In college, Halvorssen warmed up for his life’s work by organizing boycots against investments in South Africa when apartheid was still part of that country’s constitution.
However, before he graduated, he worked on the case of a political prisoner a lot closer to him, his own father.
Despite his wealth and highly placed job in the government, Halvorssen’s father made enemies when he exposed corrupt government officials taking money from drug lords, and wound up tortured in prison.
According to an article in The Weekly Standard, Halvorssen didn’t realize it until he read his father’s obituary, but his father worked actively for human rights causes in Latin America, for the rights of Miskito Indians in Nicaragua and documenting violations committed by Marxist guerillas.
In college he edited a conservative paper, running such articles as one on White Women Against Racism excluding a black woman from their meetings.
After graduating from college, Halvorssen co-founded the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. For years it worked against the political correctness limited freedom of speech on American college campuses.
However, in 2004 his family once again had a close encounter with the government of Venezuela, by then headed by President Hugo Chavez.
According to this article from Huffington Post, Halvorssen’s mother, a descendant of both the South American freedom fighter Simon Bolivar and Venezuela’s first president, went to an anti-Chavez rally she expected would be peaceful. They were asking former President Jimmy Carter not to certify Chavez’s election. Over a hundred Chavez supporters attacked, firing into the rally. Halvorssen’s mother survived her gunshot wound, but still suffers chronic pain from it. (And Jimmy Carter did certify the election.)
Thor Halvorssen decided he’d rather defend the Venezuelan reporters risking their lives than student cartoonists attacked by the P.C. police, and founded HRF.
Hugo Chavez is dead, but his government survives. The current president, Maduro, still holds Halvorssen’s cousin, Leopoldo Lopez, prisoner. Both Bill Clinton and Amnesty International (after heavy pressure from Halvorssen’s family) support his release.
Some people on the left view Halvorssen as a right winger because he attacks left wing dictatorships such as Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba. However, he also attacks dictatorships of the right. Not long ago, he surprised Fox News by saying he could vote for Bernie Sanders for president, but not Hillary Clinton, because she supports dictatorships, but Sanders doesn’t.
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