March 5, 2004 AN OPEN LETTER TO CANADIAN LIBRARIANS Dear colleagues: Printed below is information on a health care emergency involving Julio Antonio Valdés, an imprisoned Cuban library worker who may die of kidney disease unless measures are taken to save his life. The Cuban government has great respect for the influence of Canadian public opinion, and we hope you will generously consider writing to the Cuban ambassador in Ottawa, at the address listed below, to request that Julio receive the lifesaving hospital care he urgently needs. Sadly, the Cuban government has a history of denying medical care to prisoners as a form of punishment, and please be assured that your compassionate intervention to help save the life of Julio Antonio Valdes would be effective. Every letter counts, and please be assured that the small amount of time needed to send a message will be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Robert Kent The Friends of Cuban Libraries (www.friendsofcubanlibraries.org) ------------------------------------------------------ IMPRISONED LIBRARIAN IN DANGER OF DYING On February 23 Julio Antonio Valdés, a dissident Cuban librarian, was transferred in critical condition from Canaleta Prison to a hospital in Havana. Mr. Valdés is serving a 20 year prison term after being arrested during a crackdown on the island nation's human rights movement. He has been named as a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International, which is requesting his immediate release from custody. Julio Antonio Valdés is reported to be suffering from advanced kidney disease, complicated by high blood pressure, resulting in his emergency transfer from prison to a hospital. The wife of Mr. Valdés, Cruz Delia Aguilar Mora, is worried that he may die if he is returned to prison without receiving intensive medical care for his serious kidney ailment. "I am desperate," stated Ms. Aguilar Mora, "as my husband is in very serious condition. I ask the international community to become concerned for the case of my husband so they will continue giving him specialized care in the hospital, so they won't send him back to Canaleta Prison to die." The Friends of Cuban Libraries, an international support group for Cuba's independent library movement, is asking Canadian medical associations and professionals to send immediate appeals to the Cuban ambassador on behalf of Julio Antonio Valdés. In your messages, please ask Cuban officials to provide intensive hospital care for Julio Antonio Valdes's life-threatening kidney ailment. Courteous e-mail messages on behalf of Julio Antonio Valdés may be sent to Ambassador Carlos Fernandez de Cossio at: ([log in to unmask]), with COPIES to ([log in to unmask]) AND ([log in to unmask]). Airmail letters can be sent to the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs. His address is: Mr. Felipe Pérez Roque Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores Calzada No. 360 Vedado La Habana CUBA BACKGROUND: Julio Antonio Valdés is one of at least fourteen volunteer librarians who have been sentenced to long prison terms for taking part in Cuba's innovative free library movement, which has the goal of providing public access to uncensored reading materials. Approximately 200 independent libraries have been founded throughout Cuba since 1998, and the volunteer librarians are being persecuted for challenging the government's claimed monopoly on all sources of information. The imprisoned Cuban librarians have been declared Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty International. On April 5, 2003, Mr. Valdés was convicted of committing "crimes against the national sovereignty and economy of Cuba." During his trial, one of the charges made against him was the founding of a "self-proclaimed Independent Library" to "ideologically subvert the reader with the clear purpose, by means of inducing confusion, to recruit persons for the counter-revolution..." Among the "subversive" books in his library were reports by Human Rights Watch, issues of TIME magazine, pamphlets on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Catholic periodicals and a book by Aung San Suu Kyi, the renowned Burmese human rights activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. After sentencing Julio Valdés to twenty years in prison, the presiding judges in his trial ordered the burning of the books in his library on the grounds that they were "lacking in usefulness." To read more about the persecution of volunteer librarians in Cuba, please refer to our website: (WWW.FRIENDSOFCUBANLIBRARIES.ORG).