Ambassador Armando Valladares is a best selling author, poet, painter, and renowned diplomat.His public story begins in 1960 when a student at the School for Visual Arts in his hometown of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and while working in the Office of the Ministry of Communications for the Revolutionary Government of Fidel Castro. It was at the latter that he was arrested for openly expressing his disapproval of the seemingly impending communism. Without any evidence of wrongdoing against him or witnesses to accuse him of any misdeeds, in less than a week of being arrested, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. His crime? Having a different point of view and strong moral conviction about freedom and self-determination regarding government. While in prison, Valladares refused to succumb to the propaganda and indoctrination of the prison’s political rehabilitation program and was subjected to torture, kept in isolation and solitary confinement cells for long periods of time, years, in fact.
About The Author
Without access to pens and pencils Valladares wrote poetry on cigarette papers, often in his own blood. Eventually, he was able to smuggle out his collection of poems and first book, From My Wheelchair, for publication outside of Cuba. As a consequence of eventually becoming known by intellectuals worldwide, the PEN Club of France honored him with the Freedom Prize awarded to writers in prison for peaceful and political causes. In several European countries, Valladares Committees were established to work on achieving his freedom. Amnesty International adopted him as one of their first prisoners of conscience. In time, the global awareness campaign spearheaded by his wife Martha resulted in French president François Mitterrand’s personal petition to Fidel Castro for his release which would finally come in October 1982; 22 years after first being incarcerated.
After his release, he wrote his memoir based on the time in prison; the international best seller translated into 18 languages, Against All Hope. After reading the book, President Ronald Reagan named him our U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission where he demonstrated that in Cuba, as in all dictatorships, there exists torture and human rights violations. At long last, Cuba was condemned as a systematic violator of human rights. After successfully fighting for respect for human rights world over, President Reagan also honored him with the Presidential “Citizens” Medal, the second highest award given to a civilian in the United States. He was also bestowed the Superior Award by the U.S. Department of State.
Ambassador Valladares is the author of several other books including, The Heart with Which I Live and Caverns of Silence. He is a frequent contributing writer for several international news publications. and has been honored with the Italian Prize for International Journalism, the ISCHIA, and the Order of José Cecilio del Valle, the highest distinction granted to a foreigner by the government of Honduras. His paintings grace private collections in the United States, Central and South America, and Europe. He continues to travel the world mediating and giving talks on diplomatic issues, and is a tireless advocate for human rights.