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The student who saved Venezuela

Posted by Richard on May 20, 2008

Belated congratulations to Yon Goicoechea. Last week, the Cato Institute awarded him the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Goicoechea is a 23-year-old law student in Venezuela. About a year ago, Hugo Chavez shut down the most popular TV station in the country, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). In response, Goicoechea organized a student movement to defend democracy and human rights that soon spread far beyond Venezuela's campuses. 

Despite death threats, intimidation by Chavez goons, and a beating that left him with a broken nose, Goicoechea organized scores of peaceful protests, many of which drew more than 100,000 participants. Many people credit Goicoechea with being personally responsible for the defeat of the December constitutional referendum that would have given Chavez dictatorial powers.

“Yon Goicoechea is making an extraordinary contribution to liberty,” said Edward Crane, President of the Cato Institute. “We hope the Friedman Prize will help further his non-violent advocacy for basic freedoms in an increasingly militaristic and anti-democratic Venezuela.”
Renowned Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa remarked, “Freedom and complacency are incompatible and this is what we are seeing now in countries like Venezuela where freedom is disappearing little by little, and this has produced a very healthy and idealistic reaction among young people. I think Yon Goicoechea is a symbol of this democratic reaction when freedom is threatened.”

The Friedman Prize is more than something to display on the mantle — it's $500,000. I hope Goicoechea had the money deposited in a U.S. (or other non-Venezuelan) bank account. Just in case Chavez carries his penchant for nationalization beyond foreign oil companies. 

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