Stop harassing Librarians


Amnesty International released a report today entitled \"Cuba: Short Term Detention and Harassment of Dissidents.\" The 24-page report notes that \"freedom of expression, association and assembly are severely limited in law and in practice\" for Cuban citizens. \"Those who attempt to express views, organize meetings or form organizations that conflict with government policy are frequently subjected to punitive measures.\" Independent librarians are listed among the groups of Cuban citizens whom Amnesty says have been subject to intensified repression in recent months.Focusing on 13 methods of intimidation, the
world-renowned human rights organization expressed
concern because \"certain punitive measures used by the
Cuban Government to stifle dissent are becoming more
frequent, including short term detentions,
interrogations, summonses, official warnings, threats,
intimidation, eviction, loss of employment, restrictions
on travel, house searches, house arrests, telephone
buggings and physical and verbal acts of aggression....\"
Some of the physical attacks, according to Amnesty, are
carried out by paramilitary groups known as \"Rapid
Response Brigades,\" organized by the government in 1991
with the avowed goal of \"confronting and liquidating any
sign of counter-revolution or crime....\"
Amnesty International cites particular incidents to
illustrate each of the 13 categories of repression
outlined in the new report. Under \"mass detentions,\"
for example, the report describes the case of an activist
for the blind, Ms. Milagros Cruz Cano, who was among a
group of people attacked and arrested on November 27,
1999, while demonstrating outside a courtroom where an
independent journalist was being tried. This nonviolent
protest was disrupted when \"Rapid Response Brigades,
State Security agents and police came to the scene and
began to beat the demonstators with clubs.... [On
December 4] Milagros Cruz Cano, who is blind, was
re-detained by State Security officials.... She was
initially held at the Maria Luisa police station in
Havana where she was reportedly beaten by police officers
which resulted in a swollen cheek and a bruise and a
scab below her eye. She was then transferred to Mazorra
psychiatric hospital in Havana where she was held in an
isolated cell....\" After being subjected to further
mistreatment, Ms. Cruz Canos was released without charge
on December 14. Incidents involving Cuba\'s independent
librarians are included in the Amnesty report to
illustrate two of the 13 categories of heightened
repression being used by the security forces. Under the
category of \"house searches,\" the report notes that
\"Independent libraries in Cuba have also been subjected
to searches and the confiscation of books. The first
independent library in Cuba, the \'Biblioteca Felix
Varela,\' was established in April 1998 by Berta Mexidor
Vazquez and her husband, Ramon Humberto Colas Castillo.
Since then several other independent libraries have
emerged. However, most have reportedly been subjected
to searches and the confiscation of books and
magazines.\" Under the category of \"evictions,\" the
report describes the forced expulsion of Ramon Colas,
Berta Mexidor and their two children from their home in
the town of Las Tunas, which also served as the site of
the Felix Varela Library. Amnesty describes how the
family \"had lived in their home for 13 years before
being told they were illegal occupants. According to
Berta Mexidor, the authorities removed all their
belongings into lorries in spite of their protests and
told them they were being moved to another area, some 60
kilometers from their home. They were taken to a
military camp where some 300 other people were reportedly
housed.\" In an earlier report issued in November, 1999,
Amnesty had named Ramon Colas as a Prisoner of
Conscience following his arrest during the incident
described above.
Comments on the repression of the independent
librarians and other members of Cuba\'s emerging
civil society, as outlined in Amnesty\'s report, may be
sent to: President Fidel Castro, Consejos de Ministros y
del Estado, Havana, Cuba. E-mail may be sent to Cuba\'s
official librarians\' association, known as ASCUBI, at:
([email protected]).
BACKGROUND: More than 33 independent libraries now
exist in Cuba with the goal of offering uncensored
reading materials to the Cuban people. These popular
institutions have been welcomed in a nation where strict
censorship has prevailed for many years. Because of
their efforts to promote intellectual freedom, the
independent librarians are being subjected to a campaign
of persecution. The full text of a report on this
subject by the International Federation of Library
Associations (IFLA) is on the Internet
(, in the \"news and events\" section).
In news too late to be included in Amnesty\'s report, the
Felix Varela Library continued to operate in Las Tunas
until February, 2000, when the entire collection of over
1,000 volumes was stolen, allegedly by burglars. For
details on this incident, please refer to the Friends of
Cuban Libraries news bulletin dated March 9, 2000.
The Friends of Cuban Libraries, founded in June,
1999, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit
support group for Cuba\'s independent librarians. We
oppose censorship and all other violations of
intellectual freedom, as defined by the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, regardless of whatever
administration may be in office in Cuba. We are funded
entirely by our members and do not seek or accept
contributions from other sources. For further information

about the Friends, send e-mail to:
[email protected] or telephone (U.S.) 718-340-8494.
Mailing address: Robert Kent, 474 48th Ave., #3-C, Long
Island City, NY 11109 USA. ###

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