Excerpts from a June 29, 2003, op ed in the Los Angeles Times:
LIBRARIES: It's Always 1984 in Cuba
By Charlotte Allen
WASHINGTON — When the Supreme Court last week upheld a federal law that
requires public libraries receiving federal aid for Internet technology to install
pornography-filtering software on their computers, the American Library Assn.
It is thus ironic — although perhaps telling — that the very same ALA,
meeting in Toronto for its annual convention the very week the Supreme Court handed
down its decision, refused to issue even the mildest condemnation of Cuba's
harsh treatment of some of its own librarians who were targets of Fidel
Castro's sweeping crackdown on dozens of dissidents in March....
Human Rights Watch has condemned as a travesty of justice the proceedings
against these nonviolent dissidents, whose books, computers and papers were
confiscated upon their arrests. Amnesty International called the 75 "prisoners of
conscience." The International Federation of Library Assns. and Institutions
issued a statement May 8 expressing its "deepest concerns" over the long
sentences for dissidents and extending support to "the Cuban library community in
safeguarding free access to print and electronic information."
The ALA, by contrast, did zilch on behalf of its members' imprisoned Cuban
colleagues.... Adding insult to injury, the ALA held a panel discussion at the
convention on libraries in Cuba. All five Cuban delegates to the panel were
representatives of Cuba's state-owned public library system, including Eliades
Acosta Matos, head of the Jose Marti National Library, a government-controlled
enterprise. Acosta Matos is on record as calling the independents "traitors,"
"criminals" and "mercenaries...."
What seems to be at issue in the ALA is politics.... Listening to Rosenzweig
talk is like listening to a reading from "Animal Farm" — or maybe "1984...."
"There was hardly even the pretense that these people were librarians,"
Rosenzweig said..." Translation: In Cuba, it's a crime to be a dissident,
especially if you have relatives in Florida.
Larry Oberg, university librarian at Willamette University, participated in
an ALA fact-finding trip to Cuba in 2001.... [At] around the same time that
Oberg was in Cuba making his observations, Marion Lloyd, reporting for the
Houston Chronicle, sent a Cuban friend to request two books for her at a state
library: Orwell's "1984" and exiled Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante's novel
"Three Trapped Tigers." The librarian refused to provide the student with
Infante's novel, telling him that it was "counterrevolutionary." "1984" was not
even in the library's catalog.
"I'm genuinely committed to freedom of access to information," said [ALA
president] Freedman.... There is a final irony, too: While the ALA frets about
Americans' lack of access to some Web pages, 99% of Cuba's 11 million people
lack any access to the Web — by deliberate design of the Castro regime.
"They're afraid of what would happen if they allowed access," Oberg said.
Now, doesn't that sound familiar?