, most of their meetings did not appear
to be about library service or collections.
The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212 at yahoo.com
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