"independent" librarians in Cuba

Louis Proyect 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 
Kent’s 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.

Sparanese’s 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 ALA’s sister Cuban library 
association has been invited to attend the ALA’s 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 Oregon’s Willamette University, went to Cuba in 
July 2000 to study the island’s 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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