havanabookfair2As a xenophobe, Donald Trump has lots of company in the United States.

No anti-Mexican wall exists here, yet anyway. But we Yanks already suffer from something just as asinine even if the harm isn’t at the same level.

An embargo prevents our publishers from easily selling books to Cuban customers.

On the malarkey scale, the no-books-for-Cuba embargo comes close to the Trump’s Mexican-proofing scheme. Some book-related commerce is happening even now. But it is limited.

Consider. On one hand U.S. taxpayers have shelled out many millions to try to subvert the Castro regime with propaganda broadcasts and the like. On the other hand, our publishers could actually help narrow the budget deficit with revenue from Cuban book sales, and along the way they would broaden the range of views available there.

And now—a little credit to The Donald. Yes, based on his anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim policies, the man is a xenophobe. But even he favors normalized ties with Cuba. He supports an end to or at least a loosening of the anti-Cuban embargo as a whole, including presumably the measure as it affects books. Here is one issue on which Big Five publishers and small publishers can unite. In fact, book people from houses of all sizes are already petitioning the White House, as President Obama prepares to visit Cuba March 21-22.

Sign the petition. I’m sorry: you can’t separate politics from the book business. If nothing else, I love the idea of publishers spending less time and money on preservation of Draconian copyright law and more on sensible activities such as the campaign against the Cuban embargo. If they can also go for the idea of a national digital library endowment, which would only add to their bottom lines, then so much the better.

Related links: Publishers Weekly, the Wall Street Journal and Smashwords. Props to Smashwords CEO Mark Coker and some people at B5 publishers for getting the petition underway. Also see the history of the embargo as a whole. At one time it may have been useful. Not now. Time for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to catch up with Trump and the Dems.

And to address the obvious issue: Despite many accomplishments in ares such as literacy and public health, Fidel is not my hero. I loathe past and present repression  of Cuban writers. But an end to the embargo would actually increase interest in the U.S. in the writers’ fate.

Plus, an e-book angle: Let’s make certain that not only paper books and e-books but also dedicated e-book readers and other related technologies are likewise “liberated” from the embargo to the maximum extent possible.

Photo credit: 2017 Havana Book Fair.


  1. When the Castro bros stop their embargo on books like Roberto Ampuero’s “Nuestros Años Verde Olivo,” [Our Olive-Green years], I will sign the petition.

    Ampuero was a member of Communist Youth who fled Chile after the 1973 coup. He ended up in East Germany, where he fell in love with the daughter of a member of Cuba’s Nomenklatura. They went to Cuba and married. Ampuero became dissatisfied with Socialism as it existed in Cuba, a dissatisfaction which resulted in a divorce. Ampuero was eventually able to finagle a scholarship to East Germany and leave the island.

    “Nuestros Años Verde Olivo” is his chronicle of those years. Such a book was readily banned in Cuba. That didn’t stop the Castro brothers from exhibiting the book at an international book fair in Havana in 2009 and show the book to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, one of the attendees of the book fair. Outside of that book fair, that book was not available for purchase or reading at a library in Cuba.
    But it was available at the book fair to show President Bachelet.

    Unfortunately, nearly all of Ampuero’s works are available only in Spanish. I have read 3 of his books.
    If you want links, I will provide them.

  2. @Reader: Thanks very much for the pointer to Roberto Ampuerto. As noted, I myself am appalled by the Cuban government’s repression of writers (among the regime’s other negatives). I just happen to think that the lifting of the embargo would help. We’ll agree to disagree. David

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