Friday, June 30, 2006 · Last updated 9:12 p.m. PT
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
HAVANA -- Cuban librarians on Friday criticized attempts by the Miami-Dade County school board to ban a children's book that presents a positive depiction of life on the communist-run island.
"It's outrageous the Miami school libraries would prohibit the presence of the book 'Vamos a Cuba' because it shows the truth about how our children live," librarian Margarita Bellas Vilarino told the state newspaper Juventud Rebelde.
Bellas, of the Cuban Association of Librarians, and Abel Ponce, of the Jose Marti National Library in Havana, told Juventud Rebelde that government-run libraries island-wide were protesting the Florida book ban.
The American Civil Liberties Union argued in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Miami last week that a June 14 decision to ban the book violated students' rights and that the books were removed without due process.
A U.S. federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Miami-Dade school district must keep the book on library shelves pending a July 21 court hearing.
The book, "Vamos a Cuba," and its English language version "A Visit to Cuba," by Alta Schreier, is intended for students ages 5 to 7. It shows images of smiling children wearing uniforms of Cuba's communist youth group and a carnival celebrating the 1959 revolution.
A parent who said he had been a political prisoner in Cuba complained in April about the book's depiction of life under communist rule, and the Miami-Dade school district agreed to ban it, saying it was inappropriate for young readers because of inaccuracies and omissions about life on the island.
President Fidel Castro said in 1998 that there was no official prohibition of any books on the island, only a lack of funds to buy them. Challenging that, Cuban dissidents began lending books from their own private collections, dubbing them "independent libraries" and they have been largely tolerated by the government.