Library Juice 2:36, Cuba Supplement - September 15, 1999


1. Cuba links
2. Cuba facts
3. Fidel to Visit Seattle?
4. Letter printed in Adbusters Magazine
5. PDR's for Cuba
6. "Friends of Cuban Libraries" debate


1. Cuba links

"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban." - Cuba Solidarity Page

Web de Cuba

Sitio WEB de la Cultura Cubana

Center for International Policy (CIP) [WWW] "The Center for International
Policy was founded in 1975 to promote a U.S. foreign policy that reflects
democratic values. Through research, education, and direct public advocacy,
CIP works to define and put into practice a more sympathetic, farsighted,
and non-militaristic approach to the developing world." Web site includes
policy reports on Haiti, Central America, Cuba and the CIA. Also archives
of the electronic newsletter, "Central America Update." The Update is
available free via email. For more information or subscription contact:
Adam Isacson [isacson[at]] or [cip[at]].
and for the Central America Update:

CUBA [WWW] Provides country information, maps, WWW and gopher sites, info
on Cuban networks, list archives, news, tourist information, etc. For
more information contact [davide[at]]


2. Cuba facts:

Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the Americas and one of the
highest in the world, with 98% of the population having received at
least an 8th grade education, according to UNESCO endorsed figures.
It has achieved the highest index of teachers per capita in the
world, with one teacher per 37 inhabitants (Tovar, C : Democracy in
Cuba, Jose Marti, 1997).

Cuba has a ninth grade minimum educational level.  It has more than
one million technicians and university graduates.  Practically the
whole infant population that needs special education for those with
disabilities is provided with it.  Schooling for elementary and
junior high school levels is universal.  The educational budget is
high and, regardless of the critical economic situation the country
is facing, there is not a single pupil or student that has not had
the teachers and minimum material resources to continue studying.
Cuba has the world's lowest index in the student teacher ration
(Ruiz, E : Cuba - socialist economic reform and modernisation, Jose
Marti, 1998).

The Cuban model has produced over 500,000 university graduates and
hundreds of thousands of technical students.  It has 200,000 teachers
and professors (many of whom have university degrees and postgraduate
studies).  It has 11,000 scientists, the vast majority of whom are
young.  The educational budget for 1994 was in excess of 1.3 billion
pesos.  Free education has been maintained for 40 years.  The per
capita of students is the highest in the world (Tovar, 1997).

Cuba occupies one of the first places in the world in the per capita
of postgraduates that hold scientific degrees.  Although, from the
qualitative point of view there are still some inefficiencies to be
overcome in the teaching and educational process, Cuba ranks in these
parameters among the richest nations of the world (Ruiz, 1998).

Millions of volumes are stored in Cuban libraries, spread throughout
every city and town.  Travelling libraries have also been established
to transport culture to the country's remotest areas.  In 1997 Cuba
published 1,858 titles with a print run of 45 million copies.  There
are 338 public libraries used by 6 million people who borrow 8
million books (Tovar, 1997).

>From John Pateman, "The State, Communities and Public Libraries: their
role in tackling social exclusion," Information for Social Change No. 9,
Summer 1999 / Link-Up 11(1/2) March/June 1999 (joint issue).

3. Fidel to Visit Seattle?

Seattle, August 5 (RHC)-Cuban President Fidel Castro has
been invited to  Seattle, Washington to participate in next
November's World Trade Organization to be held in that US

The invitation was made by Democratic Representative to
Washington, Jim McDermott and  the Seattle City Council.

Although the Cuban President does not require an invitation
to participate in the WTO meeting as the island is a member
nation,  the US legislator said he wanted to extend a
formal, respectful and friendly invitation to the Cuban
leader to visit the city of Seattle.

McDermott said that he believes that his community would
love to hear the Cuban leader talk about the future of US
Cuba relations.

The US Representative condemned Washington's nearly 40 year
blockade against Cuba.

Carlos Balino Institute
Cubans abroad defending the Homeland and the Revolution


4. Letter printed in Adbusters Magazine

I recently returned from a month-long visit to Cuba where I toured several
middle and secondary schools in Havana and surrounding rural provinces.
During the tours I noticed a complete absence of graffiti in and around the
schools; the children seemed cheerful and well mannered.  I asked the
teachers how they were able to prevent graffiti and tagging and what
measures they took to minimize violence, drugs, weapons, and gang activity.

To my amazement they looked at me blankly and stated that they didn't have
those problems in their school system.  It seemed remarkable to me that
with all the limitations and lack of resources that fetter the Cuban
economy they are still able to provide an educational environment that is
safe, nurturing, civilized, and highly conducive to the educational
process.  Considering the recent events that occurred at Columbine High
School in Colorado, maybe we should send a delegation of teachers and
educational administrators to Cuba to find out what they are doing that we
are not.

Dudley Lewis
Santa Cruz, California

5. PDR's for Cuba

       Anyone wishing to find a good home for retired PDRs (Physicians Desk
       Reference) of recent vintage can send them to me and I will make sure
       that they get to Cuba, where they are very much needed.

