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The George W. Bush Institute today announced the appointment of Cuban writer, journalist, and former political prisoner Normando Hernandez Gonzalez as a Fellow in its Human Freedom program. As a Fellow, he will contribute to the Institute’s goal of expanding the reach of liberty by fostering democracy and supporting advocates of freedom.

Hernandez is an independent journalist who has dedicated himself to providing alternate sources of news and information in Cuba.  In 1999, he cofounded the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights.  In 2000, he established the Camaguey Association of Journalists, the first independent organization of its kind in the Camaguey province since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.

Hernandez was the youngest of 75 dissidents arrested by Cuban authorities on March 18, 2003, a day that became known as the “Black Spring.” He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for writing about the condition of state-run services in Cuba and criticizing the government’s management of issues including tourism, agriculture and fishing. Among the evidence used against Hernandez was his possession of a copy of The Power of the Powerless by the late Czech dissident and president Vaclav Havel.   Hernandez’s health suffered greatly during his time in prison as a result of mistreatment and poor conditions. He was exiled to Spain in July 2010 and has since relocated to the United States.

“Normando Hernandez Gonzalez is a brave individual, and we are pleased he is joining the Bush Institute as our first Freedom Advocate Fellow from Cuba,” said James K. Glassman, Executive Director of the Bush Institute. “His experiences and first-hand knowledge will provide the Bush Institute with unmatched insight in advancing the cause of freedom in Cuba and beyond.”

Hernandez participated in the Bush Institute’s “Voices of Freedom” luncheon in Dallas in November 2011 and the “Celebration of Human Freedom” event in Washington D.C. in May 2012. Last year, he was a Reagan-Fascell Fellow with the National Endowment for Democracy, where he focused on the monopoly of communications by the Cuban regime.  He is the author of numerous publications, including the book, The Art of Torture:  Memories of a Former Prisoner of Conscience.  He has received several awards for his work in journalism and human rights, including the Norwegian Writer’s Association’s Freedom of Expression Award, the PEN American Center’s Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award and a special mention by the Inter-American Press Association for excellence in journalism.

The Bush Institute is the innovation arm of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, focused on the research and development of solutions to public and social issues. The Institute targets six areas – human freedom, education reform, global health, economic growth, women, and military service.