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January 29, 2004

Nat's Latest: "Carrying Fidel's water"


Carrying Fidel's water, http://washingtontimes.com/op-ed/nhentoff.htm

This is pretty much how it went down at ALA Midwinter, although I hope we can later see the transcripts and look more closely at the discussion.

In all fairness to my association, our internal discussion about Cuba has long been co-opted by the more extreme voices on the right, leaving this traditionally left-leaning organization in an awkward bind. My amendment came very late in the day for my peers to absorb and think about.

Still, let's go back to the facts. 75 people remain in jail, some for up to 28 years, for the crimes of practicing the right to read, speak, and own and share books.

(And no, you don't have to call me "Mrs. Schneider.")

Posted by kgs at January 29, 2004 08:13 AM

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"Co-opted by extreme voices of the RIGHT"?

Oh please, Karen! You mean that ALA failed to call for the release of the Cuban dissidents because of the influence of the extreme RIGHT? What earthly sense does that make?

Yes, ALA is a "traditionally left-leaning organization," and it was the influence of the radical LEFT ("progressive") faction within the association, centered around SRRT, that brought this disgrace upon ALA and upon American librarianship. Let's not kid ourselves.

Posted by: Jack Stephens at January 29, 2004 09:27 AM


You may consider yourself a “lone voice” on Council, but your contributions on the Cuba issue includes no new arguments to build on the virtual roar that has accosted all our library listserves, including Council’s, since 1999, mainly from Robert Kent aka Friends of Cuban Libraries. You have not added a single piece of evidence or information that changes the facts: the Cuban dissidents in prison were arrested and convicted of taking cash, computers, and fax machines, among other supplies, from U.S. government agencies, in collaboration with the Helms Burton law. Such a crime, if committed in the U.S., carries similar sentences.

Perhaps you don’t know that the U.S. imprisons people for the same types of crimes, since I have never heard you defend them or call for their immediate release.

In reality, your only *original* contribution to the disinformation campaign was a fabrication of your own: that Victor Arroyo, one of the jailed dissidents, was a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize! Why, even Mr. Hentoff, in his column on Arroyo, never made that claim for him! You have never produced a shred of evidence to back up your statement, though I requested you to do so, publicly, on the Council listserve. You made this claim to Council three times and never corrected yourself.

Perhaps the “gullies of ignorance when it comes to Latin American studies” which you attribute to your colleagues, include mixing up Spanish names. Perhaps that is what happened to you, Karen. Because there *is* a Cuban opposition leader whose name was mentioned in the press as a possible 2003 Nobel Peace Prize nominee (Nobel nominations are actually secret), but he is *not* in prison. His name is Osvaldo Paya and this is what he had to say, according to the New York Times (May 20, 2003):

“Mr. Paya said that while he welcomed American support, he did not want to see his fellow dissidents receive financing from the United States. ‘We accept moral solidarity from the United States,’ he said. ‘But this must be done by and among Cubans within Cuba. We have to de-Americanize the view of a solution of the Cuban problem.’ ”

Years before these arrests, other Cuban opposition leaders (*not* in prison) saw the dangers inherent in accepting Helms Burton money and warned their fellow dissidents against doing so.

It’s all about the *money* – the issue which you and Hentoff refuse to seriously engage. It is about the refusal of one nation to allow foreign funding of its political processes by a determined enemy nation. That is the basis for the convictions of these dissidents – not “speaking or writing freely” as you repeatedly assert. That, and the fact that those labeled “independent librarians” are, by their own admission, neither “librarians” or “independent”, are among the reasons that Council overwhelmingly approved the IRC/IFC task force report written by IRC Chair John Berry, rather than your formulation.

What happened last spring in Cuba is deeply entwined with U.S. foreign policy and questionable monikers. Just because people don’t agree with your view they are not “listless”. Two committees and a task force considered all the elements more intensely than you, and none of your points are new to anyone. Both committees rejected your amendment *before* you raised it on the Council floor. Far from being a “lone” voice, yours was simply a repetitious voice that a vast majority ultimately rejected.

Ann Sparanese
ALA Councilor-at-Large
Englewood, New Jersey

Posted by: Ann Sparanese at February 1, 2004 07:49 AM

"Perhaps you don’t know that the U.S. imprisons people for the same types of crimes, since I have never heard you defend them or call for their immediate release."

That might be because they don't exist. The United States has imprisoned citizens for receiving funds and materials related to running private libraries from foreign governments?

Name them, Ms. Sparanese.

Posted by: Jack Stephens at February 1, 2004 04:14 PM

To Ann Sparanese,

Amnesty International has adopted as "prisoners of conscience" all 75 of the dissidents imprisoned in the crackdown in Cuba last March. From my own involvement in AI, I know it has very stringent standards in labeling detained dissidents as "prisoners of conscience". Could you tell us, who are the people detained in the USA for similar crimes as these Cuban dissidents, what prison terms are they serving, and has Amnesty International adopted any of them as "prisoners of conscience"?

- Steve Denney

Posted by: Stephen Denney at February 2, 2004 06:04 PM

Let us consider the most recent case. This article appeared in USA, page 3A on Jan. 13, 2003.

