Vladimiro Roca Antunez
Champion of Freedom, Cuba
Since being released from prison in 2002, Mr. Roca continues to work for democracy and freedom in Cuba. In 2004, Mr. Roca and a coalition of banned dissident groups released a 15-page plan, "Proposal to Resolve Cuban Society's Grave Problems" which was based on interviews with 30,000 Cubans. In September of 2007 Roca joined a number of Cuban dissidents to hold a rare news conference in Havana in an effort to unite around a platform for a gradual and peaceful transition from communism to democracy in the event of Fidel Castro's death.
Gustavo Arcos Bergnes — Honorable Mention
Early democracy activist, Cuba
Called the "Dean of the Opposition," Gustavo Arcos Bergnes died in early August of 2006. He was 79 years old.
Vladimiro Roca Antunez rejected a life of privilege in Castro's Cuba to press for economic and political freedom. He was imprisoned for 5 years from 1997 - 2002 for his challenge to the Communist regime. Set free after an international outcry, he resides in Havana where he is President of the Social Democratic Political Party of Cuba which works for multiparty democracy in Cuba.
Mr. Roca grew up the privileged son of Blas Roca, General Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party. With this background, young he gained easy entrée to the former USSR and trained there as a military jet pilot. On his return he became an officer and later an instructor in the Cuban Air Force. After his military service, he studied to become an economist at the Commerce Ministry and was seen as a future deputy minister. Eventually, his contacts abroad and understanding of economics led him to realize the inefficiency of Castro's totalitarian economy and its waste of Cuba's substantial resources.
By the end of the 1980s, Mr. Roca registered his opposition to policies he considered misguided, and published articles critiquing Cuba's socioeconomic situation. He was targeted as a dissident and suffered harassment and abuse, abuse which was magnified because of his family's high position in the Cuban nomenklatura. Nonetheless, his choice was to stay in Cuba and work to change the regime rather than flee. In 1992, he was fired from his position at the State Committee for Economic Collaboration. In 1996, in collaboration with other dissidents, he founded the Social Democratic Political Party of Cuba.
In 1997, with three other noted dissidents, Mr. Roca signed a crucial document, "My Homeland Belongs to Everyone" in defense of human rights and against political discrimination and the distortion of Cuban history. A week later all four signers were jailed, under harsh but typical conditions. Mr. Roca was confined to a six-by-seven-foot cell, with a hole in the ground for a toilet and a table serving as a bed; water would run only three times a day for 20 to 30 minutes. Mr. Roca was only set free in May 2002 after an international outcry.
2002 Honorable Mention
2002 Honorable Mention Honoree Gustavo Arcos Bergnes
Called the "Dean of the Opposition," Gustavo Arcos Bergnes died in early August of 2006. He was 79 years old. In a May 2005 interview, Arcos told the Associated Press that he feared he would not live to see a Western-style democracy take root in his homeland. "I do hope I will see the end of this," he said then, "but I'm not sure if I will."
Mr. Bergnes was the founder and executive secretary of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and author of the Arcos Principles, a set of guidelines for foreign investors in Cuba. A supporter of Castro through the 1950s and early 60s, by the mid-1960s he was openly critical of the government. He spent 12 years in prison for his political views. In his own words, "The Cuban Committee for Human Rights will continue its work, even if it costs us our own lives ... no terror, nor propaganda will be able to deter the development of humanistic ideas in our country."
Gustavo Arcos Bergnes met Castro when both were students at the University of Havana. Shot and wounded in the insurrection against Fulgencia Batista in 1953, he later worked for the Castro revolution gathering munitions throughout Latin America until 1959. He supported Castro through the 1950s and early 60s, becoming the Ambassador to Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. But by 1965, he had rejected the direction Castro was taking the government. When he was offered a new post in Moscow, he refused, voluntarily returning to Cuba to fight the government. Several months later, in 1966, he was imprisoned for three years. On his release, he was not allowed to leave the country.
In 1981, he was imprisoned again with his brother Sebastian for trying to leave the country illegally. By 1983, still imprisoned, he joined with other prisoners to form the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.
The Committee for Human Rights sent out denunciations of the deplorable conditions under which prisoners were kept. By 1986, the Cuban government was forced to allow some visits by international human rights organizations and the release of some prisoners, including, in 1988, Mr. Arcos himself.
Mr. Arcos continued the work of the Human Rights Committee and called on Castro to convene a "National Dialogue" to include all segments of Cuban society. Castro's response was to send a mob to attack first his brother's, then Mr. Arcos' home.
From exile, many old friends asked Mr. Arcos to dissolve the Committee to save its members' lives, but he refused to desist. His guidelines — called the Arcos Principles — for foreign investors are well worth noting:
- Only hire Cubans directly, not through a government agency.
- There should be a 48-hour work week.
- Hiring should ignore political orientation.
- Employees should be able to organize independent unions.
- Cubans should have access to hotels, beaches and other public areas.
- Cubans should have access to the same services and goods now only available to tourists.
Vladimiro Roca Antunez, 2002 Honoree, champion of freedom, Cuba, former political prisoner
Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, 2002 Honorable Mention, early democracy activist in Cuba, Founder and Executive Secretary of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.
Northcote Parkinson Fund Chairman John Train describes the origins of The Civil Courage Prize.
A portion of the audience attending the 2002 Civil Courage Prize Award event at the Harold Pratt House.
Noel Lateef, President of the Foreign Policy Association and John Temple Swing, Counselor to the Northcote Parkinson Fund confer.
Keynoter Justice Richard Goldstone concludes his address.
Acceptance remarks by Vladimiro Roca, 2002 Recipient of the Civil Courage Prize, are delivered by Orlando Gutierrez , National Secretary of the Cuban Revolutionary Democratic Directorate.
Antonio Santiago accepted the $50,000 Prize check and displayed the Civil Courage Prize medal on behalf of his friend and colleague, 2002 Recipient Vladimiro Roca.
Representing the 2002 Honorary Mention Recipient of the Civil Courage Prize, Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, nephew Sebastian Arcos, holds the check for $5,000 and receives the medal from NorthcoteParkinson Fund Chairman John Train.
Northcote Parkinson Trustee, Virginia Armat Hurt, and The International Republican Institute's, Laura French, flank Orlando Gutierrez, National Secretary of theCuban Revolutionary Democratic Directorate.