Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New blog from Cuba

A group of independent journalists in Cuba from the AsociaciĆ³n Pro Libertad de Prensa started a new blog last month.

At the top of the page is an editorial that comments on a videoconference that First Lady Laura Bush held last week with several independent librarians who gathered at the U.S. Interests Section. The editorial “deplores” the exclusion of some of the leaders of the independent library movement from that event and implies that the U.S. diplomats were playing favorites. The editorial opposes the “selection of political figures from outside Cuba,” as if the Interests Section’s invitations favored one faction only. The only split of which I’m aware among the independent librarians occurred a few years ago, when Martha Beatriz Roque convened an assembly of opposition groups and the leaders of the independent libraries did not attend so as to guard the apolitical nature of their work.

15 comments:

leftside said...

I didn't think the regime allowed opposition like this to be spread?? How to explain??

"Apolitical nature of their (independent librarians) work"?? I know you are just repeating the lie that certain folks offered at the time, but come on. The American Library Association has studied these so-called independent libraries and found them neither independent, nor libraries and all very political. ("Almost all the individuals operating these "libraries" identify themselves as dissidents and members of anti-Castro political parties.")

Phil Peters said...

If someone has more detailed recall, I hope they chime in. My recollection is that the leaders of the independent libraries declined to participate in the Asamblea para Promover la Sociedad Civil because they didn't want to associate their work with anyone's political activism. I take them at their word. Just because they have these libraries, and take that view, doesn't take away their right to have their own political views and affiliations separate from their library work. In the event, some of the library people did attend the Asamblea.

Anonymous said...

I don't recall the details either, but I have actually visited a couple of the independent libraries in Cuba and they ARE in fact libraries. Except that when the Cuba government arrested the 75 in March 2003, they also ransacked the libraries and took all the books and magazines related to human rights. So part of the libraries were missing, but they do in fact exist and from what I saw, were independently run. Just speaking from my first hand experience when I was a grad student studying civil society in Cuba.....

leftside said...

Well Phil, you are a better man than me, taking them at their word on their independence. Of course, they have a right to oppose the Government and be part of those parties and organziations. But claiming independence at the same time does not cut the mustard with me...

Anon, I have not visited like you but take the detailed ALA report at its word (the link I had is not correct - I can't find the detailed report now but there are the same conclusions). Their conclusions about the independence of the libaries and their patrons, as well as their function as what we think of as a public library were pretty harsh. Most, if not all, of the books in the libraries could be found in the Cuban library system (even those on a supposed list of banned titled they looked up). No evidence of censorship was found in the regular system (one of the tops in the developing world), just a prioritization based on lack of resources. In the "independent libraries" here were no set hours, no librarians with training, little to no organization, few books, lack of use, etc. These are better thought of as personal collections of books that regime opponents were encouraged to open up by groups such as (US Govt. funded) Freedom House and CANF, who funds the umbrella Freinds of Cuban Libraries group. Those who had received materials from the US Govt. or CANF are the ones who's collections were disturbed and, in some cases, arrested. To claim independence and recieve money from those groups, I hope you'd agree, is more than a little rich.

Anonymous said...

Leftside, I would recommend that you go and investigate things for yourself. The only way to truly know what's going on is to see it first hand. Go and visit the Cuban government sponsored libraries and the "independent libraries" and make the comparison yourself. Despite the US travel ban, there are still many ways to go legally. You accuse Phil of repeating lies, but you just repeat the lies and propoganda of the Cuban government. You can be "left wing" but still recongize, rather than defend, the human rights abuses of the Cuban government. I too consider myself to be on the "left side" as well, and used to believe and defend some of the same things that you do all througout this website, which is why I went to Cuba and saw first hand what was truly going on.....

leftside said...

Anon, I have been to Cuba and visited a unviersity library in Vedado but not the "independent" libraries. I found the library to be quite impressive. The ALA report had a lot of good things to say about the public system as well.

I was not repeating anything by the Cuban Government here, only reciting from memory the American Library Association report. Here is the entire report that I was looking for.

Here are some passages:

"Cuba is a nation of readers. The literacy rate is said to be about 98% and delegates saw Cubans reading everywhere. Books are cherished and eagerly sought after. Hundreds of public libraries operate throughout the country and books are available for sale on the streets in open-air stalls and in bookstores."

"Numerous (public)librarians "emphasized that they were free to put any title into their libraries that they received or could afford to buy."

"Delegates checked card catalogs for the work of several writers whose books are allegedly "banned" in Cuba. Several of them were found listed in the card catalogs of different libraries and in one case, a reader had checked out the book only a few days earlier."

"Considering the small readership of the private collections and the lack of trained librarians, if the U.S. government wishes to get information into the hands of the Cuban people, the most effective way is to deliver books directly to the extensive and active public library system."

Also, I have criticized the Cuban government here - including for their actions over the weekend with the detentions. While the Cuban Govt. (and socialism) is not perfect, I feel the attacks against them are usually unfair and based on bad information. The library is one issue that is misunderstood by most.

Fantomas said...

I feel the attacks against them are usually unfair and based on bad information..

the only BAD thing in Cuba is Comunism, fidelism

take the lefty away phil

llevatelo phil

tranquilo said...

"No evidence of censorship was found in the regular system (one of the tops in the developing world), just a prioritization based on lack of resources."

Orwell lives...

Phil Peters said...

Obviously they're not trained librarians, maybe they're not organized and don't have a set schedule, etc., but so what? They are home-based libraries, for God's sake. Some of them may engage in opposition politics, but it's also perfectly reasonable for them to say that they keep their library activity separate from that.

leftside said...

Phil, if you really believe that these libraries are an apolitical expression, seperate from the anti-government politics nearly every one of these "librarians" hold dear then I am truly dumbfounded. They were almost uniformly organized, funded and supplied from Miami, Washington DC and the USIS. In the ALA report most of those librarians interviewed admit as much - and the Court evidence on those who were tried in 2003 were quite extensive. I am not saying each and every library today fits this pattern, and many are allowed to continue to operate. But the whole notion of "independent libraries" in Cuba is a political creation designed for one reason - to get articles written in the West that suggest that regular Cuban libraries censor books and therefore these are necessary. Nevermind the facts to the contrary - they never make it into articles.

The ALA report noted all the deficiencies of the "libraries" because there has to be some standards as to what gets called a library and what is just a collection of books. Similiarly with the word independent. It may just be semantics to me and you, but for a professional organization these things matter, especially when they were asked repeatedly (by a few members) to take a political position on them. The ALA refused to endorse them and instead recommended donating to public libraries as being the most effective way to help get more American produced reading material into Cuba (as well as changes to US law).

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