Thor Halvorssen Mendoza

Thor Halvorssen Mendoza

Thor Leonardo Halvorssen Mendoza (born 1976 imdb name|id=1812816 Retrieved on August 26, 2006.] )—commonly known as Thor Halvorssenref label|FullName|a|a—is a human rights advocate and film producer with contributions in the field of public policy, public interest advocacy, individual rights and civil liberties, and pro-democracy advocacy in Latin America. The "New York Times" described Halvorssen in an August 2007 profile as a maverick "who champions the underdog and the powerless."

Halvorssen is president of the Human Rights Foundation, an organization devoted to protecting liberty in the Americas. He is a First Amendment Scholar at the Commonwealth Foundation of Pennsylvania. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Armando Valladares Foundation and the Advisory Board of the Charter School Advocacy Program. He is also founder of the Moving Picture Institute. Human Rights Foundation. [ Thor Halvorssen.] Retrieved on December 1, 2006.] He is a contributing author, responsible for the sections on the history of freedom of speech, of "Bringing Justice to the People" (2004). [Mitchell, Charles. The Insider, (October 13, 2004). [ Bringing Justice to the People: A Book Review.] Retrieved on August 26, 2006.]

Halvorssen's opinions have appeared in "The New York Times", "The Wall Street Journal", "The Washington Post", National Public Radio, "Time" magazine, "The Nation" and "National Journal", and he has appeared on television outlets such as Fox News Channel’s "The O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity & Colmes", MSNBC’s "Hardball with Chris Matthews", CNN, and HBO.

Halvorssen attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, with concurrent undergraduate and graduate degrees in Political Science and History. He lives in New York.Atlantic Legal Foundation. [ Thor Halvorssen.] Retrieved on August 26, 2006.]


Halvorssen co-produced the film "Freedom's Fury" which was executive produced by Lucy Liu, Quentin Tarantino, and Andrew Vajna. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. [Cold War Tale Told at Last. "New York Post" (April 29, 2006). [ Available online.] ] The film relates the story of the popular uprising against dictatorship that occurred in Hungary in 1956.

Halvorssen executive produced "Hammer & Tickle", a film about the power of humor, ridicule, and satire as the language of truth under Soviet tyranny—jokes as a code to navigate the disconnect between propaganda and reality and as a means of resisting the system despite the absence of free speech. This film premiered at Tribeca in 2006 and featured Lech Wałęsa, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Roy Medvedev. The film won Best New Documentary Film at the Zurich Film Festival. [ [ Closing Night of the 2nd Zurich Film Festival.] (October 10, 2006). Retrieved on December 9, 2006.]

Halvorssen is producer of the film "The Singing Revolution", a film about Estonia's peaceful struggle for political independence from Soviet occupation. [ The Singing Revolution.] Official website. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.] The film premiered at the Black Nights Film Festival in December 2006 where it received a 15-minute standing ovation. [ [ Reviews.] The Singing Revolution. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.] Since then, it has become the most successful documentary film in Estonian box-office history.Fact|date=September 2008

Halvorssen produced "The Sugar Babies", a film about human trafficking in the Dominican Republic and the plight of its migrant farmworkers. The targets of the documentary are wealthy and politically connected sugar barons who live in West Palm Beach: The Fanjul Family. [Miller, Kimberly. [ Fanjuls disturbed by film's portrayal of sugar 'slavery'.] "Palm Beach Post", (June 29, 2007). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.] The film previewed at Florida International University where a heated exchange with the Dominican diplomatic envoy resulted in police presence. It received numerous negative reviews claiming the film's portrayal of big business and its relationship with the Dominican government was part of a campaign against the country's reputation. Death threats against the film's director and a bribery scandal involving the Dominican embassy have made the film a subject of intense media interest. [Deibert, Michael. [ Film on Plantations Spurs Backlash.] Inter Press Service News Agency, (June 4, 2007). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.] Dead link|date=September 2008 [] []

Democracy, civil liberties, and human rights advocacy

Lucent Technologies

In 1999, Halvorssen spearheaded a campaign on the floor of the Lucent Technologies annual shareholder meeting appealing for the creation of an anti-slave labor policy whereby Lucent would require China to certify that Lucent's products were not fabricated using slave labor. China's Laogai camps allegedly imprison eight million men, women, and children in 1100 factories, farms, and other facilities producing a wide range of consumer products. [ [ Lucent Stockowners Want Anti-Slave Labor Policy for China Operations.] Retrieved on August 26, 2006.]

