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Letter to The New York Times:
Response to "A Cuban Revolution, in Reading"
 
Sylvia Lubow
 
Opinions expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect the views of IRTF, SRRT, or ALA.

How disingenuous is David Gonzales' article of 2/22/05, "A Cuban Revolution, in Reading."
 
On one hand, he lauds the action by those Cuban Americans members of the Cuban Cultural Center for adopting an independent library in Cuba, that, together with other independent libraries there, are designed "to offer Cubans an alternative to the official media or state-run libraries" carrying material "considered taboo" by the regime. Yet the article ignores the evidence of the ongoing activities of the American government in undermining and eliminating Castro's Cuba, and the role of our government in using these libraries as part of this goal.
 
How has the United States been involved?
 
Aside from the millions and millions of American dollars spent through recent years under the mandate of the Helm-Burton Act of 1962 and its goal of "regime change," the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, (the Torricelli Act) and the subsequent creation of the Cuban Dissidence Task Group, was designed to support dissident groups in Cuba. Under the fine sounding goals of supporting the free flow of ideas, organizations such as the Center for a Free Cuba and Freedom House funneled funds and resources, both overtly and covertly, to these "independent libraries," with the help of the Robert Kents and other "defenders" of intellectual freedom. The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), based in Miami, typical of the lot, is one of the most authoritarian organizations of its kind.
 
The goal of these libraries, ostensibly, is to provide the Cubans with the fresh air of freedom through books and periodicals censored by the government. What is the evidence?
 
The resources of these so-called libraries increasingly are stocked with shiny, new publications, often with visible evidence of having been donated by the United States Interests Section in Havana. Representatives from the Interests Section personally deliver such donations on a regular basis. Trained librarians are not to be found. Indeed, the individuals who are in charge do not identify themselves as librarians but rather, as political opponents of the Cuban government. They have a long history of involvement in and ties with opposition groups, both in and out of Cuba. Since no records of borrorers are kept, it is impossible to evaluate the extent of the use of these libraries. Yet these are the voices that claim to be the guardians of liberty and independence, while supported by the propaganda of the United States and American taxpayers' dollars. What, then, does "independent" mean??
 
Do the Cuban public libraries lack resources? There is no question that they suffer from a shortage of materials. But is this a result of censorship or the consequences of American hostility and the embargo? The evidence supports the latter. As Dr. Eliades Acosta, National Librarian of Cuba, has said, "There are no banned books, only those we don't have the money to buy." Can one accept the words of a man in his position? In fact, library collections reflect a wide range of thinking and perspectives. There is a broad diversity, including critics of the Cuban revolution and its policies, represented most importantly by the well-known critic, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, April 22, 1929 - 24/02/2005. Books by George Orwell, Mario Vargas Llosa, Octavio Paz and others cited by Robert Kent as "forbidden books," and not to be found on public library shelves, are readily available. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate funds as part of the result of the American embargo, not only limits the ability to purchase books and periodicals, but also hinders the exchange of information and materials between Cuban libraries and other libraries throughout the world, detrimental to everyone.
 
For the New York Times to herald these "independent libraries" as upholders of intellectual freedom is a farce.
 
For the New York Times to revert to the blatant red baiting of the McCarthy days is a sad commentary for a newspaper that professes to uphold responsible journalism.
 
Sylvia Lubow
Professor Emeritus, History
Los Angeles Valley College
 
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Page last modified March 3, 2005.