Cato Institute has announced the recipient of the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. The $500,000 prize is awarded every other year “to an individual who has made a significant contribution to advance human freedom.”
This year’s winner is a 23-year-old Venezuelan law student named Yon Goicoechea. Yon leads the pro-democracy student movement that played a crucial role in stopping strong man Hugo Chavez from expanding his dictatorial control through a December 2007 plebiscite.
Earlier, in May of that year, the Venezuelan government had ordered the shutdown of the country’s oldest private television station. Since then, and despite death threats and other intimidation, Yon has organized dozens of mass protests against Chavez’s assault on individual liberties.
Most observers thought Chavez would succeed in dealing the final death blows to the rule of law. Just before the plebiscite, Yon was able to appear on national television to cheer on the troops. After the question was defeated, he declared that the result was a “victory of the Venezuelan people that today defended their freedoms. . . .”
The Milton Friedman Prize has been awarded to intellectuals and even a country president. This is the first time it has been awarded to a political activist, and to someone so young. Cato President Ed Crane says he hopes the prize will further Yon’s “non-violent advocacy for basic freedoms in an increasingly militaristic and anti-democratic Venezuela.” Amen to that.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.