“Chicago Court Convicts Man of Being an agent for Saddam.

“A community newspaper publisher accused of spying on Iraqi dissidents in theUSA was convicted of serving as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein was found guilty Monday in Chicago of serving as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein. The jury took less than two hours to convict Khaled Dumeisi, 61. He was charged with failing to register as an Iraqi agent, conspiring to do so, lying to an immigration officer and lying to a grand jury. Dumeisi published an Arabic-language community newspaper, Al Mahjar, in which he expressed his hatred for Israel and his admiration for Saddam. He wasn’t charged with espionage or terrorism. He faces ups to 25 years in prison. Sentencing is March 30.”

And here is the article from The Mercury News, which contains a few more details:


Among the evidence is a tape of a speech the man made at the Iraqi embassy and writings in his newspaper. Was the man charged or convicted of “speaking" or "writing freely?” No. But neither were the Cubans. In both cases the charges involve collaboration with a foreign enemy nation, including receiving money, equipment, direction.

This begs the question: will you be demanding his “immediate release” now, or are you waiting for him to be sentenced?

Ann Sparanese

Posted by: Ann Sparanese at February 4, 2004 06:51 AM

I have another question for Karen Schneider, which I have already asked her twice, publicly. I am making the request a third time.

Show me the credible documentation for the assertion that Mr. Victor Arroyo, imprisoned Cuban dissident, was ever a serious contender for the Nobel Peace Prize. I don’t want to hear that the Friends of Cuban Libraries nominated him, or his sister, or Ms. Schneider herself. I want to know the documentation for that claim which Ms. Schneider made to ALA Council _three_ times. Otherwise, Karen, you should admit you made a mistake.

I have no problem with an honest error. Maybe the error is mine. Or perhaps it was a mix-up of names as I suggested in my previous post. Or perhaps you got the Helmet Hammett Grant, given by Human Rights Watch to Arroyo in 2002, mixed up with the Nobel Prize.

I’m sure you had no desire to deliberately misinform your colleagues. But if I do not see either documentation, or a correction, I see an issue of intellectual honesty and integrity.

Ann Sparanese
ALA Councilor-at-Large

Posted by: Ann Sparanese at February 4, 2004 07:14 AM

First of all, Ann, have any of these Cubans been accused of being unregistered agents of George Bush? If they are agents because some of them met with an official at the U.S. Interests Section, then would you be an agent of Castro because you met some Cuban officials?

In fact Khaled Dumeisi is charged with spying on Iraqis in America in order to report on their activities to the Iraqi intelligence service, according to the AP/San Jose Mercury News story you cite. That means he was putting the lives of these dissidents in jeopardy as well as the lives of their relatives still in Iraq. This report also says he faced up to ten years in prison, not 25 as you state.

I don't know of any accusations that the Cuban dissidents arrested during the crackdown last March were involved in any kind of similar activity that would jeopardize the lives of others. They were, according to Amnesty International, engaged in nonviolent peaceful activities of dissent and are therefore considered by AI to be prisoners of conscience.

Furthermore, the anti-Helms Burton Cuban legislation is worded so broadly that it can be easily used to punish a wide variety of dissident activities. Here is what Holly Ackerman, a librarian and Amnesty International specialist on Cuba, wrote for Peace magazine back in 1977:




The most significant portion of the law is also the least obvious. Behind the smoke of anti-American rhetoric, the incipient free press in Cuba is criminalized. Anti-Helms-Burton makes it illegal to "collaborate with any media organization in a way that facilitates the intent of the Helms-Burton Law." Further, Cuban citizens are liable to arrest if they "cooperate in any way" with Helms-Burton, including receiving direct or indirect help from the U.S. government or helping someone else who receives such help. So, if I'm a scholar with a fellowship from the U.S. government and I take a fax machine to Cuba and give it to a friend, and the friend faxes back a report on brutality in Cuban prisons and I put the material on the radio she gets arrested and so does the person whose phone line she used. This is how the recently created independent news services in Cuba have worked and they are the immediate target of the law.



- Steve Denney

Posted by: Steve Denney at February 4, 2004 05:28 PM

Correction: the article by Holly Ackerman appeared in Peace magazine in 1997.

Posted by: Steve Denney at February 4, 2004 07:03 PM

Ms. Sparanese, you certainly do seem to relish the opportunity to defend dictatorships....

You claimed that the U.S. imprisons people for the "same type of crimes" as those for which the Cuban dissidents were imprisoned. As even the article you cite states clearly, Mr. Dumeisi was accused (and he has now been convicted) of *spying* on Iraqi-Americans on behalf of Saddam Hussein's regime. Do you mean to suggest that anyone should "defend" such spying on American citizens, or call for Dumeisi's "immediate release"?

I will remind you that Amnesty International has written of the Cuban dissidents that their activities "constitute legitimate exercise of freedoms of expression, assembly and association, and cannot in themselves justify the authorities' repressive reaction."

It seems to me that a more instructive comparison to events in this country would be those librarians associated with the Communist Party USA who continued to operate freely in America while that party accepted funds and direction from the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

Posted by: Jack Stephens at February 6, 2004 09:15 AM

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