Libraries are So Important Some People Will Risk Death…

You know, I don’t really know anything about the whole Cuban Librarians thing that’s been happening. I’ve caught bits and pieces of it from people who have strong opinions about it and learned only a little bit. That’s probably why I was so caught off guard by what was posted on Calix this morning. It was truly horrifying and saddening. I’m going to do some more research about all of this and see what else I can learn. For those of you who aren’t on the Calix listserv here is the text with links –

Kindle Users Arrested

HAVANA, Aug. 24, 2012 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez/Hablemos Press) – On Friday the Cuban secret police pursued and arrested librarians who had attended a technology workshop at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

[Note by the Friends of Cuban Libraries: the Obama administration recently enacted a program to donate hi-tech equipment such as Kindle e-book readers to Cuba’s independent librarians and other activists. This move greatly expands Cubans’ access to banned materials and evades the occasional seizure of bulky printed materials carried in the luggage of volunteers arriving at Cuban airports.]

The arrests occurred in the streets adjacent to the Interests Section when the librarians, about 20 in number, were returning to their homes.

“The workshop in which we were participating was on how to use an Amazon Kindle,” commented Lázara Mijan, who was able to escape the police roundup, together with Magaly Norvis Otero and Julio Beltrán.

Among the detainees are Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, Julio Rojas Portal and Mario Echevarría Driggs. Two Kindles were confiscated from each of the latter two persons, in addition to cameras, personal documents and user manuals for the Kindle DX….

“The police operation was big, very big. Many State Security agents were scattered in Ladas [Soviet-era cars] and motorcycles everywhere in the streets near the Interests Section; it was a miracle that some of the librarians were able to evade arrest,” said Driggs, after he was released from custody….

The Cuban regime classifies the independent librarians and dissidents as counterrevolutionaries at the service of the U.S. government. In 2003, more than 20 librarians were arrested and sentenced to prison terms of between 5 and 20 years, and their library collections were confiscated and burned.

POSTSCRIPT: In a related incident, Alejandro Tur Valladares reports that on Sept. 4 independent librarian Eduardo Ramos López, while using a public telephone in Cienfuegos, was forced into a police car (license plate number: FDD 154) and taken to the local State Security office, where the two Kindles in his possession were confiscated. He was booked on a charge of “subversive activities” and released. Ramos López rejects the charge made against him by the secret police and said he would demand the return of the seized Kindles.

Sources: (, (

WikiLeaks: Mob Attacks Librarians

NEW YORK, Sept. 21, 2012 (Friends of Cuban Libraries) – INTRODUCTION: In 2006 the Friends of Cuban Libraries webpage published a brief article on a mob attack directed against Orestes Suárez Torres and Nancy González García, independent librarians living in rural Ranchuelo, Villa Clara province.

A Google search of WikiLeaks documents has now disclosed a lengthy confidential memo on this subject by Michael Parmly, the chief U.S. diplomat in Havana. The confidential 2006 memo, an excerpt of which is published below, discloses grim new details on the government-directed attack on Suárez and González and the injuries they suffered.

So far as we know, this press release by The Friends of Cuban Libraries is the first article drawing attention to this WikiLeaks memo.

To see the diplomats’ photos of the facial injuries inflicted on Suarez and Gonzalez, go to:

Here are excerpts from the newly-discovered WikiLeaks disclosure, with a link to the full text at the end of the memo:

“Origin: U.S. Interests Section Havana (Cuba)
“Cable time: Thurs., 10 Oct 2006
“Classification: CONFIDENTIAL…

“Summary: Cuban communist militants brutally attacked two dissidents in Villa Clara province on October 10, the opening day of an extended ‘Congress’ of independent librarians. The attack, which lasted more than an hour… left a man of 53 and his wife, 39, with black eyes, deep bruises and cuts. The man also suffered broken ribs; his wife had her trousers virtually ripped off….

“Orestes Suarez Torres, a welder whose dissident views cost him his job, and his wife Nancy Gonzalez Garcia, a cigar roller, met with Pol[itical] off[icer] on October 18 and described a vicious October 10 attack that left them both bruised and battered. Suarez and Gonzalez… operate an independent library (illegal, in the regime’s eyes)… [When Orestes Suarez and Nancy Gonzalez left the Oct. 10 librarians’ congress in Santa Clara] a large crowd of communist militants stood outside and staged an ‘act of repudiation’… [A]round 12 militants grabbed Suarez and Gonzalez and forced them into two cars. Inside one, three female militants yanked on Gonzalez’s long hair and rained blows on her face, chest and legs… Inside the other car, five male militants took turns pounding Suarez…

“The militants then drove the victims toward Ranchuelo… Stopping en route beside a stream, the attackers splashed water on the dissidents, removing some of the blood that had discolored their clothing…. Finally, the couple was driven home – only to find a crowd of some 80 people outside their home, staging an act of repudiation and yelling ‘Viva Fidel.’ ‘All Party militants,’ explained Gonzalez. After confiscating the victims’ notebook, shoes and lighter, the militants let the dissidents enter their home.”

While writing this memo and viewing the “clearly visible wounds” inflicted on the two librarians, diplomat Michael Parmly noted that Orestes Suárez and Nancy González “vowed to continue their peaceful opposition to the regime….”


Indie Libraries: “An Exercise in Obscurity, Persecution”

BOSTON, July 3, 2012 (Public Radio International) – With travel restrictions easing, more Americans can go and see Cuba themselves….

[Officially-approved used booksellers in Havana’s Plaza de Armas] are part of Cuba’s state-controlled book world. There are no independent bookshops…. Books are curated by the government….

But there is a flip side: a small literary underground, led by defiant Cubans with private libraries and e-books swapped on flash drives….

In another part of Havana, Gisela Delgado, a computer technician [and director of Cuba’s Independent Library movement], runs a private library from her small apartment. In 2003, the government cracked down and jailed 75 of the island’s dissidents, including independent librarians. Delgado was spared, but remains monitored….

For the government, the sore spot is how books get here: through foreigners, from exiled Cubans and sympathetic diplomats…. [Editor’s note: Access to the World Wide Web is banned in Cuba, except for tourists and a few Cubans considered “trustworthy,” making it difficult to bring uncensored information into the country.]

And what the Cuban government deems inappropriate is arbitrary. When state police raided her library during the 2003 dissident crackdown, Delgado remembers asking agents how a book by Gabriel García Márquez could be confiscated.

They said, “The problem isn’t the title of the book. It’s you,” she recalled….

“Cuban publishing houses would like to have more titles,” [said Rafael Hernández, a government official.] “The main problem is the money.”

Delgado, the librarian, doesn’t buy that. Money will not put books critical of the Cuban government on the shelves, she said.

At issue is what her books surely symbolize: a thorn in the government’s side, dissent – and support from the outside world.


Internet Radio Interview: Cuba’s Indie Libraries

HOUSTON, March 17, 2012 (Silvio Canto) – To hear an online blog radio interview with Robert Kent on the subject of Cuba’s independent library movement, go to:’s-message

One thought on “Libraries are So Important Some People Will Risk Death…

  1. Hello Mr. Sweeney: Thanks for your coverage of the independent libraries issue. Amnesty International and other reputable human rights groups support Cuba’s pioneering indie librarians, in contrast to the lamentable proceedings of the ALA. Please feel free to consult with me regarding the most important issue in the field of international librarianship. Misinformation on this subject is rife, so I would appreciate any feedback.


    Robert Kent, Friends of Cuban Libraries

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