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Thor Halvorssen Mendoza

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Thor Halvorssen Mendoza

Thor Halvorssen Mendoza
Born (1976-03-09)March 9, 1976[1][2]
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Organization Human Rights Foundation (Founder and CEO)
Oslo Freedom Forum (Founder)

Thor Leonardo Halvorssen Mendoza (born 1976[1][2])—commonly known as Thor Halvorssen[a]—is a Venezuelan 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. The New York Times described Halvorssen in an August 2007 profile as a maverick "who champions the underdog and the powerless."[1] In a 2013 profile Buzzfeed publishes that Halvorssen "possesses a burning desire to right the countless injustices of this world and he has committed himself to this task with an intensity to match that of the dictatorship he has placed in his sights. And he does not care if those injustices are being committed by the 'right-wing' or 'left-wing' regimes."[3]

Halvorssen is founder of the [5] and founder of the Moving Picture Institute.[6] Halvorssen bought the traditionally leftist Norwegian news magazine Ny Tid in May 2010.[7]

He is currently producing the film adaptation of Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress with Bryan Singer.[8]

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 al-Jazeera, BBC News,[9] Fox News Channel’s The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN, and HBO.

Thor Halvorssen was a speaker at TEDx at the University of Pennsylvania in October 2010.[10]


Halvorssen was born in Venezuela to Hilda Mendoza, a descendant and a relative, respectively, of Venezuela's first two presidents Cristóbal Mendoza and Simón Bolívar. His father is Thor Halvorssen Hellum, who served as a Venezuelan Ambassador for anti-Narcotic Affairs in the administration of Carlos Andrés Pérez and as special overseas investigator of a Venezuelan Senate Commission. His family was prosperous and on his father's side he is the grandson of Øystein Halvorssen, the Norwegian king’s consul who "built a family dynasty as the Venezuelan representative for corporations including Dunlop, Alfa Laval and Ericsson."[1] His cousin is Leopoldo Lopez.[11]

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.

Father's imprisonment

When Halvorssen was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania[6] in 1993, his father was arrested while investigating the United Nations-affiliated International Society for Human Rights appointed him director of their Pan-American Committee.[12][16][17]

Mother's shooting

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.[18] Images of government supporters firing upon the demonstrators were captured by a live television broadcast.[19][20] The Wall Street Journal published an article about the shooting of Halvorssen's mother written by himself. According to Halvorssen, his mother was 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.[21] Gunmen were later apprehended, tried, had their sentences revoked, tried again, found guilty, and received 3-year sentences for murder and for bodily harm.[22][23] They were released after serving six months in prison.[24]

Democracy, civil liberties, and human rights advocacy

Halvorssen has a specialty on matters regarding dictatorships, human trafficking, slavery, and threats to democracy. He has lectured widely on the subject of human rights including Harvard Law School, the New York City Junto, the United Nations Association in New York, and the American Enterprise Institute.[25] Halvorssen has also spoken at the British parliament.[26]

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.[27]

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

In 1999, Halvorssen became the first executive director and chief executive officer of the Heritage Foundation, Feminists for Free Expression, the Eagle Forum, with more traditional free speech defenders such as the ACLU. Halvorssen has a track record of defending individuals both on the right[28] and on the left of the political spectrum.[29]

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."[30] 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."[31]

Human Rights Foundation

Halvorssen stepped down as head of FIRE in March 2004 to join its Board of Advisors and announced the creation of an international group that would "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."[32] HRF was incorporated in 2005, opening its headquarters in New York City in August 2006. Its International Council includes several well-known prisoners of conscience such as Elie Wiesel, Harry Wu, and Vladimir Bukovsky. It also includes democracy activists such as Mart Laar, and Garry Kasparov. It’s chairman until his death in December 2011, was Václav Havel.

At the helm of HRF Halvorssen has repeatedly lobbied and advocated for the release of Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo.[33][34] In 2010 Halvorssen was special guest of Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Prize ceremony awarding the prize to Liu Xiaobo in absentia. He is one of the 25 members of the International Committee to Support Liu Xiaobo along with Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Betty Williams and Arch. Desmond Tutu.[35][36][37] Halvorssen is identified as a supporter of Chinese Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer and has sharply criticized the Tawainese Kuomintang government for its banning visits by Kadeer.[38] Halvorssen has supported UN-level action to address the violations of Uyghur rights in China.

