The Legion of Honor represents men and women from all parts of the world who came to the assistance of the Cuban people when many others choose to ignore their tragic plight as a result of the imposition of a communist regime on the island. Cuban mothers like mothers everywhere teach their children to say "thanks". José Martí Cuba's revered patriot and poet wrote that "Honrar, honra." in Martí's words when we honor someone we honor ourselves. It is our hope that when freedom arrives in Cuba, the names of those we honor here will be listed at an appropriate place in the Parliament of a Free Cuba.
OUR DISTINGUISHED LEGION OF HONOR
Vaclav Havel was the first President of the Czechoslovakia after the end of Communist rule in Central Europe. A well known playwright, essayist and political activist. He was a leading dissident during the Soviet occupation of his country. Under the communist regime Havel wrote his most famed essay “The Power of the Powerless” which explores the nature of the communist regime and how it created dissidents. Havel has received numerous international awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Havel was a lifelong proponent of freedom and was very vocal in denouncing Cuba’s communist totalitarian system and in stressing support Cuba’s dissidents. Havel passed away in 2011.
Rómulo Betancourt was the President of Venezuela from 1945 to 1948 and again from 1959 to 1964. Betancourt is credited as the Founding Father of Democracy in Venezuela and was the leader of Acción Democrática, which was the dominant political party in Venezuela. Under Betancourt, Venezuela broke relations with Cuba refusing to have ties with governments were not democratic, Betancourt even voted to expel Cuba from the Organization of American States. Betancourt passed away in 1981 and as one of the first international leaders to emerge from Latin America.
Lech Walesa was one of the founders of the Solidarity trade-union movement in the 1980s when Poland was under the Soviet Communist regime. He successfully held found the Eastern bloc’s first independent trade union and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. Walesa was elected President of Poland in 1990 and help guide Poland’s transition to becoming a post communist state. A strong supporter of human rights, Walesa has been vocal in his support for an end to communist regime in Cuba. He even hosted famed Cuban blogger, Yoani Sánchez, in Poland and discussed his wished to see a free Cuba. Walesa said during their meeting, ”I do hope that I live to see your beautiful country free. It has for long been my dream to visit Cuba”. Walesa continues to travel and lecture about history and politics today.
Luis Muñoz Marín was the first democratically elected Governor of Puerto Rico and considered the father of modern Puerto Rico. He was the head of an administration that achieved major economic, political and social reforms for Puerto Rico. At the time these accomplishments were internationally praised by numerous politicians, economist, and political scientists. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy honored Muñoz Marín with a state dinner at the White House and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. Muñoz Marín passed away in 1980 and is remembered as a champion of democracy.
Mario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian writer, professor and politician. Vargas Llosa is the recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature and is considered one of the leading writers of his generation. He has large international audience and worldwide impact. Vargas Llosa has long been vocally opposed to the Castro Regime. In 1971 following the imprisonment of Cuban poet, Heberto Padilla, Vargas Llosa along with other intellectuals of the time wrote to Castro protesting the Cuban political system and the unjust imprisonment of the poet. Currently Vargas Llosa is a visiting Professor in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.
Carl Gershman has been President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) since it was founded in 1984. He has been a defender of democracy for the Cuban people and an opponent of the Castro dictatorship for more than four decades, first as a leader of the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL) and Social Democrats, USA. He spoke out repeatedly for human rights in Cuba and welcomed many Cuban exiles to the United States, among them Huber Matos who was honored at a dinner Mr. Gershman organized in New York in January 1980.
Martin Palous is the former Permanent Representative to the United Nations for the Czech Republic serving from 2006 to 2011. Prior to serving in the U.N. Palous was the Czech Republic Ambassador to the United States. As one of the first signers of Charter 77, he was a spokesman for the human rights group. Palous has been a vocal supporter of Cuban dissidents and freedom for Cuba.
Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President of the United State. He became president following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Among Johnson’s greatest accomplishment was “The Great Society”, a set of legislation that was targeted to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. Fidel Castro threatened to overwhelm the U.S with refugees and attempted to blackmail President Johnson to deny them asylum. In response President Johnson in a speech at the Statue of Liberty said “that those who seek refuge here in America will find it."
Jack Anderson is a syndicated American newspaper columnist and investigative journalist. Anderson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1972. Anderson also had a syndicated radio show with the Mutual Broadcasting Network, and was also a commentator on ABC’s Good Morning America for nine years. Many of his columns called on the world to help with the repression in Cuba.
Fernando Arrabal is a famed Spanish playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist, and poet. He has directed seven full-length feature films, published over 100 plays, 14 novels, 800 poetry collections, and numerous essays. Arrabal played an important part in the international campaign to obtain the release of Cuban poet and political prisoner, Armando Valladares, who repeatedly exposed Fidel Castro's cruelties to the world.
Angel Carromero was with Oswaldo Paya when a Cuban government vehicle ran the car in which they were traveling killing Oswaldo Paya and Harold, another Cuban human rights activist. Carromero had gone to Cuba to help Cuba’s democratic opposition and was sentenced in a Cuban kangaroo court.
Mary O'Grady is a Wall Street Journal Columnist. Her writing focuses primarily on Latin America, specifically economic and business topics. She was the 2005 recipient of the International Policy Network's Bastiat Prize. For years Mary O’Grady has faithfully reported on repression in Cuba and spoken out for freedom in Cuba.
William C. Doherty, one of the founders of the Center for a Free Cuba in 1997, served on its Board of Trustees until his passing in 2011. A strong advocate of civil rights, labor unions, and worker rights, he opposed dictatorships of all persuasions throughout Latin America. Mr. Doherty directed the AFL-CIO’s outreach to trade unions in Latin America for 35 years as executive director of the American Institute for Free Labor Development.
Mr. Doherty was born in Kentucky and studied diplomacy and law at Georgetown University. In his student days, he was a defensive lineman in Catholic University’s football team. During World War II, he served as an aerial photographer in Europe with the Army Air Forces, and at the end of the War, according to the Washington Post, “he worked in Germany to help rebuild trade unions there.” An early supporter of the revolt against Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, he denounced Fidel Castro’s turn towards Marxism as “the betrayal of the revolution.” During his years as a Trustee, he explained that the United States was not at war with the Cuban people, but that Americans support the desire for freedom, human rights, and multiparty elections which the Cuban revolution promised while fighting against the old regime.
Irving Louis Horowitz was an American intellectual, sociologist, and author. He was the author of many editions of "Cuban Communism". He was a member of the board of A Center for a Free Cuba. He carried out the vigorous campaign to unmask the real nature of the Cuban regime in the academic community. He exposed the falsehood of so called academic exchanges with Cuba. He brought the persecution of writers, poets, professors, workers and peasants to the attention of the intellectual community.
Yelena Bonner, widow of Russian physicist, dissident, and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov. Ms. Bonner is the recipient of many awards, including: the awards of International Humanist and Ethical Union, the World Women's Alliance, the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, and the Giuseppe Motto Medal for her work on human rights.
Jeane Kirkpatrick served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and before that served as an adviser in President Ronald Reagan's cabinet. Among the numerous awards she received in her lifetime, Ms. Kirkpatrick was the recipient of the United States' highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She served on the Board of Trustees of the Center for a Free Cuba for many years.
Born in Czechoslovakia, Petr Pribik left his homeland in 1965 and settled in Munich, Germany. There, he served as Editor and Correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for almost 30 years. After the fall of communism, he returned to his homeland, where in 1996 he was appointed as the Czech Republic’s Charge d'Affaires in Havana, 1996. Originally nominated as Czech Ambassador to Cuba, the Cuban government’s strong opposition prevented him from being appointed. In that capacity, Mr. Pribik strongly supported the island’s dissidents and human rights advocates. In 1997, a van carrying Natalie Pribik, the wife of the top Czech diplomat in Havana, was hit by a Cuban police car. She was briefly hospitalized, then released. The incident occurred shortly after Petr Pribik, the chief of mission, had met repeatedly with Cuban dissidents. The police officer who hit Mrs. Pribik's car was not carrying a driver's license, and was promptly reported transferred to another province. Following Mr. Pribik’s tenure in Havana, he was appointed Ambassador to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
As General Director of the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL), based in Argentina, Mr. Gabriel Salvia has been a strong advocate and supporter of Cuba’s dissidents and human rights activists. Upon arriving in Cuba to attend a CADAL conference to be held at the same time as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ (CELAC) summit in January 2014, Mr. Salvia was not allowed to enter the country.
A career foreign service officer, Ambassador James C. Cason served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 2002 until 2005. There, he supported Cuban human rights activists and political prisoners and faced the Castro government’s strong opposition. In 2006, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay, a post that he held until 2008. Cason currently serves as Mayor of Coral Gables, Florida and as President of the Center for a Free Cuba.
United States ambassador Everett Briggs served as a senior diplomat to Panama, Honduras, Portugal, and Ecuador. Along with his diplomatic duties, Mr. Briggs was also the president of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas. He has led the fight for freedom in Cuba in and outside of government and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for a Free Cuba.
The selection of the first 100 members of the Cuban Heroes is being made by a commission formed by members of the Cuban diaspora and includes also nominations received by victims of repression in Cuba. This honor includes men and women who were leaders, human rights activist, journalist, and men and women of good will, no matter their station in life, who open their hearts to Cubans seeking refuge from the Castro brothers dictatorship which we believe will soon come to a close.