An Open Letter to New York Public Library on Mariela Castro Program

An open letter to the New York Public Library regarding their recent program featuring Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban dictator, Raul Castro:

Open letter to NY Public Library on Mariela Castro program

June 3, 2012

Dr. Anthony W. Marx
President & CEO
New York Public Library

Dear Mr. Marx:

Last Tuesday May 29th, Mariela Castro –head of the Cuban government´s Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) and daughter of Cuba’s dictator, Raul Castro– was hosted by the New York Public Library for a program publicized as a “conversation” with Rea Carey, Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. For days, the Library’s website announced the program at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at 5th Avenue and 42nd St. with the following notice: “First come, first served – Seating is limited and will be first come first served.”

Some of the undersigned were regularly checking the Library’s website page for the program. Unexpectedly, on or around Friday May 25th, right before the long Memorial Day weekend leading into the Tuesday event, the following note had been suddenly posted: “Registration for this event is now closed. All available seats have been filled. Attendees will be required to show photo ID upon arrival at the event to confirm their registration.” We have yet to find anyone among our friends and contacts that saw an RSVP notice on the page and was able to register online.

The morning of the event, Jason Baumann –the Library´s Coordinator of LGBT Collections and program organizer– told the head of a New Jersey-based human rights’ organization that it was impossible to make even a single seat available to anyone from their group because full capacity had been reached due to “overwhelming interest.” When she inquired how that had been determined, since the program had been on a first-come first-served basis, he offered an unclear answer and went on to say the change to RSVP-only with photo ID at the door had been “at the request of the U.S. State Department for security reasons.” The State Department later confirmed that no such requests had been made.

On the evening of the program, a few of us went to the Library hoping for cancellations or other eventualities that would allow us to attend. But, IDs were being checked by men appearing to be Cuban security agents seen corroborating names against another list and no one not on the purported RSVP list appears to have been allowed entry. Yet, the room was far from capacity, which was obvious from the number of people entering and later leaving and was subsequently confirmed by attendees and TV news reports. People allowed in (reportedly on the list) were known or obvious supporters of the Cuban regime; some remarked out loud that they had received invitations from Cuban government entities and the Cuban “embassy” in Washington. Journalists in attendance reported members of the audience identifying themselves as part of the Solidarity with Cuba Movement.

The audience that was allowed entry was effusively –and by all appearances exclusively sympathetic– to Ms. Castro; only one person asked a mildly provocative question. This is incongruent with the fact that a representative and vocal supporter of a totalitarian regime led by her own father and uncle was speaking in the midst of a large community of Cuban heritage that abhors that regime.

All of the above leads to a strong suspicion that attendance was deliberately managed to fill the room with Cuban regime supporters and prevent the participation of dissenters who would pose pointed questions or offer critical views. That journalists from the U.S. government’s Radio and TV Marti as well as from the Spanish TV channel Univisión were denied entry furthers our misgivings. These organizations do not have bureaus or correspondents in Cuba, so they can offer critical coverage –and are known to do so– without fear of losing privileges or accreditation. They too could be expected to ask “unwanted” questions.

The undersigned, all tri-state residents (of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) –and all but one U.S. citizens– had all independently planned to attend the program and were denied the opportunity. We only discovered our shared experience upon communicating after the event, so probably more people like us, Cuban-Americans opposed to the Cuban dictatorship, faced the same obstacles.

We are very troubled that exceptional practices were implemented, without warning and transparency, that impeded our access to a Library program. Because we have only received vague, contradictory, and incongruous explanations, we urge your institution to promptly and fully investigate exactly how admittance to the event was handled and then provide a detailed clarification.

Ms. Castro and members of her regime habitually censor and repress dissent; in fact, those practices are enshrined in Cuba’s Constitution and laws. But, it would be appalling if the Cuban dictatorship had managed to effectively export its repressive tactics to this country with the cooperation of anyone from your respected institution. In our democracy, as we all know, restricting or preventing access to a public place to any individual or group for political, ideological, ethnic, or any other selective reason is not just morally objectionable, but also unconstitutional. We trust that the Library would not tolerate, much less abet, any such thing.

