Each year the who’s who of young libertarian and classical-liberal activists descend on Washington, DC, and they recognize their most successful peers. The highest honor of the 2015 International Students for Liberty Conference, for an individual “alumnus” or role model, went to whistleblower Edward Snowden, but the budding Honduran branch of the international organization garnered victory for the event of the year.
The final awards ceremony of the three-day event was on the evening of Valentine’s Day at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, with the two remaining prizes for the student and group of the year: Ana Jakšić of Belgrade, Serbia, and the African Liberty Student Organization at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.
The specific student activism that earned recognition, “We Want Classes,” took place in San Pedro Sula. The initiative merited attention because it foiled a hijacking of the Valle de Sula campus of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH-VS), and it attracted new allies.
¡@EslibertadHND acaba de ganar Event of the Year en las premiaciones anuales de @sfliberty! #ISFLC15 pic.twitter.com/sRCL9ywYpr
— EsLibertad (@EsLibertadOrg) February 15, 2015
“EsLibertad Honduras just won Event of the Year in the Students for Liberty annual awards!”
San Pedro Sula-based Jorge Colindres is a local coordinator for EsLibertad, the Latin-American wing of Students for Liberty, and he received the award in-person.
“I’m very grateful to Students for Liberty for empowering such a meaningful movement in Latin America,” he says, and he admires “how the UNAH-VS students stood up bravely against the Marxist students.”
He detailed the story on the PanAm Post blog in November 2014. After two overtly Marxist student unions had previously succeeded in closing the university for more than two weeks, he and his fellow EsLibertad members came to the aid of university administrators.
In addition to metal cutters to remove the chains placed on various campus gates, the strategy was to stand in visible opposition to any new shutdown, and to recruit fellow students who just wanted to continue with their classes. To identify themselves, students wore EsLibertad badges, and an unaffiliated but prominent opponent of the shutdown soon joined their ranks.
Colindres, who is also a legal analyst for the Eléutera Foundation, shared that they then ran out of badges, as their support swelled to more than 200 individuals and overshadowed the gathering Marxists. EsLibertad allies chanted “¡Queremos clases!” (we want classes), as another shutdown was being attempted.
“The result was incredulous silence,” Colindres wrote. The Marxist Federation of Student Associations and the Revolutionary Student Movement Lorenzo Zelaya “had never before faced opposition apart from university authorities.”
Despite a caustic standoff with brief skirmishes, the Marxist students eventually dispersed. The presence of clear opposition had undermined their claim to be representing students, and the successful initiative received an SFL nomination and positive press coverage from national daily La Prensa.
EsLibertad Honduras’s award has brought praise from throughout the Americas. Mark Lutter, a George Mason University PhD student now based in Tegucigalpa, was at the ceremony and says their work is particularly important “because economic freedom is the single best way to lift people out of poverty.”
The result also gave considerable pleasure to Claudia Amaya Martell, a lawyer and liberal political activist back in San Pedro Sula: “This is a young group, but they have demonstrated that concerted efforts can bring great results.” The president of the Federalism and Liberty Foundation Honduras says “the local work they do to defend liberty transcends borders,” and she both congratulates them and wants to see more peaceful dialogue and tolerance as solutions to conflicts.
This article first appeared in the PanAm Post.
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