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Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom

Sirley Ávila León

Sirley Ávila León, is an ex-delegate of the People’s Assembly of Majibacoa. She joined the democratic opposition after she was driven out of her position for trying to keep a school open in her community. Official channels ignored her, and when she went to the international media she was removed from office. Following escalating acts of repression by state security, she was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. The assailant was Osmany Carrión, who had been “sent by state-security thugs,” Ávila León explains, for an act of aggression that “was politically motivated.” On March 8, 2016, she arrived in the United States to give her testimony and obtain medical care from the Miami Medial Team. Following six months of rehabilitation therapy, Sirley regained the ability to walk and on September 7, 2016, returned to Cuba. She found her home occupied by others with the dictatorship’s approval and had to move in with her mother. Sirley also learned that the man who attacked her was free and bragging how he would finish the job. Threats escalated against her and her family leading to her decision to flee Cuba and seek asylum in the United States. She arrived in Miami, FL, on October 29, 2016, and continues to denounce the gross and systematic human rights violations taking place in Cuba today.