That’s the battle that the castro government always claims to be winning. It must be a rather one sided fight, though. Not because of a lack of dissenting ideas, but because of the prevention of their expression. The banning and burning of books is just one way the castro regime prevents the airing of opinions and individual ideas.
The following is a press release from FREADOM:
Authors and Librarians Say “Read A Burned Book”
International Read A Burned Book Campaign Launched
Some of the most famous Cuban writers have joined with the head of Cuba’smajor independent library group in endorsing a new “Read A Burned Book” campaign, aimed at getting high school and college students to read the books which Fidel Castro has ordered burned.
“Castro can destroy everything, except for books,” said legendary Cuban revolutionary and author, Carlos Franqui. “He may censor, ban or even burn them, but the ideas contained in books can never be destroyed.”
“As José Martí once said, paper trenches are stronger than those built in stone,” said Franqui, a former confidante of Castro, and the editor of one of the hundreds of books that were ordered burned in 2003.
“In our homes, the homes of many of us who promote liberty and the defense of human rights in Cuba, books are frequently confiscated,” said Gisela Delgado Sablon, the Director of the Independent Library Project of Cuba. “Among those have been books about Martin Luther King Jr., the great American civic fighter who fought for the rights of blacks.”
Sablon, speaking from a phone in Havana, said books like Kings “are regarded as dangerous to society,” and she justified the need for independent libraries because readers have access “only to what the government designates for them to read.”
“The Read A Burned Book effort is a unique reading and human rights classroom project that’s geared to get young people discussing the question “Why do tyrants burn books?”, said Walter Skold, the co-chair of FREADOM, the group of librarians and authors which has launched the campaign.
“We are thrilled that so many well-know authors have supported this effort and we hope many high school classes will catch the fire of reading and debating the “dangerous” ideas that Castro feared,” he said.
“It’s an act of freedom to find intact copies of books that have been burned or banned (in Cuba as well as the United States and elsewhere), to open the pages, and to READ” said Kathlyn Gay, the author of the young adult book Leaving Cuba: Operation Pedro.
“Thousands of Cubans have risked their lives to reach American soil and freedom,” said Gay, adding that such freedom “Does not exist in Cuba, where books are deliberately burned to suppress ideas and information.”
Sablon’s husband, Hector Palacios, who was just released from prison, added his support to the effort, along with such internationally-respected authors as Armando Valladares, Carlos Eire, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Nat Hentoff, and Alvaro Llosa.
For his part, Alvaro Llosa said Cuba’s persecuted independent librarians remind him “Of the heroes of “Fahrenheit 451″–Truffaut’s famous film based on Ray Bradbury’s novel–who set out to memorize an entire collection of books in order to prevent the tyranny that has decided to burn them from obliterating literature.”
Court transcripts reveal that in the infamous one day show trials of 75 Cuban dissidents in 2003, thousands of books were ordered “incinerated”, including books by or about George Orwell, Carlos Franqui, Pope John Paul II, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Vaclav Havel, Oswaldo Paya, Human Rights Watch, and many others.
The sentencing documents which outline the orders to burn “subversive” books were placed on the “Rule of Law and Cuba” website at Florida State University, in 2003, and have been verified by Amnesty International, the Organization of American States, and other human rights groups.
The posting of the documents was covered in the Florida press at the time, but the news of the book burning was not widely reported elsewhere.
Communist-Party appointed officials who head the State-controlled library association in Havana continue to tell international librarians that the charges are false and that Amnesty International cannot be trusted.
President Jimmy Carter gave Palacios a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., on his historic trip to Cuba in 2002, but that book was later confiscated from the Dulce María Loynaz Library in their home when Palacios was arrested and jailed in Castro’s nationwide crackdown against dissent in 2003.
“Cuba is one of the very few governments today that answers dissent by turning ideas into ashes” said Freadom co-chair and longtime Amnesty International activist from Minnesota, Dr. Steve Marquardt. “Other works describing King’s tactics of civil disobedience have also been consigned to the flames.”
In a report, “Martin Luther King, Jr.,: Burned in Cuba, Marquardt points out that in the April, 2003 trial of independent librarian, Luis Milan Fernandez, judges ordered a book about Dr. King “destroyed”, with many other books and magazines, because of their “little value.”
“They tell me that books sent to me from abroad have been confiscated because they are counterrevolutionary and because they threaten the interests of the Cuban nation,” says Sablon, who spoke on behalf of nearly 100 independent librarians in Cuba, some of whom are still in prison.
“How can a book threaten the nation when it contains poetry, stories, or the personal experiences of its author?” she asks.
In the case of a 1995 biography of Dr. King, by author Vincent Roussel, the court declared its concern that the content of that particular book “is based on ideas that could be used to promote social disorder and civil disobedience.”
“By reading books that were ordered burned in Cuba and in other nations, and by grappling with the ideas presented by the authors,” said Skold, who teaches in a middle school, “Young people can come to their own conclusions as to why dictators like Castro often destroy “dangerous” books.”
For those young people who do complete the classroom activities Freadom has created, the feisty Sablon has her own message.
In her statement she said that the relationship between Cuban and Americans “is renewed every generation, and this is what these young Americans are doing through their support.”
“I applaud them for defending the basic liberties that all peoples should enjoy.”