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January 06, 2004

Draft Resolution on Cuba

I needed to get this done by today as this was the deadline for electronic transmissions prior to the conference. Ergo, it's a draft, and a rough one, rattled out as fast as my little fingers could type it. I have a second, who should not be construed as endorsing everything in here, but in supporting the general resolution process.

Thanks to folks who have provided constructive input to date, and I welcome further input. -- kgs


WHEREAS, the American Library Association is a courageous champion of free speech in an open society; and

WHEREAS, the American Library Association has worked hard to develop strong working relationships worldwide with librarians, writers, publishers, journalists, and all those who champion the privacy, free speech, and the right to read; and

WHEREAS, in March, 2003, the Cuban government imprisoned 75 writers, journalists, and maintainers of independent book collections, and seized and destroyed private book collections; and

WHEREAS, these 75 prisoners have been charged with activities such as owning personal book collections and writing articles critical of the Cuban government; and

WHEREAS, the imprisonment of these 75 dissidents has been condemned by Amnesty International, which called this action an “unprecedented crackdown,” and Human Rights Watch, which said the March 2003 actions were “an all-out offensive against nonviolent dissidents, independent journalists, human rights defenders, independent librarians, and others brave enough to challenge the government's monopoly on truth”; and

WHEREAS, the Cuban government continues to hold these 75 dissidents in jail, and has destroyed the private book collections, which have been determined to include holdings such as copies of “the International Declaration of Human Rights” and the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, the activities these prisoners were charged with are the rights the American Library Association has long fought to preserve in our own country, and has fought for even harder as the twin shadows of surveillance and censorship threaten to fall over our own civil liberties; and

WHEREAS, Policy 53.4 of the American Library Association, “Governmental Intimidation,” states, “The American Library Association opposes any use of government prerogatives which leads to the intimidation of the individual or the citizenry from the exercise of free expression. ALA encourages resistance to such abuse of government power, and supports those against whom such governmental power has been employed”; and

WHEREAS, in October, 2003, former President Jimmy Carter condemned the imprisonment of these 75 Cuban citizens “peaceably seeking to change their country's legislation and promote freedoms of expression and assembly,” and

WHEREAS, IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, joined the international critique of these arrests and crackdowns by urging “the Cuban Government to respect, defend and promote the basic human rights defined in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights”; and

WHEREAS, the United States and Cuba can both benefit by trade and travel agreements that encourage the mutual exchange of ideas and can help build trust among colleagues in these nations; and

WHEREAS, increasingly harsh U.S. trade and travel restrictions undermine the ability of the American Library Association and the Associacion Cubana de Bibliotecarios (ASCUBI) to continue to build a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship that had been strengthened by an ALA delegate visit to Cuba in 2001 and by visits from Cuban librarians to the ALA Annual Conference in Toronto, 2003; and

WHEREAS, IFLA has formally criticized the impact of the U.S. embargo for creating “inhibitions to professional interaction and exchange caused by the restrictions on travel to the US by Cuban nationals and to Cuba by US nationals”;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of the American Library Association asks the President of the Association to call for the immediate release of the 75 Cubans identified by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as imprisoned in March 2003 for promoting free speech and the right to read; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of the American Library Association encourages continued good relationships between the American Library Association the Associacion Cubana de Bibliotecarios (ASCUBI); and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of the American Library Association encourages the United States to pave the way to free travel and exchange between the U.S. and Cuba.

Moved: Karen G. Schneider, Councilor at Large
Seconded: Tom Wilding, Councilor

Contact information:

Karen G. Schneider

Tom Wilding

Posted by kgs at January 6, 2004 04:42 PM

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Would you please post detailed information (including room number) on when and where you expect this to be discussed?

Posted by: Frederick Emrich at January 7, 2004 06:41 AM

Good job! (Somehow, I'm not surprised.)

You managed to hit the issues that make an ALA resolution plausible...without getting involved in the "independent librarian" red herring.

For ALA to protest the seizure/destruction of private book collections and the jailing of people for, apparently, having such collections is perfectly reasonable. Whether the owners of those collections are "librarians" or not. I suppose my use of punctuation hints at my opinion on that issue, but it's irrelevant to the resolution you've crafted. Good luck with it.

Posted by: Walt Crawford at January 7, 2004 08:25 AM

In response to Walt Crawford's comments, the objection that has been raised in this discussion in order to distract us from the central issue (the "red herring") has not been that the "maintainers of independent book collections" are independent librarians (sounds like a dictionary definition, doesn't it?), but rather that they are NOT independent librarians. I take it as given that the central issue here is these individuals' status as prisoners of conscience, and their apparent lack of a library degree has been raised to distract us from this fact.

Let us be clear: the jailing of José Ubaldo Izquierdo is "relevant" to the practice of librarianship in precisely the same way that the abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Islamic extremists was "relevant" to the practice of journalism.

Posted by: Jack Stephens at January 9, 2004 08:55 AM

Fair, accurate and balanced - let us hope it passes.
Best, John D. Berry, ALA Councilor at Large

Posted by: John D. Berry at January 9, 2004 09:41 AM