On Jan. 30 in Havana, Brazilian Dominican Friar Frei Betto, author and defender of human rights, will receive the International José Martí Award 2013, granted by the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO).

UNESCO grants the award for “exceptional contribution” to the building of a “universal culture of peace, social justice and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Frei Betto was chosen by an international jury that has recognized his work as an educator, writer and theologian, his opposition to all forms of discrimination, injustice and exclusion, and his commitment to fostering a culture of peace and human rights.

Born in 1944 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Frei Betto was arrested on two occasions by the military dictatorship (1964-85). A promoter of human rights policies, he was a special advisor to the president’s office during the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. 

The José Martí Award, in honor of the Cuban politician and thinker who fought for Cuba’s independence from Spain, was established in 1994 by the Executive Council of UNESCO, at the initiative of the Cuban government, to recognize “outstanding organizations and individuals in the cause of the unity and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, based on respect for cultural traditions and humanist values.”