       Ann Sparanese
       Englewood Public LIbrary
       31 Engle St.
       Englewood, NJ 07631


6. "Friends of Cuban Libraries" debate

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From: raimund.dehmlow[at]
To: Laurentius[at]
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 15:04:12 +0200
Subject: Friends of Cuban Libraries

Weitergeleitet von Raimund Dehmlow/AEK Niedersachsen on 17.06.99 15:03
"John Pateman" <john.pateman[at]> on 17.06.99 11:33:00
Thema: Friends of Cuban Libraries

Friends of Cuban Libraries

There is a an appeal circulating on the Internet for library workers to
write  to Fidel Castro regarding the arrest of librarians in Cuba. The
so-called "Friends of Cuban Libraries" has launched a campaign to oppose
what it terms "the systematic intimidation and arrest of independent
librarians in Cuba and the seizure of their book collections". It is
claimed that since April 1998, 16 "independent libraries, entirely free of
government control" have opened in Cuba. These libraries "offering
collections donated by the public, explicitly reject the censorship to
which Cuba's government-funded libraries are subjected". It is also claimed
that these libraries offer books for children which are not  available due
to Cuba's "sharp economic decline".

In the face of these assertions and allegations it is necessary to state
the following facts :

1. Cuba has a very well developed infrastructure of libraries, offering
books to all of the people in Cuba in urban and rural areas. The same
cannot be said of most other developing countries.

2. the children's sections of these libraries are well stocked. The new
public library in Havana, for example, has an excellent children's section.

3. any shortages of children's - or any other books - has been created by
the 40 year illegal blockade of Cuba by the US. This blockade applies to
food and medicine as well as books. This blockade has affected Cuba's
ability to publish books - something which most other developing countries
do not do.

4. given the shortages created by the US blockade, Cuba has concentrated on
publishing books which help to build the revolution. They are not going to
squander precious resources on supporting counter revolutionary

5. the collapse of the USSR led to Cuba losing 85% of its trade. The US
took this opportunity to tighten the blockade of Cuba via the Torricelli
Act. This Act has two tracks - one is to tighten the blockade; the other
is to fund counter revolutionary organisations in Cuba.

6. the "independent libraries" and other "non governmental organisations"
in Cuba are receiving funding from the US government as part of their 40
year effort to overthrow the Cuban revolution.

If UK library workers want to be Friends of Cuban Libraries they should
support the efforts of the Cuban government to maintain a comprehensive and
efficient library infrastructure which is one of the triumphs of the
revolution. Cuban libraries have enabled the literacy rate to increase from
25% before the revolution to 100% today. The so-called "independent"
libraries and librarians are seeking to undermine these achievements.

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From Ann Sparenese:

I tried to do some follow-up on the posting regarding the "repression" of
Cuban "independent libraries."  I phoned and spoke to Mr. Kent, who is a
librarian.  There are many US visitors to Cuba who travel to Cuba mainly
for the purpose of searching for "dissidents" and Mr. Kent, who describes
himself as "no friend" of the Cuban government is among these.  When I asked
where I could verify these claims he referred me to

As you will see when you get there, it is a site pretty much dedicated to
the various cases and claims of political repression in Cuba.  As stated
on the site, Cubanet is funded by the following organizations:  National
Endowment for Democracy (which supports a number of anti-Cuban government
enterprises emanating from such places as the National Republican Institute,
Ronald Reagans's creation); the Open Society Institute (a Soros thing), USAID
(dedicating to advancing the "political and economic interests of the United
States) and "private donors, including two very special anonymous ones."
Any guesses? I'm sure the Cuban American National Foundation of the late
Jorge Mas Canosa and/or surrogates constite this group of donors.  Cubanet
is headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida.

On their site is an article in Spanish under the link "bibliotecas" which
basically covers the project of independent libraries.  My Spanish is not that
good, so I have been reading it slowly.  But I have not been able to find any
other information on the net or through others involved with Cuba about
the particulars that Mr. Kent's posting involves.  Since this seems to be
a project of CubaNet, one can figure out where the funding is coming from.

We all know that there is not complete intellectual or any other kind of
freedom in Cuba or anywhere else in the world. The Cubans, moreover, have
been under a state of siege by the US government for about 40 years, and,
folks, despite recent announcements by the US government to the contrary,
it isn't getting any better, although more US people, especially students,
may be able to travel more freely in the near future.  The Cubans can still
purchase not so much as an aspirin from US corporations here or abroad.
US money is pouring in to support anti-government activities.  If a foreign
government attempted to have the kind of influence here that the US attempts
to have there through the influx of dollars...well, you know the answer to
that. Although there are legitimate claims to more intellectual and political
freedoms in Cuba as in every other country, many such "dissident" elements
are completely tainted by the aggressive postures of the Cuban exile
community and the hostile and destabilizing policies of the US government.

I don't mean to preach to the converted or to be apologist for anything.  But
I believe that the main concern of US progressives on Cuba should be to END
the US embargo and to END the continuing aggressive US policy. Without these
elements, Cuba will be freer to develop a society more "democratic" in
the political sense although democracy certainly has a profound economic
meaning which the Cubans -- and not ourselves -- have done much to develop.

In the meantime, in my way of looking at it, there is a fence on which it
is impossible to sit.  Despite all the problems in Cuba today -- the sad
effects of increased tourism, the role of the dollar and who has them, etc.,
the Cubans have managed to maintain the two most importants gains of the
Revolution:  free and equal healthcare and free and equal education. If a
few librarians feel put upon -- if indeed, any of this is true -- I just
can't get past the point of thinking that the best way to advance the
interests of al the Cuban people is to fight against our country's persecution
of them through its bizarre and obscene policies.  Of this perspective, I
think Mr. Kent and his ilk have virtually NO appreciation -- at least they
never bother to mention it.

Ann Sparanese
Englewood Library
Englewood, NJ
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From: raimund.dehmlow[at]
To: Laurentius[at]
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 11:55:51 +0200
Subject: Cuban Libraries Support Group

The Cuban Libraries Support Group was established on 1 July 1999 to support

1. Cuban libraries, librarians, library and information workers and the
Cuban Library Association (ASCUBI).

2. Cuba’s free and comprehensive education system and high literacy levels.

3. the Cuban people’s right to self determination and to choose the social,
political and economic systems which support their library service.


The Cuban Libraries Support Group will work in partnership with :

1. Information for Social Change, a grass-root activist organisation for
library and information workers which :

* addresses issues of freedom of information and censorship as they affect
library and information work

* promotes alternatives to mainstream library and information provision

* provides a forum for the exchange of radical views on library and
information issues

* debates ethics and freedom with the library and information professions

* challenges the dominant paradigms of library and information work

2. The Library Association is the UK professional body representing over
25,000 members working in library and information services of all kinds. At
its Annual General Meeting the Library Association agreed the following

”Recognising the damage caused to Cuban libraries by the illegal US
blockade and building on the IFLA conference held in Havana, this AGM calls
upon the Library Association via its International Committee and the
International Group to :

* work through IFLA to develop and support libraries in Cuba

* encourage a co-operative agreement with ASCUBI (Cuban Library

* work with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Book Aid International, the RNIB
and other institutions to send material aid to Cuban libraries
* lobby the government to end the information blockade of Cuba

* recognise and support Cuban library and information professionals via
subscriptions to associations, journals and networks and supporting
professional events linked to Cuba

* help to set up twinning initiatives between libraries in the UK and Cuba

3. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign aims to provide information and resources
on Cuba, to promote positive links between the two countries and to develop
solidarity, specifically :

* respect for Cuba’s right to sovereignty and independence

* an end to interference in Cuba’s internal affairs by foreign governments

* an end to the US economic blockade of Cuba

* the normalisation by the US of all diplomatic, cultural, scientific and
travel relations with Cuba

4. Book Aid International works in partnership with people in developing
countries to support literacy, education, training and publishing by
providing books and other reading materials - which help give them the
chance to realise their potential and contribute to the development of
their societies. Book Aid have contacts with a number of Cuban libraries
and organisations, including :

* Universities of Santa Clara and Havana

* Ministry of Health, Proinfo (library school), GELI (language institute)

* Jose Marti National Library, Havana Public Library

* Institutes of Nefrologia, Cardiology and Anaesthesiology

* Inst Cubana Amist Pueblo, Ciego de Avila Ctr Hygeine


The Cuban Libraries Support Group will :

1. work with Information for Social Change, the Library Association, the
Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Book Aid and other agencies to disseminate
information about the Cuban library system

2.  produce articles for publication and arrange meetings which discuss the
achievements of the Cuban education and library services
3. organise a study tour to Cuba to visit libraries and meet with Cuban
librarians and library and information workers.

4. support the Cuban National Programme for the Development of Reading.
This is a strategic, long term programme based on the collective efforts of
all those groups and institutions interested in promoting books and reading
among the Cuban people. These include : National Library Jose Marti ; Cuban
Institute of the Book ; Cuban Society of Friends of the Book ; Cuban
Institute of Radio and Television ; and the National Centre of Community

Facts about Cuban education, literacy and libraries

In 1959 a popular liberation struggle overthrew the hated US-backed Batista
dictatorship in Cuba. A country where the vast majority of people were
impoverished and underemployed, began a 40 year transformation that has
completely changed their lives. Today Cuba has :

* a widely respected, free education service which has raised Cuban
educational standards to the highest in Latin America (UNESCO, 1998)

* education for all. The percentage of children at school  jumped from 50%
to 80% between 1959 and 1962. Today all children attend school and are
guranteed a minimum ninth grade education

* pre school education for the children of all working mothers. 90% of pre
school children attend nursery education and the percentage continues to

* comprehensive higher education. Today every province has its own
university, while before the revolution there were only three.

* special needs education for all who need it, either in special or
mainstream schools. This is unique in the Third World. The staffing ratio
is much higher than in Britain.

* eliminated illiteracy (endorsed by UNESCO statistics).This is a national
priority. Illiteracy plummeted during the Great Literacy Campaign of
1960/61 and has continued to fall, while in the US it stands at 12%.
* a well developed infrastructure of public, academic and special

* over 300 public libraries, which possess over 7 million titles, nearly 6
million of them books. Public libraries are used by 5.9 million people,
borrowing 8 million books pa.