Halvorssen appears as a frequent critic of Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni and, in particular, the legislative efforts in Uganda to punish homosexuality with the death penalty.[39] Halvorssen is a critic of Hugo Chávez,[40] and has written on Venezuela’s anti-Semitism and the assault on democracy and individual rights in Latin America.[41] Halvorssen's criticisms have also been directed at U.S. Republicans such as Jack Kemp[42] as well as Democrats including John Conyers and Jose Serrano.[43] In a symposium published by the American conservative magazine National Review, he condemned Augusto Pinochet for his human rights abuses.[44][45] Halvorssen led a campaign to expose Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov’s human rights violations and ultimately created a firestorm for Hollywood actress Hilary Swank after she accepted a cash payment to celebrate Kadyrov’s birthday. [46][47] In the same manner Halvorssen has exposed payments from dictators to Jennifer Lopez, Erykah Baduh, Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, and 50 Cent. [48][49][50]

Other advocacy campaigns include Panama’s president Ricardo Martinelli on freedom of speech violations; political prisoner cases in Venezuela, Vietnam, Cuba, and Bolivia; as well as the rights of human rights defenders in Colombia.

Oslo Freedom Forum

In 2009, Halvorssen founded a global gathering of human rights advocates called the Oslo Freedom Forum. It has taken place in Oslo annually since then. According to Wired Magazine, "if the global human-rights movement were to create its own unified representative body, it would look something like this."[51]

Norwegian newspaper Jimmy Wales, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Iran's Marina Nemat, Peter Thiel, Julian Assange, Václav Havel, Garry Kasparov, Leopoldo Lopez, Nobel laureate Lech Walesa, and Russian political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovskii.

Children's Peace Movement

Since 2009, Halvorssen is listed as "Patron" of the Children's Peace Movement, On Own Feet. Known as the "Centipede Movement" it is a Czech-based group that facilitates bilateral relations between children and adolescents in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Canada, and Norway with children in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.[53] The previous Patron was former Czech president Václav Havel.


According to the Hollywood Reporter, Halvorssen is currently producing the film adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." Bryan Singer is attached to direct the film. [54]

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.[55][56] 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.[55] The film won Best New Documentary Film at the Zurich Film Festival.[57]

Halvorssen is listed as producer of the documentary Indoctrinate U, "a documentary about left-wing bias on college campuses"[58] which targets "the anti-intellectual, intolerant culture of [the USA's] campuses".[59] American Literary Theorist Stanley Fish wrote in the New York Times "the academy invites the criticism it receives in this documentary"[60] and the film received positive reviews from the Wall Street Journal, London Telegraph, New York Post, and CNN.[59]

Halvorssen is producer of the film The Singing Revolution, a film about Estonia's peaceful struggle for political independence from Soviet occupation.[61] The film premiered at the Black Nights Film Festival in December 2006 where it received a 15-minute standing ovation.[62] Since then, it has become the most successful documentary film in Estonian box-office history.[63]

Halvorssen produced The Sugar Babies,[61] a film about human trafficking in the Dominican Republic and the plight of its migrant farm workers. The targets of the documentary are wealthy and politically connected sugar barons who live in West Palm Beach: The Fanjul Family.[64] 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.[65][66][67]

He is listed as sole producer of 2081, the film adaptation of author Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron", a dystopian film about a future in which a tyrannical government arrests, imprisons without trial, and tortures those who disagree with the government policy of enforced sterilization and enforced handicapping. It premiered at the Seattle Film Festival and stars Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson, Julie Hagerty, James Cosmo, and Armie Hammer. The film's music was composed by Lee Brooks and recorded by Kronos Quartet.

Awards and recognition

University of Pennsylvania president Judith Rodin honored Halvorssen's achievements by awarding him the Sol Feinstone Award for protecting student speech.[68] Halvorssen is a supporter and fellow of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and belongs to the leadership board.[69]

In 2010 Romanian leader Emil Constantinescu presented Halvorssen with a presidential silver medal to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Romanian Revolution of 1989. "On behalf of those who fought and died for freedom, I present this medal to the Oslo Freedom Forum founder, and remind those here that even if Romanians live in democracy now, we cannot feel entirely free as long as other people – who live under dictatorial and repressive regimes anywhere in the world – are not also be free."[70]


  • Halvorssen, Thor L (1996). Simón Bolívar and the Enlightenment, University of Pennsylvania.


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. (Spanish) Also see re: Francisco Usón—Political Prisoner and Prisoner of Conscience. Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved on July 21, 2007.)


  1. ^ a b c d Strausbaugh, John (August 19, 2007). "A Maverick Mogul, Proudly Politically Incorrect". New York Times. (Archived by WebCite here.)
  2. ^ a b
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  6. ^ a b c Thor Halvorssen. Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved on December 1, 2006.
  7. ^ Global Solidarity in Action: New owners of Ny Tid - Ny Tid International
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  11. ^ Halvorssen, Thor (March 14, 2012). "Hugo Chavez channels the dead". Pittsburgh Post Gazette
  12. ^ a b 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.
  13. ^ Hilton, Isabel. "Presumed Guilty". Gentlemen's Quarterly (GQ) UK: July 1994.
  14. ^ Fonzi, Gaeton. "The Troublemaker". The Pennsylvania Gazette (November 1994)
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  16. ^ Former Venezuelan Drug Official Freed; Christian Science Monitor. Boston, Mass.: Dec 24, 1993.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Briton Shot In Venezuela. EURSOC, (August 19, 2004). Retrieved on September 14, 2006.
  19. ^ (Spanish) Olivares, Francisco. Otra vez los pistoleros. El Universal (5 September 2004). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  20. ^ (Spanish) Fotos de la nueva masacre de Altamira, 2004.08.16 Retrieved on September 14, 2006.
  21. ^ Halvorssen, Thor L. The Price of Dissent in Venezuela. Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition), Aug 19, 2004. p. A.12 Discussed online here.
  22. ^ (Spanish)
  23. ^ (Spanish) Revocan condena a ‘pistoleros de Altamira’. (11 April 2006)
  24. ^
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  27. ^ Lucent Stockowners Want Anti-Slave Labor Policy for China Operations. Retrieved on August 26, 2006.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Halvorssen, Thor L. Campus Tyranny. Retrieved on August 26, 2006.
  31. ^ Tests for Academic Freedom in a Time of War. The Chronicle of Higher Education. (April 17, 2003). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  32. ^ Glabe, Scott L. New Organization Opens Fire on Chavez, The Dartmouth Review, November 22, 2005. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
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  40. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. Guerrilla Nation. The Weekly Standard (January 26, 2005).
  41. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. Hurricane Hugo. The Weekly Standard, August 8, 2005, Volume 010, Issue 44. Also available at LookSmart.
  42. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. Hugo Chavez vs. the Media. The Weekly Standard (June 9, 2003).
  43. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. Comandante Chavez's Friends. The Weekly Standard (March 11, 2003).
  44. ^ Halvorssen, Thor (December 11, 2006). Pinochet Is History. National Review Online Symposium. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  45. ^ Knapp, Alex (December 13, 2006). Another Symposium of Denial. Outside the Beltway. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
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  55. ^ a b Thor Halvorssen Mendoza at the Internet Movie Database Retrieved on August 26, 2006.
  56. ^ Cold War Tale Told at Last. New York Post (April 29, 2006). Available online.
  57. ^ Closing Night of the 2nd Zurich Film Festival. (October 10, 2006). Retrieved on December 9, 2006.
  58. ^ Bunch, Sonny (August 13, 2007). Lights, Camera, Reaction: Thor Halvorssen's campaign to make Hollywood safe for non-leftists. The Weekly Standard. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  59. ^ a b News. Indoctrinate-U. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  60. ^ Fish, Stanley (October 14, 2007)."Yet Once More: Political Correctness on Campus". The New York Times Opinionator. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  61. ^ a b The Singing Revolution. Official website. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  62. ^ Reviews. The Singing Revolution. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  63. ^ Singing Revolution. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  64. ^ Miller, Kimberly. Fanjuls disturbed by film's portrayal of sugar 'slavery'. Palm Beach Post, (June 29, 2007). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  65. ^ Deibert, Michael. Film on Plantations Spurs Backlash. Inter Press Service News Agency, (June 4, 2007). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  66. ^ [1]
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  68. ^ Thor Halvorssen. Retrieved 26 August 2006.
  69. ^ About Acta: Society of Fellows. American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Retrieved 21 January 2007.
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