Sunday, September 23, 2007

Castro's Book Club

This AP photograph from Fidel Castro's first interview in three months shows El Comandante showing off what his book club -- membership of one -- has been reading. The story said Castro:

"...held up a copy of the new book by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. At one point he quoted from it, reading excerpted passages in very large type instead of using the book itself."

While Castro enjoys the luxury of reading whatever he wants, the average Cuban faces three serious problems trying to get his hands on anything worth reading. First, no money to buy books. Second, books and the ideas in them are dangerous to his health. He will be arrested if he is caught with anything in print that is deemed "subversive." Third, a government crackdown on libraries and librarians makes it dangerous for him to hang around either one.

Amnesty International reports that Cubans have very limited freedom of expression and association. The Cuban government controls everything that is printed or broadcast. The Cuban police harass and intimidate anyone who doesn't follow the party line, especially independent journalists and librarians. The Cuban police arrest anyone suspected of links with dissident groups or involved in the crime of promoting human rights. In Cuba, you can be arrested on a charge of "pre-criminal dangerousness." The Cuban government limits internet access.

So what was Castro doing with Greenspan's book? Perhaps he was simply eager to discuss the book with someone else who has read it, for the likelihood is that no one else in Cuba has or will.

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