* over 300 book shops

* nine publishing houses which produce over 2,000 titles pa, with a total
print run of more than 45 million copies, equivalent to more than 20 titles
per 100,000 inhabitants

The blockade

Cuba has been subjected to an illegal blockade by the US government for 40
years. This blockade applies to all goods including food, medicine, books
and information.

In 1998, at the United Nations, 157 countries, including Britain, voted
against the blockade. Only 2 countries, USA and Israel, voted to support it

Despite this clear statement of world opinion the US government has refused
to comply with the resolution.

Cuba has started legal proceedings to reclaim over £1billion in damages
from Washington for deaths and injuries the socialist island has suffered
during 40 years of US hostility

The compensation claim demands damages for 3,478 Cubans killed and 2,099
disabled as a result of ”sabotage, bombings and other hostile terrorist
acts” caused by hostile US government policy toward Cuba following the 1959

Lawyers will present declassified US intelligence documents from the period
registering plans by the US security services to destabilise the government
and overthrow President Fidel Castro

This strategy was intensified by the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts.
Track 1 of the Torricelli Act strengthened the illegal blockade. Track 2
funds ”non governmental organisations” such as the so-called ”Friends of
Cuban Libraries” (sic) formed by Robert Kent and Jorge Sanguinetty.

Robert Kent is a librarian who lives in New York City. According to Ann
Sparanese (Englewood Library, NJ) who has spoken to Mr Kent : ”There are
many US visitors to Cuba who travel there mainly for the purpose of
searching for ”dissidents” and Mr Kent, who describes himself as ”no
friend” of the Cuban government is among these”.

Mr Kent’s trips to Cuba are paid for by Freedom House and the Centre for a
Free Cuba, which are funded by the US government under Track 2 of the
Torricelli Act.

Mr Kent gets much of his information about Cuba from Cubanet which,
according to Ann Sparanese, ”is funded by the following organisations :
National Endowment for Democracy (which supports a number of anti Cuban
government enterprises emanating from such places as the National
Republican Institute, Ronald Reagan’s creation) ; the Open Society
Institute (funded by George Soros) ; USAID (dedicated to ”advancing the
political and economic interests of the United States”) and private donors,
including two very special anonymous ones”. Cubanet is based in Miami, home
of the violently anti Cuban and US funded Cuban American National

Jorge Sanguinetty lives in Miami, which is the base for most anti Cuban
activities. He works for Radio Marti, a US government funded radio station
which invades Cuban airwaves and broadcasts a constant stream of propaganda
that encourages Cubans to overthrow their government. To add insult to
injury , the radio station is named after Jose Marti, the Cuban national

For more information

For more information about the Friends of Cuban Libraries, contact John
Pateman at John.Pateman[at]

John Pateman is a member of the Society of Chief Librarians and has visited
Cuban libraries in 1993, 1995 and 1999.

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From: "robert kent" <rkent45[at]>
To: ALA International Relations Round Table <alaworld[at]>
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 1999 08:37:12 PDT

Attached below is an update on the persecution of Cuba's independent
librarians.  Please write to Cuban officials and your Members of Congress. 
It is not a crime to be a librarian or to oppose censorship!

An article in the August 25, 1999, issue of the "Diario Las Americas"
newspaper reports that the home of Ramon Colas and Berta Mexidor, the
founders of Cuba's independent library movement, has been raided by the
State Security police.  According to the newspaper reporter, Ariel Remos, on
August 23 the two independent librarians, who are a married couple, were
evicted from their home, which doubles as the location of the independent
Felix Varela Library. Although Colas and Mexidor were permitted to remove
personal belongings from their home, it is not known if their library
collection was seized by the State Security police, as has happened with
other independent libraries in Cuba.  In the course of the eviction Ramon
Colas was reportedly arrested on unknown grounds and is now being held at at
unknown location.  Full details (in Spanish only) may be found on the
newspaper's website ( for August 25.

The Friends of Cuban Libraries has issued an international appeal to protest
this latest act of repression by the Cuban government.  We urge librarians,
library associations and human rights organizations around the world to
express concern to Cuban officials.  Letters may be sent to: Dr. Fidel
Castro Ruz, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, La Habana,

BACKGROUND:  Since April 1998, 17 independent libraries have been
established in Cuba.  These independent institutions make a point of
collecting materials which reflect all points of view, not just the
officially-approved ideology.  The independent librarians refuse to submit
to the censorship to which government-funded libraries are subjected.  The
Cuban government has responded harshly to the creation of independent
libraries.  The librarians of these institutions have been subjected to
harassment, threats, short-term arrests, and the confiscation of their
collections.  The Friends of Cuban Libraries is an independent, non
non-partisan organization which opposes censorship and all other violations
of intellectual freedom in Cuba.  Further information can be obtained by
e-mailing: rkent45[at]

Robert Kent
(Friends of Cuban Libraries)
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Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1999 19:51:16 -0500
To: SRRT Action Council <srrtac-l[at]>
From: Al Kagan <akagan[at]>

I am just back from the IFLA meeting. You may be interested to know that
the new IFLA Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression
Committee is looking into this situation and will report back.  They did
not have enough information yet to say anything definitive at the meeting.
The question was raised as to whether or not this might be a bogus claim
for propaganda purposes, and/or if there was outside funding for these
libraries (implying US Government funding).  I will report back on the
FAIFE Committee's response.
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I'm going to Cuba in October with Global Exchange and hope to visit a few
libraries and talk to librarians.  I hope to find out what's happening
but suspect it is right-wing propaganda.  I'll let you all know what, if
anything, i discover.