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

In 1999, Halvorssen became the first executive director and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the national campus-focused civil liberties organization. [ Thor Halvorssen joins FIRE's Board of Advisors.] Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (March 4, 2004). Retrieved on August 26, 2006.] According to "The Dartmouth Review", FIRE was conceived as an "equal opportunity" antidote to the influential American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) considered to be overly partisan.Glabe, Scott L. [ New Organization Opens Fire on Chavez] , The Dartmouth Review, November 22, 2005. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.]

Halvorssen has worked on civil liberties matters with public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum. As head of FIRE, he formed coalitions that brought together the conservative and libertarian advocacy organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, Feminists for Free Expression, the Eagle Forum, with more traditional free speech defenders such as the ACLU. He has a track record of defending individuals both on the right [Buckley, William F. Jr. [ Who Do We Blame? The case of a YAF student chapter at Penn State.] "National Review" (April 10, 2001). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.] and on the left of the political spectrum. [Carlson, Scott. [ University Orders Student Group to Remove Online Link to a Rebel Group's Web Site.] "The Chronicle of Higher Education" (September 27, 2002). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.]

In 2001, Halvorssen stated that, "Liberty of opinion, speech, and expression is indispensable to a free and, in the deepest sense, progressive society. Deny it to one, and you deny it effectively to all. These truths long have been ignored and betrayed on our campuses, to the peril of a free society." [Halvorssen, Thor L. [ Campus Tyranny.] Retrieved on August 26, 2006.] In a 2003 moderated chat, he said, "History has taught us that a society that does not respect individual rights, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech will not long survive as a free society in any form." [ [ Tests for Academic Freedom in a Time of War.] "The Chronicle of Higher Education". (April 17, 2003). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.]

"U.S. News and World Report" described FIRE in February, 2004 as "a major player in the campus wars", helping force "censorship-minded administrators into a defensive crouch". [Leo, John. [ Campus censors in retreat.] "U.S. News and World Report" February 8, 2004. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.]

Human Rights Foundation and Venezuela

Halvorssen stepped down as head of FIRE in March, 2004, to join its Board of Advisors, saying he wanted to move in a different direction. According to Halvorssen, "In my birthplace, Venezuela, the government constantly tramples its constitution; due process, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and economic liberty are all under assault. I know first-hand how readily innocent civilians may be arrested and even tortured for disagreeing with the government." He is no longer listed as a member of FIRE's Board of Advisors. [ [ Board of Advisors.] Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Retrieved on March 14, 2008.]

As someone who "personally understands the importance of protecting human rights" because of his family experiences, Halvorssen founded the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) in the spring of 2005. Like FIRE, the HRF was conceived as an alternative to other human rights organizations considered inconsistent. "'Progressive' organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are charged by critics as having redefined human rights in such a way as to weaken the concept and make it unworkable," Halvorssen said the group will instead "champion the definition of human rights that originally animated the human rights movement, centered on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny.". The foundation was incorporated in 2005, opening its headquarters in New York City in August of 2006. Its International Council includes several well-known prisoners of conscience such as Armando Valladares, Elie Wiesel, Harry Wu, and Vladimir Bukovsky. It also includes democracy activists such as Mart Laar, and Garry Kasparov.

Halvorssen's father, Thor Halvorssen Hellum, served as a Venezuelan Ambassador in the administration of Carlos Andrés Pérez in charge of anti-Narcotic Affairs and as special overseas investigator of a Venezuelan Senate Commission. While he was investigating Medellin cartel money laundering and bank fraud and in Venezuela, he was arrested and spent 74 days in jail in Caracas on trumped-up charges of terrorism.Hilton, Isabel. "Presumed Guilty". "Gentlemen's Quarterly (GQ)" UK: July 1994.] Fonzi, Gaeton. "The Troublemaker". "The Pennsylvania Gazette" (November 1994) ] es icon Cite web|url=|title=Recuerdos del terrorismo caraqueño|accessmonthday=March 3 |accessyear=2007|publisher=Tal Cual|date=August 29, 2001|first=Manuel|last=Malaver] He was tortured, beaten, and almost murdered while he was in prison. International organizations, including Amnesty International protested Halvorssen's case. He was found innocent of all charges. After his release, the United Nations-affiliated International Society for Human Rights appointed him director of their Pan-American Committee. [ [ Venezuelan Anti-Drug Official Fights His Foes From a Prison Cell:] Evidence suggests Thor Halvorssen was framed by Colombian drug lords and their Caracas `friends'; "Christian Science Monitor". Boston, Mass.: Dec 20, 1993. ] [ [ Former Venezuelan Drug Official Freed;] "Christian Science Monitor". Boston, Mass.: Dec 24, 1993.] [Halvorssen, Thor. The Americas: The price of vigilance in Venezuela's banking community. "Wall Street Journal". New York, N.Y.: Mar 4, 1994. pg. A9 [ Available online here.] ] At the time a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, Halvorssen Jr. led the campaign for his father’s release, enlisting the help of Amnesty International.

