Open Letter to the International Library Community

Dear colleagues:

Below is a message sent to the IFLA-L listserv in response to an assertion
that FAIFE's 2001 report on Cuba was able to provide undisputed conclusions
regarding the situation in that country. Sadly, it is becoming ever more apparent
that Cuban government officials have engaged in a systematic effort to deceive
the international library community with regard to the intense repression and
censorship in Cuba.

It is often difficult and painful to realize that we have been deceived, but
respect for newly revealed facts can require us to revise our conclusions and
take appropriate action. In the words of the Castro government itself, as
proven by secret court documents leaked to the outside world (see below for
details), there can no longer be any doubt that the Cuban government is seizing
and/or BURNING thousands of library books, including many titles which were shown
to IFLA/FAIFE researchers in 2001 in a deceitful effort to conceal Cuba's grim

This unpleasant truth can no longer be denied, and IFLA's credibility will be
severely damaged unless we in the international library community take
principled action in defense of Cuba's persecuted independent librarians and their
historic challenge to censorship. A resolution on Cuba will be introduced by a
number of library associations at the Oslo conference, and passage of this
resolution will be a key test of IFLA's principled and unbiased commitment to
intellectual freedom as a universal human right.


Robert Kent
Co-chair, The Friends of Cuban Libraries

In a message dated 7/20/05 11:30:06 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

> They [i.e., IFLA researchers who visited Cuba in 2001] conducted a very
> investigation among print associations and government officials....

It appears that Mr. Marvin may be unaware of the facts with regard to the
persecution of Cuba's independent librarians and the growing support within IFLA
for a resolution on this subject at the Oslo conference. The groundswell of
support within IFLA for a resolution on Cuba was strengthened by Ray Bradbury's
June 27 statement condemning the repression of Cuban librarians and demanding
the liberation of those now serving long prison terms; the imprisoned Cuban
librarians have been adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty
International. As more members of IFLA are beginning to realize, the IFLA research team
sent to Havana in 2001 was systematically deceived by government officials in an
effort to cover up Cuba's pervasive censorship and repression. This reality,
unpleasant as it may be, will be addressed by a number of library associations
which will introduce a resolution on Cuba at the Oslo conference .

> When discussing the issue of banned books with key figures of the Cuban
> Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), it was indicated that for copyright
> reasons Infante, Manach and Areņas do not want their works published in

Cuba's official library system is modeled on the system of the former Soviet
Union. Cuban citizens, as were the Russian people in the old Soviet Union, are
routinely denied access to books which criticize the regime. Access to
forbidden books, kept locked away in special closed areas of the official libraries,
is restricted to a few "trustworthy" readers such as reporters for the
government-run press.

As awareness grows of the secret court documents detailing the 2003 trials of
Cuban librarians, which were smuggled off the island and published on the
Internet, it is becoming generally known that books which Cuban officials claim
are freely available to the public are actually being confiscated from the
independent libraries and burned by court order. To read just some of these
shocking Cuban court documents ordering the burning of thousands of library books,
see the following URLs of the librarians' trials:
( and
( .

> They [i.e., Cuba's official librarians] also said that the alleged
unavailability of Orwell's works is a myth; on
> the contrary, the National Library is preparing an Orwell exhibition this
> year.

What totalitarian regime would allow its citizens to read the works of
Orwell? This absurd claim is just another example of the systematic deception
carried out by Cuba's official librarians during interviews with IFLA researchers in
2001.  In actual fact, Orwell's classic books, as revealed by the leaked
court documents detailing  the 2003 trial of librarian Omar Pernet Hernandez, are
regarded as "subversive" by the Cuban regime. In the words of the Cuban
government, as stated during the trial of Omar Pernet Hernandez, the secret police
"carried out a search of his house and confiscated a great quantity of
subversive materials... [T]o list all of them would make this sentence
interminable..." One of the "subversive" book titles listed in this court document is
Orwell's "Animal Farm." So much for the Cuban government's mendacious claim that
Orwell's books are available to the public in Havana's National Library, or
anywhere else in Cuba for that matter.

Defenders of the Cuban government would like to forget the fact that in 1999
IFLA issued a report which confirmed and vigorously condemned the persecution
of Cuba's independent librarians
( For reasons which remain unclear, this report has never been the subject of
a resolution by an IFLA conference, and further confusion was caused by the
Cuban regime's temporarily successful effort to deceive the IFLA researchers
who visited Havana in 2001. Now that the truth of Cuba's grim reality is
becoming better known, a number of national library associations attending the 2005
IFLA conference intend to correct this injustice by introducing a resolution to
condemn the Castro regime's systematic persecution of Cuba's independent


Robert Kent
Co-chair, the Friends of Cuban Libraries