Roberta Frye,
Oakland Public Library (Melrose Branch), CA

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I trust you will go to Cuba with an open mind and consider visiting a broad
range of libraries, not just the censored state-funded institutions.  The
independent librarians welcome visitors and foreign visitors are especially
rare.  They would also be pleased if you brought them a few books,
regardless of the viewpoints expressed by the authors.  Eighteen independent
libraries are now open in Cuba, and the Friends of Cuban Libraries would be
happy to provide you with their addresses.

Robert Kent
Friends of Cuban Libraries

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In the past few days there have been postings to both the IFRT and the
IRRT lists from Robert Kent, Friends of Cubanaries.
Here is a response I have received from John Pateman, Head of
Libraries,Merton Council, London, England, and the Cuban Library Support

   Norman Horrocks,
   Member, ALA IFRT
    (British)LA  Internional Group

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 11:11:00 +0100
From: John Pateman <john.pateman[at]>
To: robert kent <rkent[at]>
Cc: nhorrock[at]
Subject: Another Librarian Arrested


I have seen your latest "press release" which has no credence as both these
so-called dissidents and your Friends of Cuban Libraries are both funded by
the US government.

The Cuban Library Support Group - in liaison with the Library Association,
Book Aid International, Cuba Solidarity Campaign and Information for Social
Change - is independent and receives no government funding.

We are also in contact with the ALA and SRRT and we will continue to support
Cuban libraries and counter the misinformation put out by CIA front

John Pateman


[From]: jo grant <jgrant[at]> on 03.09.99 19:00:18
An:   Raimund Dehmlow/AEK Niedersachsen
Thema:    Re: Cuban Library Debate


I'm a bit troubled by this post today. Not knowing the people involved with
the  Friends of Cuban Libraries, and looking at their U.S. connections--the
Brookings Institute, for example--does not place them in a position that is
above suspicion.

My wife has interacted with and attended international library conferences
with Cuban librarians and has found them to be committed to their work as
librarians, and  always low on finding. In Mexico a few years ago, the
Cuban librarians who made it to the conference had only round-trip airfare.
Consequently librarians (my wife and a collegue of hers) adopted one and
shared everything with her--food, lodging, everything. (It wasn't unusual
for "their" Cuban librarian to in turn, share her food with children who
were begging in the streets.).

So now comes the Friends of Cuban Libraries whose primary thrust appears to
be importing books to test the response of the Cuban government to the boks
and literature they are sending/bringing to the island.

I'm troubled that there are no titles mentioned so I have a better
understanding of the content of the books.

Although I oppose censorship I do understand the position Fidel Castro
takes on certain books and on the actions by people who appear to be more
interested in proviking the government, than they are in supporting the
goals of the revolution.

As for the source of funds used by Friends of Cuban Libraries, if they are
getting money from the  U.S. Agency for International Development, I
question their objectivity and  their ability to state that they are
independent and nonpartisan.

It shouldn't be difficult to find out exactly what books and pamphlets the
Cuban government has confescated--if, indeed they have confescated private

I think it's safe to say that, for the most part, the Miami Cubans have not
developed a reputation for objectivity and nonpartisanship.

Keep the information coming. I appreciate being on the list since I would
not have the time to gather the infomation if I were not.

I'm not sure how I am going to fund it, but I dearly want to spend some
time in Cuba with a digital camera and  a laptop with the software to edit
video tape.  Since the time I was in Cuba in the 50s, and saw first-hand
how the Cuban people were forced to live under the U.S.suported
dictatorship, I have been a supporter of the revolution. If only one of us
could win a lottery to support our needs we'd have a reservea to
investigate everything ourselves. The problem with that is no one has money
to waste on lottery tickets.

So it goes.

j grant
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Date: Mon, 6 Sep 1999 03:11:48 -0400
To: SRRT Action Council <srrtac-l[at]>
From: Mark Rosenzweig <iskra[at]>
Subject: So-called "Friends of Cuban Libraries"

I question the claims of Robert Kent to be representing an organization
which is non-partisan and objective with regards to Cuba.

His co-founder, the Miami-based Sanguinetty of the so-called Friends of
Cuban Libraries is noted as an employee of US government sponsored Radio
Marti which is far from non-partisan and objective. It is a US propaganda
outlet, pure and simple. The Friends of Cuban Libraries is, as  he admits,
associated with Freedom House which is known to have had, over the years,
close and barely concealed connections with the CIA and its operations. The
Center for a Free Cuba is obviously not non-partisan and objective, as its
very name suggests.

Mr Kent and his colleague have shown no interest to my knowledge in working
to lift the US enforced blockade which has crippled the material basis for
cultural development in Cuba, effecting its libraries as well as many
othermore fundamental sectors of Cuban society. He has never contacted SRRT
about our efforts to help lift the blockade, nor has he been interested in
our programming which has involved Cuban librarians.

