The European Parliament awarded this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the Venezuelan opposition, represented by the National Assembly, its President, Julio Borges, and opposition leaders, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez. The Venezuelan opposition beat Aura Lolita Ixcaquic, a Guatemalan activist, who fights to protect indigenous people, and Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist, who has been arbitrarily imprisoned in Eritrea since 2001.
European Parliament’s MEP Jose Ignacio Salafranca commented that the decision was a “gesture of high symbolic value that will contribute to restoring freedom, democracy, peace and human rights in Venezuela.” His colleague Beatriz Becerra congratulated the winners and said this award would encourage Venezuelans to continue their peaceful defense of freedom and rule of law.
“Now it is more important than ever that they remain united and not surrender to the manipulations and abuses of dictator Maduro,” she added. In her opinion, the Sakharov Prize was a “tool of political activism,” whereby Ms. Becerra also stressed that “it means that the European citizens, represented in their Parliament, give their support to the cause of a free and democratic Venezuela.” Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, explained that Venezuela’s ruling party had steadily limited the role of law and constitutional order and hundreds of Venezuelans had been arbitrarily arrested and dozens killed over the past year.
The Sakharov Prize has been awarded since 1989 to political dissidents, journalists, writers, peace and human rights activists, citizen movements and NGOs who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the world. Last year, the prize went to Yazidi activists Nadia Murad Basi Taha and Lamiya Ayi Bashar, victims of sexual violence perpetrated by the jihadist Islamic State group in Iraq.