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New Crackdown on Librarians Reported


Robert Kent <[log in to unmask]>


BIBLIST - Topics in Nordic research library user services <[log in to unmask]>


Fri, 22 Dec 2000 02:31:25 EST





text/plain (1 lines)

                                       News Bulletin

                           The Friends of Cuban Libraries
                                 Date: December 21, 2000


    An organization representing Cuba's independent librarians outside the
island, the Directorio Revolucionario Democratico Cubano, issued an appeal
today for worldwide protests against what it terms a new crackdown on the
independent librarians. According to an appeal issued by the Directorio,
the co-founders of the independent library movement, Ramon Colas and Berta
Mexidor, were arrested early today at the train station in the eastern city
of Santiago along with another librarian, Reynaldo Jimenez Yance; in 1999,
after an earlier arrest, Ramon Colas had been designated as a Prisoner of
Conscience by Amnesty International. The present location of the three
detainees is unknown. The Directorio believes today's arrests were intended
to disrupt a provincial meeting of independent librarians scheduled in
Santiago. Despite the arrests, however, the meeting continued without
further interference.

    Since 1998, more than 60 independent libraries have been established in
Cuba with the goal of offering public access to uncensored books. According
to a 1999 report issued by the International Federation of Library
Associations (IFLA), the Cuban government has tried to suppress the
independent librarians through a "campaign of threats, intimidation,
harassment, eviction, short-term arrests, and the confiscation of incoming
book donations or book collections." In its landmark report, IFLA called on
the Cuban government to halt the persecution and also appealed to other
organizations around the world to condemn the repression of the independent

    Today's arrests in Santiago are the most recent in a series of
detentions, interrogations, beatings and other acts of intimidation directed
against independent librarians, dissidents and other representatives of
Cuba's emerging civil society in recent weeks. On December 14 Amnesty
International issued a report entitled "Cuba Marks Human Rights Day with Mass
Detentions and Sentences for Dissidents." According to Amnesty, more than
200 Cuban citizens were arrested shortly before International Human Rights
Day, December 10, in an effort to prevent organized protests. All but a few
of the detainees arrested in early December have been released, but two of
the persons remaining in prison in Havana are independent librarians. On
December 12 Julia Cecilia Delgado, the director of the Gertrudis Gomez de
Avellaneda Library, was sentenced to a one-year prison term for "disrespect."
  She is now serving her sentence in Manto Negro prison, and the Directorio
reports she has begun a hunger strike to protest the conditions under which
she is being held. In its December 14 report, Amnesty International stated
it believes Julia Cecilia Delgado may be a prisoner of conscience. The other
independent librarian still under detention in Havana, Leonardo Miguel Bruzon
Avila, is the director of the "24th of February" Library. The Directorio
reports he is awaiting trial while being held on unknown charges at the
headquarters of a security agency, the Department of Technical Investigations.

    According to the Directorio, the arrests of Ramon Colas, Berta Mexidor,
Reynaldo Jimenez Yance, Julia Cecilia Delgado and Leonardo Miguel Bruzon
Avila are "only the most recent examples of harassment to which
representatives of the independent libraries are continuously subjected for
the simple act of offering uncensored books to the people of the island."
The Directorio has issued an appeal for international protests against what
it terms "a clear violation... of the rights and liberties of Cuban citizens."

    SUGGESTED ACTION: The Friends of Cuban Libraries are alarmed by this
news, and we recommend the sending of courteous protest messages to President
Fidel Castro c/o the following e-mail address: ([log in to unmask]),
with copies to directors of Cuba's official library union: Mr. Eliades
Acosta ([log in to unmask]) and Ms. Marta Terry ([log in to unmask]).
Please send any replies from Cuba to the Friends of Cuban Libraries.

    BACKGROUND: The Friends of Cuban Libraries, founded in June, 1999, is an
independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit support group for the independent
librarians. We are concerned exclusively with intellectual freedom issues,
as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, regardless of
whatever government may be in office in Cuba. We are funded entirely by our
members and we do not seek or accept funds from other sources. For more
information, send e-mail to: [log in to unmask] or telephone (USA)
718-340-8494. Mailing address: Robert Kent, 4-74 48th Avenue, #3-C, Long
Island City, NY 11109 USA.

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