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                          The Friends of Cuban Libraries

                                      PRESS RELEASE

Date: August 10, 2001                       FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

        CUBAN LIBRARIAN FORBIDDEN TO ATTEND IFLA CONFERENCE

Ramon Colas, the co-founder of Cuba's independent library movement, has been
denied permission by the Cuban government to attend the annual conference of
the International Federation of Library Associations.  The IFLA conference
will be held in Boston, Massachusetts USA from August 16-25.  The invitation
to Mr. Colas has been extended by the Friends of Cuban Libraries, a support
group for Cuba's embattled independent library movement, which has become a
worldwide focus of attention for human rights organizations.  Of particular
interest to Ramon Colas and intellectual freedom activists attending the IFLA
conference will be an August 24 panel discussion on the theme "That We Should
Support Cuba's Independent Librarians."  The panel discussion will be
sponsored by IFLA's intellectual freedom  committee, known by the acronym
FAIFE.

According to reports received by the Friends of Cuban Libraries, the Cuban
government denied Ramon Colas permission to leave the country after he
submitted the standard paperwork and the $140.00 fee required of Cuban
citizens seeking a passport.  The passport application fee of $140.00 is
equivalent to fourteen month's salary for a citizen of Cuba, where the
average salary is approximately eleven dollars per month.

Ramon Colas is an Afro-Cuban psychologist who was fired from his job as a
hospital director after he and his wife, Berta Mexidor, founded Cuba's first
independent library in early 1998.   The goal of the independent library
movement, which has now opened more than ninety institutions throughout the
country, is to challenge Cuba's pervasive system of censorship by offering
uncensored reading materials to the people of the island nation.  As
confirmed by IFLA, Amnesty International, the New York Times, the Washington
Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education and other sources, the Cuban
government has responded to the independent librarians with a campaign of
harassment, intimidation, death threats, evictions, police raids,
confiscations and arrests.  In recent months the persecution of the
independent librarians has escalated to the level of physical violence.
Ramon Colas and Berta Mexidor, as the leaders of the growing library
movement, have been a focus of repression on the part of the Cuban
government, which has denounced the independent librarians as "criminals" and
"traitors."

Comments on the refusal of the Cuban government to allow Ramon Colas to
attend the IFLA conference may be sent to the Cuban Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Mr. Felipe Perez Roque.  His e-mail address is:
([log in to unmask]), with copies to: ([log in to unmask]).
Please forward any responses to the Friends of Cuban Libraries.

CONTACTS:  The Friends of Cuban Libraries, founded in June, 1999, is an
independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit support group for the independent
librarians.  We oppose censorship and all other violations of intellectual
freedom, as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, regardless
of whatever government may be in office in Cuba.  We are funded entirely by
our members and do not seek or accept funds from other sources.  For more
information, send e-mail to: ([log in to unmask]) or telephone (USA)
718-340-8494.  Address: 4-74 48th Avenue, Apt. 3-C, Long Island City, NY
11109 USA.
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