EspañolDear Mr. Stone:
Your participation as a speaker in the 2014 International Students for Liberty Conference, given your long record of support for repressive governments in Latin America and your close ties with some of its authoritarian leaders, such as Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, has become a matter of concern for us, young Latin-American liberals.
We appreciate your forceful stance condemning the imperial overreach of the surveillance state in the United States, which sacrifices individual liberties in the name of security. On this topic, though, we question whether your stance is limited to your country’s borders. It is evident that, as young Latin Americans who suffer the consequences of the populist and power-abusive dictatorships you so clearly and openly support, we may have a different concept of state overreach altogether.
It is easy to praise the benefits of populism when one does not have to endure its negative consequences day after day. It is understandable that you preach these ideals when you don’t face the public policies that perpetuate impunity and systematic violence. It is easy to crusade for socialism when you do not suffer the struggles many Latin Americans go through every day in search for food, the long lines in supermarkets to secure the most basic consumer products — not to mention skyrocketing inflation and other perils that socialism imposes on individuals who would otherwise just peacefully carry on with their lives.
It is not difficult to praise the welfare state when the consequences of rampant public spending don’t burden your shoulders, or to befriend dictators when the victims of their violence are strangers to you. Those strangers are our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors, suffering under repressive abuses of power. Defending characters like Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez, as you clearly do in your body of work and public statements, is safe when you know that your private property and the fruits of your labor will not be exploited by the politicians in charge.
The effects of statism hurt Latin-American families day after day, but you espouse the ideas of Hugo Chávez’s “21st Century Socialism.” All the while, you are free to plan for your future and that of your close relatives in a climate of stability and in a country that does not become poorer on account of the moral and material bankruptcy imposed by failed policies. Many young Latin Americans do not enjoy such luxuries and have been forced to leave their friends and families in search of a safer, more prosperous future somewhere else.
For these reasons, in the name of all the individuals who suffer the atrocities of Latin-American populist dictatorships, we felt compelled to deliver this message. We have vowed to defend liberty consistently, even amidst one of Latin America’s darkest nights. Therefore we ask again, Mr. Stone, what is your concept of freedom?
We believe respect, tolerance, and open debates strengthen free and responsible societies. As libertarians and classical liberals, we ascribe to the notion that liberalism finds its roots in tolerance for people’s life projects and their ideas in its broadest levels of diversity. For this reason, on this day that you join us as a speaker in the International Students for Liberty Conference, we would like to share our experiences with you, to illustrate the violence that our governments promote and in the case of Venezuela, openly practice.
Perhaps then you will understand that situations “south of the border” are very different from those portrayed in your documentaries and other propaganda. We would like to publicly convey our utter disagreement with your support towards governments that restrict liberties in our side of the continent. Fortunately, and paradoxically, you will be able to express your opinions freely, even as you support governments that silence everyone who thinks differently.
Venezuelan opposition leaders, María Corina Machado and Leopoldo López, held a press conference late on Wednesday night in response to the government's show of force during a day of planned demonstrations across the country. In particular, they rejected the accusations that they were responsible for the incitement of violence that led to the death of two students. [embed width="710"]http://youtu.be/3SWNdkMlYEw[/embed] López insists the marches conducted across the country — in which hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans hit the streets to voice their dissent towards the regime — were entirely peaceful and civil. He claims the violence was caused by police inaction, and even likely orchestrated by the government itself in an effort to discredit the opposition. Why wasn't there a clear police presence . . . If the permit [for the protest] was up to the office, why — unlike the past 15 years of demonstrations — why weren't police stationed at the end of the march where it was scheduled? Why, instead, was there — a block away from the office and an hour and a half later — a squad of hundreds police officers, with a group of armed paramilitaries behind them? Why, after we retreated in a peaceful manner . . . only a small group of about 30 were left behind and began throwing rocks and bottles at the office — and [then] there were squads of hundreds of police standing only 50 meters away, why did they do nothing to stop them? The reason is because it was planned. It was orchestrated. It was a plan orchestrated by the state that intensified in communications in the last several days — done to try and frame us directly. Maria Corina Machado relayed a similar message to her supporters and urged the people of Venezuela to continue to take action. This regime has been free to commit the worst of crimes. That is why at this time, it becomes clearer than ever that today students were motivated for justice, respect, and freedom. I also want to send a message on behalf of all these Venezuelans to those in power — this regime that is willing to do anything, without any scruples, to the point where they will destroy our country to retain power. They warned and threatened us about what would happen today, because violence is only convenient for the government. Because they are terrified of a peaceful and civil movement of Venezuelans in every street in the country.