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Monday, August 29, 2005

Castro's Continued Repression

Nat Hentoff:

For years, Ray Bradbury's novel, Fahrenheit 451, referring to the temperature at which books burn, has been an inspiration to me and other millions around the world who believe in the freedom to read -- particularly in those countries whose dictators forbid dissenting books.

We were talking about Fidel Castro's recurring crackdowns on those remarkably courageous Cubans who keep working to bring democracy to that grim island where dissenters, including independent librarians, are locked in cages, often for 20 or more years. Bradbury knew about the crackdowns, but until I told him, was not aware of Castro's kangaroo courts often ordering the burning of the independent libraries they raid, as in 451.

For example, on April 5, 2003, after Julio Valdés Guevara was sent away, the judge ruled: "As to the disposition of the photographic negatives, the audio cassette, medicines, books, magazines, pamphlets and the rest of the documents, they are to be destroyed by means of incineration because they lack usefulness." Hearing about this, Bradbury authorized me to convey this message from him to Castro: "I stand against any library or any librarian anywhere in the world being imprisoned or punished in any way for the books they circulate.

"I plead with Castro and his government to immediately take their hands off the independent librarians and release all those librarians in prison, and to send them back into Cuban culture to inform the people." Among the books destroyed through the years by Castro's arsonists have been volumes on Martin Luther King Jr., the U.S. Constitution and even a book by the late José Martí, who organized, and was killed in, the Cuban people's struggle for independence.

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