He is involved, rather, in a propaganda operation, which is his right. But
to misrepresent it as non-partisan or objective or concerned with working
with Cuba's libraries and librarians is nonsense. What he is doing is
creating a propaganda scenario for exploitation by opponents of the Cuban
revolution and Cuban sovereignty.

Mark Rosenzweig
editor, Progressive Librarian
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"John Pateman" <john.pateman[at]> on 06.09.99 10:52:00
Thema:  RE: Cuban Library Debate

Robert Kent claims that his so-called "Friends" (sic) of Cuban libraries
are not funded by the US govt, yet he admits that on 4 occasions he has
taken books and pamphlets to Cuba for Freedom House and the Center for a
Free Cuba which he describes as "human rights organisations which have
received publication grants from the US Agency for International
Development." Kent also admits that on 3 occasions his travel expenses
were paid wholly or in part by Freedom House or the Center for a Free Cuba.

An article in the latest copy of "Cuba Si", the journal of the Cuban
Solidarity Campaign, provides a valuable listing of US anto Castro
organisations and their levels of US govt funding, compiled by the US
activist Mark Rushton. The list shows that in Jan 1999 the US govt had
allocated $3.1m in funding for organisations that are dedicated to the
overthrow of the Cuban govt. The list, which is derived from the official
US Aid dept website so we know it must be true, includes Freedom House
which received  US govt funding of $500,000 and the Center for a Free
Cuba which received $400,000.

Robert Kent and the Friends of Cuban Libraries are funded by Freedom House
and the Center for a Free Cuba which are, in turn, funded by the US govt.
They are not independent or non political. They seek to overthrow the Cuban

The UK based Cuban Library Support Group is indepenedent and receives no
govt funding. The Group is supported by the British Library Association,
Book Aid International, Information for Social Change and the Cuba
Solidarity Campaign.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

From Ann Sparenese:

Some Words on the So-Called "Friends of Cuban Libraries"

Since we are now hearing from Mr. Robert Kent regularly on our SRRTAC-L, I
feel it is necessary to present more information about the so called
"Independent Libraries" project that he, with his co-chairman Jorge
Sanguinetty, is championing through his so-called "Friends of Cuban

First of all,  not one of these so-called libraries is a library, and not one
of the allegedly repressed librarians is, or ever was, a professional
librarian.  If anyone would like to verify this statement, you should visit
the web page of Cubanet (, which is the only place you will
be able to find any substantial information whatsoever about them.  All the
so-called libraries are listed and personal information is given about all
their "directors."  What most of these individuals appear to have in common
is NOT that they are displaced librarians, but their membership in a
opposition political party (the Partido Solidaridad Democratica is the most
frequently cited) and the operation of an propaganda base of some sort out of
their home or a storefront. Many have lost their legitimate occupations (such
as doctors, economists, professors, etc.) which they claim was for political
reasons. They no longer practice their professions but, for whatever reason,
now are professional dissidents.  I repeat, not one of them was a librarian
or claims to have been removed as a librarian.

I will repeat the information given in my first post on the subject of
Cubanet. Cubanet itself, the main promoter of the "Independent Libraries
Project in Cuba" is based in Coral Gables, Florida and financed by the
following: National Endowment for Democracy, which -- hardly neutral, but a
quasi U.S. government institution -- supports a number of anti-Cuban
government enterprises emanating from such organizations as the National
Republican Institute  (Ronald Reagan's creation); the Open Society (part of
the Soros foundations); and USAID, the stated purpose of which is to advance
the political and economic interests of the United States.  Also credited for
funding Cubanet are unnamed "private donors, including two very special
anonymous ones."  The right-wing Cuban National Foundation, perhaps, or
perhaps the late Jorge Mas Canosa's surrogates?  Since they won't tell us
(for a reason) we can only take a good guess.

Cubanet devotes many pages to these libraries as a "project" for which they
are soliciting financial aid and sponsors.  These "libraries" are being
created, as we write, to bring attention to the viewpoints of these political
dissidents, collect money (they are apparently all out of their jobs) and
grab the sympathy of advocates of freedom of expression on the basis of
opposition to "censorship", which is presumably a neutral and shared value
which we librarians should all rally around.

But is this all so neutral and disinterested as Mr. Kent insists in all his
posts? What about his trips and his arrest in February? He apparently
believes that admitting that his trips are financed by Freedom House and the
Center for a Free Cuba, this makes his activities acceptable and that his
arrest in Cuba makes him some kind of IF hero.  But these connections - which
of course eventually would have been revealed if Mr. Kent did not reveal them
himself -- make Mr. Kent's credibility even more suspect.  Why would these
organizations fund him and why would he accept their funding? Freedom House
is no simple "human rights organization" - it is also heavily endowed by the
ubiquitous USAID, and the US Information Agency, among other funders. The
Torricelli Act provides for U.S. government support to non-governmental
organizations in Cuba, meant of course to be subversive. If my memory serves
me correctly, Pres. Clinton presented a large check to Freedom House not so
long ago for this express purpose. What exactly is Mr. Kent doing for Freedom
House and what is their legitimate business inside Cuba?

