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January 15, 2004

Message from E. Acosta

I am posting this message verbatim. I have a lot to say about it, but I thought it would be worth putting it out there for you to read "as-is." Well, I'll make this one comment--the U.S. embargo didn't "cause" the arrest of the Cuban dissidents. That's "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" logic, and it is the kind of reasoning used to defeat the language of the proposed amendment.

Incidentally, the final Task Force report on Cuba criticizes the U.S. embargo, as did my withdrawn resolution and the supporting text for the defeated amendment.


Dear Ms. Schneider:

I know that you are prepared to present a resolution about Cuba at the next meeting of ALA’s Council in San Diego, and more specifically about what is called “…the prison sentences of Cuban citizens for maintaining private libraries.”

Given that I perceive in your approach to the subject an important dose of misleading information or of opinions formed from unilateral points of view about the reality of my country, allow me to recommend to you one last thought before you make your decision that you consider most appropriate, since without a doubt, it is your right.

1) Any approach to the current reality of Cuban society, including the political, since the subject which you have chosen to broach is without a doubt political, can’t avoid the existence of the blockade of your country’s government against all Cuban people, that item from more than forty five years ago has had as a result, innumerable suffering by innocent people and the distortion of the normal course of our lives. If you are an honest and well-intentioned person, as I presume, will you agree with me, and with 179 countries of the world community who just voted against the blockade for the 10th consecutive year in the United Nations, that this must cease in order that Cuba can live, develop and exist free of foreign interferences and threats.

2) The blockade and the war without deaths of your government against the Cuban people, against their laws and constitutional order constitute a direct cause, proven and verified of the most flagrant violation to the right of Cubans and U.S. citizens to the free access to information about their realities, of the right to travel freely and to know at first hand about life in both countries. Additionally, in the specific case of the Cuban librarians, it is a source of constant assault to the work that we perform. Suffice it to say, it prevents us from buying books, computers, and conservation material in the United States, to subscribe to OCLC’s services, or maintain a stable interchange among colleagues. Would you be disposed to tackle this matter in San Diego?

3) The so-called “independent libraries” isn’t a subject linked with our profession, as some have tried to demonstrate without success, and others have said believing, with naïveté. If you really want to know all the facets about this subject, which is political, I refer you to the numerous reports from U.S. librarians and from your ALA colleagues, as well as IFLA authorities who have visited Cuba, since I presume that you haven’t done it.
I specifically am recommending for you to draw your own conclusions, taking all the possible information about this subject, before committing the error of adopting an inaccurate and unfair position. This is healthy advice, from one information professional to another.

4) Around this subject what is discussed is if some people, under the cloak of “librarians”, looking for the support of public opinion for their political agenda, and at the service of a hostile superpower that, as has been demonstrated with photos and proven documents, pay their services, coordinate and promote their activities and supply them with support material, have the right of violating the laws and the constitution that governs my country, by majority decision of the population, defending the overthrow of the constituted authorities. This, Mrs. Schneider, and not freedom of speech nor free access to information is what is what one should discuss around your resolution about Cuba. The United States Code punishes those who, at the service of a hostile power, conspire against the stability of the institutions of your country.

5) Bear in mind, finally, that in Cuba it isn’t a crime to have private libraries, to loan books, or to read what you want. Cuba doesn’t have illiteracy and it is the country of the world with more teachers per capita, and where books are sold at a low price. Doesn’t it seem to you, that if Mr.
Robert Kent’s accusations were true, our reality would be different?

I don’t know if you know who Mr. Kent is and who supports his campaign against the real Cuban librarians. I recommend for to you to find out before putting yourself on his side, or collaborating with his objectives.

I hope that these points of view are of your interest and help you to qualify your position towards Cuba. I hope from you rationality and good sense, and I thank you for your interest that you take in my country, where I hope to welcome you some day.


Lic. Eliades Acosta Matos, Director
National Library "José Martí"

Posted by kgs at January 15, 2004 09:23 AM

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It's not a blockade, it's an embargo. Although the embargo causes inconveniences, I still remember reading, a few weeks after I returned from a visit to Cuba in December 2000, a headline in Granma (the Party newspaper) that proudly declared that Cuba engaged in trade with 120 nations. So what is the problem, if Cuba can buy goods from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, China, India, France, the UK, Sweden, Spain, Italy and many more? Could it be the disincentives of their own economy, in which no Cuban can exploit (in the capitalist world we say "employ") another Cuban, unless it's within a government enterprise or a foreign joint venture, such as a tourist hotel, or where livestock and houses can be sold, but only to the government? And so forth.

One writer has said that Cuba was the recipient of the equivalent of ten Marshall Plans from the Soviet Union. That was a conservative writer, so let's say just five Marshall Plans. What does Cuba have to show for it?

Many of us who oppose Cuba's ill treatment of those who aspire to be free librarians also oppose the embargo and the travel ban, and ALA's statements have said that as well. But those are not the answers to Cuba's self-imposed problems, imposed by a system that does a great job of freezing history and redistributing wealth, but a miserable job of moving forward and creating more wealth for its increasing population.

Given the craziness of the system, it's simply human nature to start thinking about what alternatives and different ideas might help to improve a communist system that Leszek Kolakowski described as beautiful in theory except for one thing: people. People just don't behave the right way in order for communism to work. At bottom, that disconnect is Cuba's fundamental problem, as it was in the now collapsed Soviet system.

Posted by: Steve Marquardt at January 16, 2004 02:30 PM

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