Guatemala.- The Cuban poet, writer and painter, Ambassador Armando Valladares, received an Honorary Doctorate at the Francisco Marroquín University, for his contributions to the cause of freedom, on Saturday, October 28, 2017 during the graduation ceremony. Valladares was a political prisoner of the Cuban dictatorship for 22 years and was an Ambassador in the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations Organization.
Armando Valladares was imprisoned when he was 23 years old, in 1960, a few months after the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution. The reason? Refusing to put a sign on his desk that read I am with Fidel. For that simple gesture was sentenced in a process without guarantees to 30 years in prison During his imprisonment he became a planted, that is, he refused to wear the prison uniform of ordinary prisoners. He refused to sign a self-incriminating document and refused to accept that his conduct would have been a crime. For all this, he was subjected to torture for 8 years, those of which he spent in an isolation cell without light and surrounded by insects. During his imprisonment he went on numerous hunger strikes in protest against the inhuman conditions to which he was subjected.
In his punishment cell he began to write poems that, in the few authorized visits to his wife, she was able to hide from the prison guards. When published outside of Cuba, the poems received international acclaim, while Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. International pressure secured his release and departure from Cuba in 1982.
Since then, he has devoted most of his life to promoting human rights and denouncing their violation, especially in the communist regime of Cuba. He wrote his prison memoirs under the title “Against All Hope”, a book that has been translated into 18 languages. U.S. President Ronald Reagan named him U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, where he highlighted the painful conditions of unjust imprisonment of 15,000 Cuban political prisoners. He finally got the United Nations to open an investigation in Cuba, for the first time. Armando Valladares has also been Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, the organization that denounces human rights violations in totalitarian regimes.
Armando Valladares has received numerous recognitions, such as the Pen Club Freedom Award, the Presidential Medal of the Citizen (of the USA) and the Canterbury Medal of the Becket Fund. He has published several books of poetry and has exhibited his works as a painter.
A video about the life of this champion of freedom is available below.
Rector Francisco Marroqui University