Biographies, 2009 Democracy Award


José Daniel Ferrer García is a youth activist and member of the Christian Liberation Movement who was instrumental in gathering hundreds of signatures and mobilizing people in poor, marginal neighborhoods in support of the Varela Project. Ferrer organized meetings with neighbors throughout the eastern provinces, turning them into informal town hall meetings where grievances were expressed and the desire for change articulated. He received one of the highest prison sentences of the group of dissidents arrested on March 18, 2003. He has been a leader of the resistance of political prisoners against the abuses of the regime from within prison walls.

Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera is founder and President of the Rosa Parks Women’s Movement, whose objectives are to struggle against human rights violations. Born in 1975 in Sancti Spiritus province in central Cuba, she entered the opposition movement in 1999, when her brother, Mario Pérez Aguilera, was imprisoned at Nieves Morejón prison. Ms. Aguilera is married to Jorge Luis García Pérez (“Antúnez”).

Jorge Luis García Pérez (“Antúnez”) is a 43-year old leader of Cuba’s civic resistance movement who served more than 17 years in prison, having been released in 2007. During that period, his fellow inmates nicknamed him “the black diamond” because of his courage and unbreakable spirit. In “A Word from the Opposition” in the January, 2009 issue of the Journal of Democracy, Antúnez highlighted the Movement’s adherence to the principles of non-violent resistance as set forth by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. He is married to Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, another honoree.

Iván Hernández Carrillo
is an independent labor activist prior to his imprisonment in March, 2003, in his mid-30s and black, Carrillo is widely regarded as one of the key youth leaders of the civic opposition. He is from Matanzas province, which, together with Villa Clara province, forms the geographical core of the Cuban resistance. Carrillo has continued the resistance struggle during his incarceration.

Librado Linares García is a young intellectual and founder of the Cuban Reflection Movement. He organized independent libraries, soup kitchens for the poor, workshops among various dissident groups, as well as forums and conferences for citizens living in the central region of Cuba. He developed a comprehensive multi-tiered strategy of resistance against the regime, aimed at organizing and mobilizing Cuban civil society through non violent means. One of the pro-democracy leaders arrested on March 18, 2003, Linares has been suffering a progressive loss of eyesight during his imprisonment.

Roundtable Participants

José Azel is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, a non-profit, non-partisan institution, which sponsors academic research, analysis, and outreach programs on Cuba, U.S-Cuba relations and Cuban-Americans. ICCAS is also home of the Cuba Transition Project – CTP; a project which studies and makes recommendations for the reconstruction of Cuba once the post-Castro transition begins in earnest. Mr. Azel left Cuba in1961 as a 13 year-old political exile in what has been dubbed Operation Pedro Pan – the largest unaccompanied child refugee movement in the history of the Western Hemisphere. He holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in business administration and a Ph.D. in International Affairs from the University of Miami.

Marifeli Pérez-Stable is vice president for democratic governance at the Inter-American Dialogue. Her column on Latin American topic appears every other Thursday in the Miami Herald. Her opinion pieces have also appeared in El País, the Financial Times, La Vanguardia, El Clarín, Excelsior, El Nuevo Herald, and The Nation. She is also an editorial contributor to the Real Instituto Elcano and Infolatam. She authored The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy. She is the editor of Looking Forward: Comparative Perspectives on Cuba’s Transition. Looking Forward was a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award (2007). In 2001-2003, she chaired the task force on Memory, Truth, and Justice which issued the report, Cuban National Reconciliation. Marifeli is also a professor at Miami’s Florida International University.

Janisset Rivero Gutierrez, a noted human rights activist, was born in Camaguey, Cuba in 1969. Forced to leave her country at age 14, she lived in Venezuela before moving to Miami. She received bachelor degrees in Communications and Public Relations from Instituto Universitario de Nuevas Profesiones in Caracas, and in Spanish from Florida International University (FIU). She also received a Master in Spanish and Hispanic Literature from FIU. She has extensively published poems, essays, and articles in newspapers and magazines in Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the United States. A founding member of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, she has testified before the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights and the Organization of American States on the human rights situation in Cuba.

José Miguel Vivanco is the executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. Mr. Vivanco is a Chilean lawyer educated at the University of Chile and Salamanca Law School in Spain, and at Harvard Law School where he earned a Master’s degree in Law (LLM). He worked as an attorney for Human Rights Watch, then known as Americas Watch, and for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) before founding the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), an NGO that files complaints of human rights violations before international bodies such as the UN and the OAS, in 1990. In August 1994, Vivanco assumed his current position. His academic and opinion articles have been widely published, and among his many honors, Vivanco received the 2007 human rights award from the American Society of International Law. He has appeared on a variety of television news programs in both English and Spanish, He has also been Adjunct Professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Bertha Antúnez Pernet is a leader of the National Movement of Civic Resistance “Pedro Luis Boitel,” and a longtime activist for the rights of political prisoners and human rights in Cuba.  Her activism is based on the model of non-violent civil disobedience and has included prison sit-ins and hunger strikes. Ms. Antúnez is an expert on the political situation in Cuba, including human rights issues, resistance movements and oppositionists, and government surveillance and mechanisms of control. She has testified on the conditions of Cuba before several governmental bodies as well as nongovernmental organizations.  Ms. Antúnez has been targeted and harassed by the regime, forcing her a year ago to join the Cuban exile community in the United States as a political refugee. She is also the sister of Jorge Luis García Perez (Antúnez), one of tonight’s honorees.