The Library’s mission is “to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities.” Because we especially value what this means in our free and great country, we are making this letter public.

Your response to this letter will be greatly appreciated. Please count on our best disposition to provide any additional information you may need to get to the bottom of what happened.

Sincerely,

Iván Acosta, Playwright/Filmmaker
New York, New York

Ada Baisre, M.D., Neuropathologist
New York, New York

Rosa Carbonell, Interior Designer
Greenwich, Connecticut

Manuel Castedo, Architect
New York, New York

Vivian Chaunu
Greenwich, Connecticut

Enrique del Risco, Ph.D., Writer/University Professor
West New York, New Jersey

Paquito D´Rivera, Performer/Composer/Author
North Bergen, New Jersey

Alicia Dumois Morrissey
Union City, New Jersey

Paul Echaniz, P.E., Civil Engineer
New York, New York

Arístides Falcón-Paradi, Ph.D., University Professor
New York, New York

Juan Garcia, Hedge Fund Operations Manager
New York, New York

Manny Machín, Financial Associate
North Bergen, New Jersey

Marta Menor
Bayside, New York

Luis Carlos Montalván, Author/Veteran
New York, New York

Jorge Moya, Chief Creative Officer
New York, New York

Geandy Pavón, Visual artist
Guttenberg, New Jersey

Carmen Pelaez, Writer/Actor
Brooklyn, New York

María Pérez, Pharmaceutical executive
Guttenberg, New Jersey

Rolando Pulido, Artist
Rego Park, New York

Maria E. Restoy, Engineer
New York, New York

Alexis Romay, Writer/Editor
Montclair, New Jersey

Arcadio Ruiz-Castellano, Artist/Graphic Designer
New York, New York

Adolfo Vázquez, Choreographer
New York, New York

C: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York

C: The Honorable Chris Christie
Governor of New Jersey

C: The Honorable Dannel P. Malloy
Governor of Connecticut

C: The Honorable Michael Bloomberg Mayor of New York City
Ex-Officio Member of the New York Public Library Board of Trustees

C: Peter M. Brennan
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean
U.S. Department of State

C: Jason Baumann
Coordinator of LGBT Collections
New York Public Library

C: Rea Carey
Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to New York Public Library on Mariela Castro Program”

  1. It’s virtually certain there was collusion with Mariela’s people to make sure things went the way she wanted. Baumann, the event organizer, gave at least two different explanations to different parties (the NJ Human Rights group and Rayarena who comments here). One explanation has been officially refuted, and the other one is contradicted by the available evidence, or certainly not supported by it. If there was such intense public interest, which is the reason given for requiring registration, why were there significant numbers of empty seats? It’s quite clear that those who would have confronted or challenge Mariela Castro were not admitted despite showing up for the event, when they could have been given those empty seats. In other words, unless it can be proven otherwise, one has to assume this whole business was rigged, which is a clear violation of existing norms for such an event at a public institution. Expect evasion, equivocation, stonewalling or defensiveness from the NYPL in response to this letter, but definitely keep us posted as to any response.

    Also, never forget the inordinately warm and effusive contact (it’s on video) between Hillary Clinton and Mariela’s mother, Vilma, suggesting an encounter between close friends (Vilma was a major piece of work and, like Hillary, a “feminist” who owed her position to having married a certain man). I strongly suspect Hillary was personally involved in granting the requisite visas for Mariela’s trip, and she may well have had a hand, however covertly, in the NYPL arrangements (which would explain Baumann’s State Department excuse, even though it’s been officially disavowed).

  2. Remember that the NYPL president, Marx, was deeply involved in the South Africa anti-apartheid movement. Evidently, he views Cuba’s totalitarian hell rather more benevolently. Imagine that. What is unimaginable is that he would have hosted a daughter of Botha who was in the US defending her father’s system.

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