During the one‐day trial, Castro’s judges ordered that all printed volumes confiscated during the raids of the libraries be burned. I obtained copies of those incendiary court rulings that then, and now, characterize the Cuban “revolution.” Immediately, Amnesty International designated all the 75 inmates “prisoners of conscience.” There continues to be more of them — some, as always, in dire need of medical attention they have yet to receive.
At first, I had expected immediate protests about the caged independent librarians from the American Library Association. The core credo of this largest national library association in the world has been “the freedom to read” — for everyone everywhere.
Why should you care? Because banning books and imprisoning librarians mean banning literature, ideas — thought — and critically wounding freedoms that should be as essential as oxygen to citizens and a society.
In the many columns I’ve written since about the abandoned Cuban librarians, I’ve cited the ALA’s refusal to demand the release of these librarians. In June 2003, for one of many examples, Michael Dowling, then director of the ALA’s International Relations Office, said: “There has been no definitive evidence that books are banned and librarians harassed.” There had been international press on the raids.
As my documented stories on these and future imprisonments went on, I was targeted by the director of Cuba’s National Library, Eliades Acosta: “What does Mr. Hentoff know of the real Cuba?”
My public reply: “I know that if I were a Cuban, I’d be in prison.”
Polish and Latvian library associations did call for the release of the prisoners of conscience. But in 2005, the state library association of Cuba stingingly replied to the Latvian protest resolution: “it is too late … to attempt to trick the world in this manner.”
The ALA, annoyed by the continued criticism, occasionally expressed “deep concern” about the allegations but declined to mention the silenced freedom‐to‐read librarians in Castroland.
Also, in 1995, as a longtime admirer of Ray Bradbury, including his classic novel of censorship by fire, Fahrenheit 451, I sent him some of my columns and the burning Castro court rulings that Bradbury’s novel had prophesied. Publicly, Bradbury then said: