Past Program Faculty
Doan Viet Hoat is a journalist from the south of Vietnam. After Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975, he was detained in a reeducation camp for 12 years. Upon his release, he founded Freedom Forum, a discussion group and newspaper that advocated free speech and the release of all political prisoners. Involvement in the group led to Doan’s renewed arrest in 1990 for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in March 1993, and in 1994 he was given the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. His sentence later was reduced to 15 years’ imprisonment and five years’ house arrest. He was released at the beginning of September 1998 as part of a large-scale prisoner amnesty to mark the country’s Independence Day, and he now lives in the United States.
Francisco Marquez Lara is a Venezuelan lawyer and political activist. He was a political prisoner for four months and was forced into exile in the U.S by the Venezuelan Government. Before his imprisonment in June 2016, he was Chief of Staff of the Mayor of El Hatillo in Caracas starting in 2014 and worked with the Lt. Governor of the State of Miranda in 2013. He obtained his Law degree in the Catholic University Andres Bello (2009) and his master’s in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (2012). He is currently focusing on torture and human rights issues and researching on the erosion of democracy in Venezuela.
Sirley Ávila León, is an ex-delegate of the People’s Assembly of Majibacoa. She joined the democratic opposition after she was driven out of her position for trying to keep a school open in her community. Official channels ignored her, and when she went to the international media she was removed from office. Following escalating acts of repression by state security, she was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. The assailant was Osmany Carrión, who had been “sent by state-security thugs,” Ávila León explains, for an act of aggression that “was politically motivated." Threats escalated against her and her family leading to her decision to flee Cuba and seek asylum in the United States. She arrived in Miami, Florida on October 29, 2016 and continues to denounce the gross and systematic human rights violations taking place in Cuba today.