Gustavo Arcos Bergnes
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." 
- 2002 Honorable Mention for the Civil Courage Prize