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On Dissident Artists 

Artists are key to advance the ideas of freedom. They have all my admiration and support. 

Dear readers, 

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit one of the most famous museums in Europe, Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado, where I could see in person the world-renowned paintings of artists like Velasquez, Murillo, and Goya.

I must admit that I had a great time on Saturday. The museum is gorgeous, and I was accompanied by great people. 

However, there is something that caught my attention. The fact that its most famous paintings are about Spain’s kings and queens, from their opulent lives and vigorous horses to their well-crafted dresses.

Don’t get me wrong. I think this is fine. The monarchy is a key element of Spanish culture. And they have played a role in Spain’s constitutional stability.

Nevertheless, I am personally more attracted to other types of arts. I like paintings not aimed at alluring those in power but at speaking truth to power. 

Historically, artists have had a crucial role in the achievement of freer and more just societies. Through their craft, artists have been able to express those things that most are afraid to say. This includes painters, but it also includes comedians and musicians. 

This is why we at Students For Liberty do not just defend freedom of speech, we defend freedom of expression. 

I can think of our own experience in Venezuela, where comedians like Luis Chataign have for years spoken in a more courageous and straightforward way than most politicians. 

I can also think of my friend Piotr Markielau (SFL alumn as well), who organized an open concert in Belarus that brought over 2,000 people. This concert helped promote the ideas of a freer and more tolerant Belarus, an initiative that ultimately led to his NGO Legalize Belarus

I would also like to mention another good friend of mine, Rodrigo Figueredo, as he has been at the forefront of this fight. In fact, he calls his won work, “Arte Para Luchar.”

For years, Rodrigo has been producing paintings that reflects the struggle for freedom in Venezuela and elsewhere, and many of these paintings have become true symbols of the freedom resistance in Venezuela. 

For instance, when Venezuela protested for months in 2014, Rodrigo helped raise international awareness with his paintings, which were even highlighted by the BBC. The same occurred last year with his paintings about Cuba last year, and Ukraine just a few days ago. 

This is why I am more drawn to these types of paintings than to, let’s say, Goya’s work. Through his talents, Rodrigo is empowering a cause, a just cause, which is the cause of a free society. 

He is reaching out to people that may not listen to politicians but that will certainly take a look at his art and think “these activists in Venezuela, they are courageous.” 

So, let’s not forget to support our fellow dissident artists. They are not just part of this fight. They are the living embodiment of everything we cherish: they are critical thinkers. They are true entrepreneurs. And above all, they are committed to moving our societies forward. 

By Jorge Jraissati

Jorge Jraissati is a Venezuelan economist and freedom advocate. He is the Director of Alumni Programs of Students For Liberty, an NGO advancing the ideas of a free society in over 100 countries. Beyond SFL, Jorge is a research consultant for IESE Business School, an economist from the Wilkes Honors College, and the President of Venezuelan Alliance, a policy group specialized in the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis. Jorge is a weekly columnist at Freedom Today Network.