"How Can I Take Books to Cuba?"

Addresses of Libraries

Adopt a Library in Cuba!

on Cuba

Join Us!






 "Your government's response to The Independent Libraries in Cuba Project clearly violates basic human rights to intellectual freedom....  In persecuting and harassing members of the Cuban library community, your government is striking at the heart of the principles espoused and acted upon by librarians worldwide."
- Letter to President Castro from Kathleen De Long, President of the Canadian Association of College and University Libraries

Familia                                                                                                                            Ramón Colás, far left, and Berta Mexidor, far right, co-founders of the Independent Library Project, with their children (photo by Pedro Portal, with permission of Encuentro en la Red)


OVERVIEW: The general human rights situation in Cuba has been investigated by numerous human rights organizations in recent years. Among the groups which have published reports on Cuba are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Pax Christi Holland, and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. The Links section of this database allows immediate access to the websites of these organizations.  A concise but thorough overview is "Cuba's Repressive Machinery" by Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org/reports/1999/cuba).

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: For the sixth year in a row, the Committee to Protect Journalists has named Cuba among the world's "Ten Worst Enemies of the Press" (www.cpj.org/enemies/_00.html). For a report by Reporters Sans Frontieres on the repression of dissident journalists, see: "Harassment, Exile, Imprisonment" in the Americas section of the RSF website (www.rsf.fr/uk/home.html). For an IFEX bulletin, issued by the Inter American Press Association, protesting "the complete lack of freedom in Cuba," see (www.ifex.org/alerts/view.html?id=7720).

THE INTERNET IN CUBA: A lengthy article by Patrick Symmes on Cuba's restriction of access to the Internet, e-mail, and personal computers appeared in "Wired" magazine (February, 1998). An article on Cuban censorship of e-mail was published by "Wired.com" (www.wired.com/news.culture/0,1284,19402,00.html). Reporters Sans Frontieres features Cuba in a report entitled "Enemies of the Internet," available on the RSF website (www.rsf.fr/uk/home.html).

THE FRIENDS OF CUBAN LIBRARIES: The Friends issued our first press release soon after our founding in June, 1999. On an average of once per month, we issue a press release and post reports on a number of listservs. A complete backfile is available upon request. An article critical of the Friends was published in the October, 1999, issue of the British Library Association "Record." In rebuttal, a letter-to-the-editor appeared in the "Record" issue of December 1999 or January 2000.

FAIFE REPORT ON THE INDEPENDENT LIBRARIES: In September, 1999, the intellectual freedom committee of IFLA, known by the acronym FAIFE, published an investigative report on the independent libraries (www.faife.dk, in the "news and events" section). The committee documented and condemned the Cuban government's "campaign of threats, intimidation, harassment, eviction, short-term arrests and the confiscation of incoming book donations or book collections." The committee chair, Alex Byrne, wrote a letter on behalf of IFLA to President Fidel Castro calling for an end to the repression. Further, the committee resolved to publicize its findings and to ask other interested organizations to join in protesting the persecution in Cuba. Library associations in Canada, Holland, Denmark and Spain have taken a variety of actions to express concern about the situation of the the independent librarians. Support and publicity for the independent librarians has also been provided by IFEX, Index on Censorship, International P.E.N., the Norwegian Forum on Free Expression and prominent Latin American authors such as Ariel Dorfman and Jorge Castañeda.

"Annex 1" of the FAIFE report is "Background Information on the Independent Libraries Project." The annex translates essays on intellectual freedom and the foundation of the library project by the movement's co-founder, Berta Mexidor. "Annex 2" of the IFLA report is an "Official Response from the Library Association of Cuba (ASCUBI)." Except for a denial that any of the indpendent librarians had ever been arrested, this response from ASCUBI - as the IFLA report notes - "doesn't address the issue of intimidation" and "does not comment on the issue of intellectual freedom."

In addition to critiques published on listservs, Ann Sparanese condemned the IFLA report in a letter to the "IFLA Journal" (26 [2000] 1). Responses from the FAIFE committee chair, Alex Byrne, and the Friends of Cuban Libraries appeared in the following issue (26 [2000] 2).

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Three reports by Amnesty have independently confirmed the campaign of persecution being directed against the independent librarians. In November, 1999, Amnesty International declared the co-founder of the independent library movement, Ramón Colás, to be a Prisoner of Conscience when he was arrested before a summit meeting held in Havana ( Additional details on the repression of the independent librarians were contained in an Amnesty report published in March, 2000 (www.cubanet.org/CNews/y00/apr00/03e9.htm). In its "Annual Report 2000," (www.amnesty.org), Amnesty has further information on the repression of Ramón Colás and Berta Mexidor (see the chapter on "evictions" in the Cuba section). Amnesty concludes its comments in this section of the report by noting: "Other independent librarians were also subject to threats, short-term detentions and the confiscation of their books."

VARIOUS CRITICS: Numerous critiques of the independent librarians, the Friends of Cuban Libraries, IFLA and Amnesty International have been published on listservs, and several organizations have focused on this issue. The Cuban Libraries Support Group and Information for Social Change (http://libr.org/ISC/who.html) are managed by John Pateman, a British librarian. As an illustration of Mr. Pateman's perspective on human rights issues, he asserts that a free press exists in Cuba; he also denies that the Khmer Rouge were responsible for mass killings in Cambodia (Letter to the editor, New Internationalist, June, 1993). Numerous articles critical of the independent librarians and the Friends of Cuban Libraries are published in supplements of a weekly online journal, "Library Juice" (http://libr.org/Juice). for example, "Library Juice" gave detailed coverage to a delegation of librarians who visited Cuba and reported that intellectual freedom flourishes in government-run libraries. This delegation also visited two independent libraries and asserted that they are "not really libraries."

CUBANET: Extensive coverage of the independent libraries is published in the CubaNet database (www.cubanet.org). A link to "bibliotecas" has a partial backfile of news articles and documents relating to the independent libraries. Most are in Spanish.

"Independent Libraries Mix Politics, Culture in Cuba," by Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Aug. 3, 2000, A26. A follow-up letter-to-the-editor written by the Friends was published in the Post on Aug.10 , 2000.
"Cuban Private Libraries Have Novels," by Vivian Sequera, Associated Press, Nov. 8, 2000 (www.cubanet.org/CNews/y00/nov00/08e2htm).
"Free Books: The Forest Advances," by Ricardo González Alfonso, published in the "From Your Cuba Correspondent" section of the Reporters Sans Frontieres homepage (www.rsf.fr/uk/home.html).