While attending a peaceful protest of the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004, Halvorssen's mother, Hilda Mendoza Denham, a British subject, was shot and wounded. [ [ Briton Shot In Venezuela.] EURSOC, (19 August 2004). Retrieved on September 14, 2006.] According to the Human Rights Foundation, Halvorssen’s mother was "brutally gunned down and wounded by members of the Venezuelan government security apparatus while attending a peaceful public gathering. The gunmen’s actions were broadcast on live television as they shot into the crowd, leaving twelve wounded and one (woman) dead." Images of government supporters firing upon the demonstrators were captured by a live television icon Olivares, Francisco. [ Otra vez los pistoleros.] "El Universal" (5 September 2004). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.] [es icon [ Fotos de la nueva masacre de Altamira, 2004.08.16] Retrieved on September 14, 2006.] Gunmen were later apprehended [ [ En prisión los detenidos por los sucesos de la plaza de Altamira.] "El Dia" (24 August 2004).] and identified as government supporters, including a policeman. [ [ Pistoleros de Altamira trabajan para el alcalde José Vicente Rangel Avalos.] "Notitarde" (17 August 2004)] [Rodriguez, Gustavo. [ Identifican a pistoleros de Altamira.] "El Universal" (18 August 2004)] Three shooters were convicted, but in April, 2006, their sentences were revoked; they remained imprisoned, awaiting a new trial. [ [ Revocan condena a ‘pistoleros de Altamira’.] "" (11 April 2006)] The Wall Street Journal published an article about the shooting of Halvorssen's mother written by Halvorssen himself. [Halvorssen, Thor L. The Price of Dissent in Venezuela. "Wall Street Journal" (Eastern edition), Aug 19, 2004. p. A.12 Discussed online [ here.] ]

Halvorssen is a critic of Hugo Chávez, [Halvorssen, Thor. [ Guerrilla Nation.] "The Weekly Standard" (January 26, 2005).] and has written on anti-Semitism and the assault on democracy and individual rights in Latin America.Halvorssen, Thor. [ Hurricane Hugo.] "The Weekly Standard", August 8, 2005, Volume 010, Issue 44. Also available at [ LookSmart.] ] Halvorssen's criticisms have also been directed at Republicans such as Jack Kemp [Halvorssen, Thor. [ Hugo Chavez vs. the Media.] "The Weekly Standard" (June 9, 2003).] as well as Democrats including John Conyers and Jose Serrano. [Halvorssen, Thor. [ Comandante Chavez's Friends.] "The Weekly Standard" (March 11, 2003).]

Awards and recognition

University of Pennsylvania president Judith Rodin honored Halvorssen's achievements by awarding him the Sol Feinstone Award for protecting student speech. [ [ Thor Halvorssen.] Retrieved 26 August 2006.] Halvorssen is a supporter and fellow of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and belongs to the leadership board. [American Council of Trustees and Alumni. [ About Acta: Society of Fellows.] Retrieved 21 January 2007.]


According to the "The New York Times" Halvorssen was born in Venezuela into privilege and is a descendant of Venezuela's first two presidents Cristobal Mendoza and Simon Bolivar through his maternal lineage: Mendoza. On his father's side he is the grandson of Oestein Halvorssen, the Norwegian king’s consul who "built a family dynasty as the Venezuelan representative for corporations including Dunlop and Ericsson."


:note label|FullName|a|a Halvorssen Mendoza is known commonly as Thor Halvorssen. Per Venezuelan naming conventions, his full legal name includes both his father's (Halvorssen) and mother's (Mendoza) surnames. His full, legal, Venezuelan name distinguishes him from his father, Thor Halvorssen Hellum. (See [ Thor Halvorssen - Presidente.] The Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved on July 21 2007. es icon Also see [ re: Francisco Usón—Political Prisoner and Prisoner of Conscience.] Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved on July 21 2007.)

External links

* [ Writings] on the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004
* [ Featured] in The Nation
* [ FIRE]
* [ IMdB Profile]

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