Venezuelan Student Movement Leader Awarded $500,000 Milton Friedman Liberty Prize

April 24, 2008

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Washington, D.C. - The Cato Institute has announced that Yon Goicoechea, leader of the pro-democracy student movement in Venezuela that successfully prevented President Hugo Chávez’s regime from seizing broad dictatorial powers in December 2007, has been awarded the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty.

A 23-year-old law student, Mr. Goicoechea plays a pivotal role in organizing and voicing opposition to the erosion of human and civil rights in his country. In his commitment to a modern Venezuela, Goicoechea emphasizes tolerance and the human right to seek prosperity.

Venezuela’s student movement emerged in May of 2007 in response to a government-ordered shutdown of the nation’s oldest private television station, RCTV.  In the face of ongoing death threats and continual intimidation due to his prominent and vocal leadership, Mr. Goicoechea has been indispensible in organizing massive, peaceful student protest marches that have captured the world’s attention. 

By December of 2007, the student movement was credited with defeating a proposed constitutional reform that would have concentrated unprecedented political and economic power in the hands of the government.

“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.”

Established in 2002 and presented every two years, the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is the leading international award for significant contributions to advancing individual liberty.  The Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman passed away in November of 2006. 

The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty’s Biennial Dinner and award presentation will be held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on May 15, 2008.

Yon Goicoechea is a fifth year law student at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. He was chosen to receive the award from a public, worldwide nomination process.  The members of the 2008 International Selection Committee are:

  • Kakha Bendukidze – Head of the Chancellery, Republic of Georgia
  • Edward H. Crane – President, Cato Institute
  • Francisco Gil Díaz – Former Minister of Finance, Mexico
  • Rose D. Friedman – Co-Founder, Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for School Choice
  • Karen Horn – Director, Berlin Office, Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (Germany)
  • Charles G. Koch – Chairman and CEO, Koch Industries Inc.
  • Andrew Mwenda – Research Fellow, Advocates Coalition for Development (Uganda)
  • Mary Anastasia O’Grady – Member, Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal
  • Fareed Zakaria – Editor, Newsweek International

Complete details about Yon Goicoechea and the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize