Civil Courage Prize
for steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk

Who is Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, a politician, a man of action, or a social activist?
Remarks by Gustavo Arcos Bergnes

From my youth I have always had an awareness of my civic duty toward Cuba, my country. To me Cuba means not only a geographical location, but the people who live in it and who have created a distinctive national identity. At this time, and for the last 40 years, part of the Cuban people are scattered, and they have become refugees in various countries.

From the inception of the Republic in 1902, our political life has experienced almost constant disturbance. It has always been my wish to see Cuba ruled by the principles of political freedom and social justice, public honesty and national dignity, forever inseparable, and this wish has guided my actions. That is why I have been a man of civic conscience throughout my more than seventy years of life, according to what the circumstances and the times have demanded. All along I have been handicapped by a permanent limp in my right leg, plus chronic sciatica, after having been shot on July 26, 1953, at the attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba during the Batista regime.

I have held political opinions, mostly on the side of the opposition, and have spent over 12 years in prison at three different times. Since 1969 I have been prohibited by Fidel Castro from leaving the country. Later on, in the early 80's, I became familiar with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the U.N. in 1948 and reaffirmed at the 1975 Helsinki Conference. While incarcerated at Combinado de Este Prison, I met Ricardo Bofill and Elizardo Sanchez, dissident political prisoners who, along with Martha Frayde and other fellow Cubans, had founded a Cuban Committee for Human Rights. Since then, drawing inspiration from intellectuals of such high moral standing as Russian Andrei Sakharov and Czech Vaclav Havel, I have been an activist for human rights, which are systematically violated in Cuba today.

It is well known that ours is a fight against great odds, since Castro's prolonged tyranny employs all forms of repression: repeated arrests, illegal trials and sentences, and physical violence by their "Rapid Response Brigades." Most loathsome of all are the scenes of "mass repudiation" conducted against the best-known dissidents, which call to mind the abuses formerly committed by the Stalinists, the Fascists, and the Nazis.

Despite all this, the men and women who integrate the Cuban Human Rights Movement persevere in our intentions to find a civilized solution to Cuba's current crisis. Our aim is a peaceful transition to a truly democratic government, which will respect the right of all its citizens and will guarantee a future of peace and prosperity for our tortured nation.

 

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2002 Honoree
   press release
   Antunez remarks
   Bergnes remarks
   Goldstone remarks

 

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