In his determination to champion the political freedoms of dissidents in
Cuba, Mr. Kent does not concern himself with the fact that other U.S.
citizens, unless they receive a "license" from the US government are
prohibited from traveling and/or spending money in Cuba at risk of jail or
fines.  For every "independent librarian" who has been harassed and/or
arrested in Cuba, hundreds of US citizens (on trips NOT approved by the U.S.
government as was Mr. Kent's) returning from Cuba have been harassed at
customs; had their belongings, Cuban materials and/or passports confiscated;
have been threatened with fines and jail terms; have actually BEEN fined, and
have had the FBI hound them at home and/or work.  They have been the subjects
of Senate hearings and had their names and addresses published in the hearing
reports.  Just a couple of years ago, the Pastors for Peace caravan was
forced by the U.S. government to stay in a little yellow school bus at the
border of Mexico and fasted for over two months in order to bring computers,
etc. to Cuba. 

These violations of the rights of US citizens do not concern Mr. Kent at all.
Mr. Kent obviously traveled to Cuba without such threats over his head.
Clearly he was doing the work of the US government in Cuba and financed by
them. And doing so -- that is, carrying out the work of the U.S. government
in a small country with which we do not even have relations -- his freedom of
travel and expression is guaranteed, even promoted. The only arrest and
harassment he had to worry about was from the Cuban government, and after
all, it IS STILL their country, and they can allow in whomever they please,
just as the U.S. and every other sovereign country does.

Mr. Kent claims that his organization is not a front for an "espionage
agency."   Note that the disclaimer is very specific, because it apparently
is a front for something, since Mr. Kent's trips are paid for and sanctioned
by government-funded organizations. What exactly was Mr. Kent carrying into
Cuba?  We don't know because he wants us to think it is impartial materials
showing both sides of everything and written by patriotic, though censored,
Cubans. Most likely it was quite one-sided propaganda materials published and
printed by Freedom House. Perhaps the "small sums of money" he admits to
carrying was to support the "political process" in Cuba, namely the support
of the party to which most of these so-called "librarians" belong - the
Partido Solidaridad Democratica, or some other opposition party?  If a
foreigner or foreign government did that in the U.S., this would be illegal. 
Witness the outrage over the alleged Chinese contributions.  Even if the sums
were not so large as with the alleged Chinese connection, the act would still
be illegal. Are the so-called "independent libraries" really so independent? 

And imagine if the activities of the Cuba Solidarity movement in the US were
bankrolled by the Cuban government?  It would not only be scandalous, but
unless those people had declared themselves to be the "agents of a foreign
power" they'd go to jail. But the U.S. Interests Section in Havana regularly
funnels money to dissident groups in Cuba. The kind of thing that used to be
done covertly by the CIA is now being done openly by the kinds of groups that
Mr. Kent represents. And Kent and Sanguinetty would like librarians to be
hoodwinked into supporting this because THEY characterize it as an
intellectual freedom issue relating to "independent libraries."

Mr. Kent claims that his organization, "as an organization" takes no position
on the U.S. blockade against Cuba.  But Mr. Jorge Sanguinetty, Mr. Kent's
co-chair in the so-called "Friends of Cuban Libraries", has anything but this
neutral position. He is a very prominent spokesman on this very issue, as any
search of the WWW with his name will show. It should come as no surprise that
he has nothing to do with libraries either. He is an ex-patriot economist
whose stock-and-trade is lecturing on how Cuba should follow the free market
road of the European former socialist countries. A recent speech of his at
the Center for Strategic and International Studies was avidly against the
lifting of the embargo because it would only benefit Castro's monopolistic
power and prevent others from benefiting from free enterprise and private
property. He preaches the gloom and doom scenario about how the Cuban economy
is going to self-destruct any minute unless it adopts the "free market"
panacea immediately. I guess he's not a very good economist either, since
this prognostication has been going on for YEARS.  He also predicted an
imminent famine in Cuba on the scale of North Korea. And even given this dire
prediction, he wants to see the blockade continue, presumably letting Cubans
starve.  Go figure.

When he's not doing this and running his own company, DevTech, he is working
outright for the U.S. government as a commentator on the infamous "Radio
Marti"  (also openly admitted by Kent, because this credit appears
prominently on Sanguinetty's resume.) He agitates, nonstop, for the
restoration of capitalism in Cuba. I would say that the position of the
so-called Friends of Cuban Libraries on the blockade (especially since the
only two "friends" we know are Kent and Sanguinetty) is pretty transparent
and anything but non-committal.

