- Letter to The Village Voice in Response
to Nat Hentoff
- Ann Sparanese
- The following letter was written by Ann Sparanese, a member of ALAs
Council, which consists of over 150 elected delegates. As of 1/7/04 only
extensive excerpts from a shortened version of this letter had been published
in a column by Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice. Views expressed
in this letter do not necessarily reflect the views of IRTF, SRRT, or ALA.
- To the Editor, Village Voice:
- Mr. Hentoffs articles on the independent librarians
of Cuba and the American Library Association (ALA) has errors of fact and
- The case of Victor Arroyo illustrates one point. While Mr. Hentoff
claims he is an independent librarian, the Amnesty International
report he refers to does not even mention the word libraries
or librarian or even books in its description of
Mr. Arroyos activities.
- But more importantly, Mr. Hentoff is incorrect about why Mr. Arroyo
and others are in prison. The two laws under which the dissidents were
convicted, including those calling themselves independent librarians,
are Article 91 of the Cuban Penal Code and Law # 88, The Law of Protection
of the Independence of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba.
- Both of these statutes, as well as Law 80, The Reaffirmation of Cuban
Dignity and Sovereignty Act, criminalize collaboration with, or aid to,
a foreign power seeking to overthrow the Cuban government. Both Law 80
(1996) and Law 88 (1999) were passed in direct response to the passage
of the Helms-Burton Law by the United States Congress in 1996, which itself
built upon the Torricelli Law (1992) to tighten the embargo against Cuba
and, in the words of its eponymous author, to wreak havoc on that
- The Helms-Burton Law (1996) appropriates millions of US taxpayers
dollars for the overthrow of the Cuban government. Its called transition
to democracy, with the stated purpose of what is now euphemistically
described as regime change. These funds are increasing every
- Those arrested were convicted of receiving money and/or supplies from
the U.S. or its agents for the purposes of regime change, not for distributing
copies of 1984.
- Mr. Hentoff demonizes Cuba, but declines to mention the role of the
United States in fomenting the crisis. But even the Amnesty report devotes
quite a bit of ink to the role of US policy towards Cuba, specifically
the Helms Burton law, in creating the conditions for the crackdown.
Cuba is not the only country to have laws against the influx of foreign
money and material support to subvert its political process; the United
States has several such laws. And Cuba is not the only country to have
laws against collaboration with Helms-Burton; Canada has one, too.
- The USA PATRIOT Act and the Helms-Burton Law actually have something
in common. They are both overreaching U.S. laws which provide for abuses
against civil liberties and political freedoms both here and abroad, and
both should be repealed. Absent the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts, Cuban
Laws 80 and 88 would lose their foundations and those arrested would not
be in prison.
- As far as I know, nobody from the ALA has ever called Mr. Arroyo a
lackey. But many of us refuse to have our cherished professional
values enlisted in the service of the wrong-headed policy of our own government
which has created the problem.
- Ann Sparanese, MLS
Englewood, New Jersey
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