BY BOBBI SACK AND VALERIE LIBBY
CINCINNATI - The group People in Solidarity with Cuba here has issued an open letter protesting FBI harassment of committee supporters. The letter, addressed to U.S. Sen. John Glenn, states, "We would like to protest the harassment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of people involved in organizing a public, educational meeting at the University of Cincinnati.
"Josť Luis Ponce of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. was invited to speak in Cincinnati by the group People in Solidarity with Cuba. A successful, peaceful meeting with Mr. Ponce took place on April 28, attended by approximately 100 people. During the discussion many participants expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to learn more about Cuba and have the exchange of viewpoints that took place."
In a phone interview with the Militant, Donna Leist, Coordinator of People in Solidarity with Cuba, explained what happened next.
"In June, I answered my phone to find on the other end a man who identified himself as Ben Bustamonte of the FBI," Leist stated. "He said he was calling about Josť Ponce and asked me to come downtown for a meeting. When I refused, he repeatedly urged me to meet with him. I finally took his phone number, saying I might call him back. I haven't."
Leist continued, "Later we found out at least one other activist got a similar call. The same FBI agent went as far as to suggest Mr. Ponce may have been in town to gather intelligence at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near by in Dayton, Ohio."
The committee in Cincinnati had several discussions about how to respond. They took into account the recent meeting of the National Network on Cuba (NNOC), which heard numerous reports of threats of fines and imprisonment by the U.S. Treasury Department of people who have traveled to Cuba. These discussions led to the open letter, and the network is currently gathering additional signatures.
The letter will be issued to Senator Glenn and the news media. The open letter explains that the FBI phone calls "are an attempt to intimidate people from daring to associate with someone who is not popular with the U.S. government." It continues, "We believe they represent an attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech. We urge you to speak out against these undemocratic actions by the FBI."
The open letter is being circulated along with a fact sheet that documents the increase in harassment of opponents of U.S. policy toward Cuba by U.S. government agencies.
The Cincinnati group has also voted to support Professor
Tom Reeves, facilitator of the Roxbury Community College
Caribbean Focus Program. The U.S. Treasury Department has
demanded that Reeves turn over to the government names and
other information about participants in a field study tour to
Cuba in March 1996. Reeves believes these government demands
are a serious violation of academic freedom, as well as of the
rights of free speech, assembly, and travel.
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