As the leader of the Human Rights Foundation, Thor Halvorssen has assembled a well-respected team of experts. On February 16, 2017, team member Garry Kasparov had the opportunity to testify before a subcommittee of Congress about the need for leadership from the United States to protect and promote democracy and human rights around the world. Garry discussed the worrying rise of authoritarianism globally.
Thor understands the need to protect human rights from personal experience. His father was imprisoned by the Venezuelan government for uncovering government corruption there. His mother was shot at a protest over her husband being held in prison.
Garry Kasparov was joined at the subcommittee hearing by Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado Machado. El Sexto is a graffiti artist who was imprisoned several times under the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba. He was just released on January 21, 2017, from being held without charges for two months in a maximum-security prison in Havana.
During his remarks, El Sexto called for the United States government to call for free elections in Cuba before building any strong ties with the government there. He says that over 85 percent of all people held in prison in Cuba would be found innocent if they were given a fair trial. He also calls on the United States government to encourage Cuba to change its policy on artist creation. In Cuba, artists may be arrested for creating works of art not supporting the government.
The two men were joined during the subcommittee hearing by Saudi Arabian women’s health researcher Dr. Halah Eldoseri who is a visiting scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute. She is responsible for promoting women’s rights around the globe.
The subcommittee meeting was presided over by Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio. Additionally, representatives from the National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute, and National Democratic Institute were present during the meeting