The restoration of capitalism in Cuba, by any means necessary, has been the
road taken by the U.S. Government all these years.  I don't' have to recount
this sorry history for the SRRTAC-L membership, but here's some free
information that Mr. Kent and his misnamed micro-group are NOT publicizing.
Presently in Cuban court, there is a case brought by the Cuban peoples'
organizations against the United States government for compensation for the
deaths and injuries of over 5500 ordinary Cuban citizens as a result of the
various aggressions by the U.S. against Cuba for the last 40 years. These
acts and the resulting casualties are documented primarily by the release of
classified U.S. documents, not simply Cuban-generated information. It is a
long, chilling and convincing case, which has received NO coverage in the
mainstream press here in this country. If anyone wants a copy, e-mail me and
I will send it. It reveals why the Cuban government and the Cuban people feel
under siege by our country. (You can also read about it in Fidel Castro's
July 26 speech at Cienfuegos on the official Cuban government page, and this page might also have the whole text of the case.) The
war conditions that we have imposed on Cuba, most openly exemplified by the
blockade but also including the introduction of biological warfare, the
financing of terrorism, the use of the Guantanamo base to initiate
provocations and more. This four-decade state of war is a key factor -
perhaps THE key factor -- in the resulting lack of full political freedoms in
Cuba and the level of official -- and popular-- intolerance of dissidence.
This point cannot be emphasized too much. As U.S. citizens, we have to give
this reality its full weight, if we are to appreciate the problems of
censorship and political intolerance in Cuba.   If we believe that we have
any role in helping the Cubans to achieve a more perfect democracy, as we
might commonly define it, wouldn't our most pressing concern be to end the
conditions - caused by our own government - which are arguably responsible?

Since the U.S has actually resorted to assassination plots, invasions and the
sponsorship of terrorism to accomplish its aims in Cuba during these 40
years, the present strategy represented by the so-called "friends of Cuban
Libraries" is probably a sign of profound weakness. The U.S. is now reduced
to using people like Kent, the only librarian in the bunch as far as I can
tell, to try to win the hearts and minds of other librarians by appealing to
our genuine passion for intellectual freedom and freedom of expression.  It's
a pretty clever idea, because Cuba IS imperfect in this regard, which is no
surprise to those of us who have been friends of Cuba for many years. 
"Friends of Cuban Libraries" want us to believe there is a level playing
field and it is the Cubans who are not playing fair.  They want us to equate
political freedoms we might have here and those of people in Cuba and make a
judgement against Cuba. Or course we could make the argument, and I often do,
that human rights also encompass the right of all to healthcare, education,
housing and employment in as profound a way as does the right to make your
house a propaganda center for an opposition party. That the fact that all
children are equal in Cuba and their welfare comes before that of any others
groups of people in Cuba makes our own nation's sorry commitment to youth
look like an outright human rights debacle. Of course, the so-called "Friends
of Cuban Libraries" do not see it that way.

We have no idea what Cuba might be like, were the U.S. aggression and
blockade to end tomorrow. The flowering of Cuban culture and arts,
intellectual and sports achievements, healthcare excellence and the
educational level of the common people are incredible and acknowledged
throughout the world. And this, under conditions of less than perfect
political freedom - who knows what Cuba might accomplish without the constant
military and economic threats and crises, covert and overt aggressions
provoked and carried out by the U.S. government.

This is no an abstract issue. In times of war, many freedoms are sacrificed
and/or lost and this is as true in our own country as in Cuba.  There was NO
freedom of the press during our own revolution against the English.  Debs
went to jail for his pacifist views during wartime. Historical examples go on
and on. We have lost our freedom to travel because of 40-year war against
Cuba. We can be fined and jailed for doing so. Even today, we risk our jobs
for being just a little too red in our opinions - the results of the Cold War
-- and the FBI definitely has an active file on us. We do not have accurate
information about what is going on in Cuba - from which we might learn a lot
-- because our mainstream "free press" is loath to tell anything positive
about socialism. So even the most cursory look at the history of nations,
including and especially our own, reveals that no nation at war allows full

I'm sorry that Cuba is imperfect, I wish it were perfect.  I think that in a
perfect world Kent's pretend-librarians should be able to say anything they
want, have any literature they want in their homes, and never be arrested
(if, indeed, that was what they were arrested for!) But as U.S. citizens, our
first responsibility is to get our own imperfectly democratic country to stop
interfering overtly and covertly in the internal affairs of the Cuban people.
The majority of the Cuban people have made a choice that is theirs and theirs
alone to make. The best thing we can do to promote democracy in Cuba is to
get the U.S. government to end the blockade, because no country under daily
siege can afford full democracy.

I hope that every one of you on the SRRTAC-L will read the Cuban case
mentioned above and travel to Cuba despite the travel ban. I think we, as
progressive U.S. librarians, have to be clear and have to take a side that is
unequivocal and cannot be subverted by those who cleverly try to use our best
instincts against us - and against the Cuban people who, though less
powerful, have spoken.  If forty years of American aggression have not made
the Cuban people give up their chosen system, they HAVE spoken and they HAVE

I apologize for being so long on this subject, but, personally, I have no
intention of continually responding to every provocative post sent by Mr.
Kent. In the interest of honesty, Mssrs. Kent and Sanguinetty should rename
their group "Friends of Cuban Dissidents"(there's no dishonor in that) and
try for a base of support among people for whom opportunism can masquerade as
truth more easily.

I agree, of course with Mark and Al that SRRT should take an official
position on this and support and participate in the program outlined by the
Cuban Libraries Support Group. Perhaps we should thank the so-called "Friends
of Cuban Libraries" for reminding us to strengthen our opposition to the
blockade and to do more to assist the Cuban people to get rid of it, for once
and for all.

Ann Sparanese
Englewood Public Library
Englewood, NJ

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