I’m in New York tonight for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s Caterbury Medal Dinner. Elie Weisel will introduce Armando Valladares, this year’s medal recipient:
Armando Valladares is a former political prisoner who spent 22 years in Castro’s gulags for refusing to place a sign on his desk in support of Fidel. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison without due process. While in prison he became a “Plantado”—a prisoner who refuses to wear a common prison uniform. For refusing to sign a document admitting he was wrong and the Revolution was right, he was brutally tortured, spent 8 years in solitary confinement and underwent several hunger strikes which left him paralyzed for many years. During this time, he wrote numerous poems which his wife smuggled out of Cuba and had published to critical acclaim. Valladares was adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.
In 1982 Valladares was released thanks to an international campaign on his behalf. Upon release, he wrote a New York Times bestselling memoir, Against All Hope, which was translated into 18 languages.
In 1986 he was named U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission where he was able to highlight the plight of the more than 15,000 political prisoners in Cuba at the time. In 1989, for the first time ever since the Cuban revolution, the Castro regime was forced to open its doors to a UN investigation. The resulting report was devastating for the regime and culminated with the release of many political prisoners. Valladares continues to advocate for human rights—particularly religious liberty—and lives with his wife in Florida where he continues to write poetry, paint and sculpt. He has three adult children and one granddaughter.
Becket Fund is a tremendous organization, and Valladares is a tremendous witness to the costs to the “little people” of any culture for opposing their elite.