The Friends of Cuban Libraries

On October 10 the Assembly to Promote a Civil Society (APSC), a dissident 
organization in Cuba, began a series of meetings at independent libraries 
affiliated with the APSC. Cuba's award-winning independent library movement 
challenges government control of information by offering public access to uncensored 
books. The Friends of Cuban Libraries have received reports of a major campaign 
launched by the Cuban government to prevent the APSC library meetings from 
taking place. Actions to block the meetings have included threats, 
interrogations, police raids, arrests, the confiscation of library collections and acts of 
violence. Photographs of injuries inflicted on two people who attended one of 
the library meetings have been published on the Internet:

Pictured in the photos are facial injuries inflicted on Orestes Suárez and 
his wife Nancy Suárez García, directors of the Diosdado Manrique Independent 
Library. According to news reports, on October 10 the couple attended an APSC 
library meeting held in Santa Clara at the house of Noelia Pedraza Jiménez. The 
house was besieged by a group of government supporters known as a "Rapid 
Response Brigade." The leader of the mob was Yormany Junco, a martial arts 
instructor. Rapid Response Brigades are government-organized mobs assigned the task of 
harassing and sometimes assaulting dissidents.

When the ten persons assembled at Noelia Pedraza Jiménez's house tried to 
leave at the end of the library meeting, they were attacked by the pro-government 
mob. Accompanied by several of their persecutors, Orestes and Nancy Suárez 
were forced into a taxi and driven to their home in Ranchuelo. During the taxi 
ride they were again assaulted by members of the Rapid Response Brigade, 
inflicting cuts and bruises on the victims. Orestes Suárez also suffered three 
cracked ribs. Upon arrival in Ranchuelo, members of the Rapid Response Brigade 
refused to allow Orestes and Nancy Suárez to leave their home or to receive 
medical attention. The photographs of their injuries were taken a week after the 

The October campaign launched against the APSC-sponsored meetings marks the 
first major offensive against Cuba's independent library movement since 2003, 
when numerous libraries were raided, thousands of books were seized or burned 
by court order, and about a dozen librarians were sentenced to 20-year prison 
terms. The independent librarians jailed during the 2003 crackdown have been 
named as Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty International, which is calling for 
their immediate release. Cuba's innovative independent library movement also 
receives the support of Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, 
International PEN and Pax Christi. With the goal of providing public access to 
uncensored books, the first of a network of independent libraries was formed in Cuba 
in 1998 by Ramon Colás and Berta Mexidor. Despite ongoing harassment and 
persecution, hundreds of independent libraries have been established on the island. 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: The Friends of Cuban Libraries are asking people around 
the world to express concern over the brutal attacks on Orestes Suárez and 
Nancy Suárez García. Please send messages protesting the repression of Cuba's 
independent librarians to Mr. Felipe Pérez Roque, the Cuban Minister of Foreign 
Affairs. His e-mail address is: ([log in to unmask]) with COPIES to 
([log in to unmask]) and ([log in to unmask]). 

(, Oct. 12, 2006