Advancing past authoritarianism and defending against populism a hot topic at #ForoLibertad21

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The reality of international travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic led Atlas Network to host each of its four Regional Liberty Forums online in 2021—this time all in the same week in June. The Latin America event—#ForoLibertad21—kicked off with a special message from the Honorable Guillermo Lasso, president of the Republic of Ecuador. Despite the challenges of meeting virtually rather than in person, 230 individuals from think tanks and civil society groups representing 22 countries contributed to an engaging and constructive event. Forum participants joined in the excitement with winners when the recipients of the Regional Liberty Award and Think Tank Shark Tank award were announced.

Each session of the 2021 Latin America Liberty Forum will remain available online, and the highlights are below.

Welcome Remarks

After a message from President Lasso, attendees were welcomed by Dr. Roberto Salinas León, executive director of Atlas Network’s Center for Latin America; and Carlos Blohm, president of CEDICE Libertad in Venezuela. Blohm spoke about the role of think tanks in criticizing poor policy and proposing alternatives that will lead to a more prosperous future.

After opening remarks, Atlas Network’s Romulo Lopez introduced the Cornerstone Speakers. These leaders of the liberty movement in Latin America each delivered an eight-minute address focused on various challenges and opportunities in the region and how Atlas Network partners can forge a path forward. Topics included crony capitalism, bureaucracy, and Bitcoin.

The Cornerstone panel consisted of Lucia Santa Cruz from Instituto de Economía Política Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Chile; Manuel Hinds, former Minister of Finance of El Salvador; Sary Levy-Carciente from Academia Nacional de Ciencias Economicas in Venezuela; Guillermo Cabieses, Nexus Group’s principal and general counsel in Peru; and Alex Gladstein, from Human Rights Foundation in the United States.

Big Ideas: Liberty and Pop Culture

Led by Antonella Marty of Atlas Network, the Big Ideas session of #ForoLibertad21 focused on the interplay between culture, art, and liberty and how entertainment can help advance the principles of a free society. The impact and potential of internet memes for younger generations even came up.

Marty was joined by Asiel Babastro, producer of Patria y Vida; Anamely Ramos Gonzalez of Movimiento San Isidro in Cuba; and Sascha Hanning from Fundación para el Progreso in Chile. They discussed how authoritarian regimes use art that is friendly to them and suppress art that criticizes them—whereas a free and open society tolerates all viewpoints.

Dictators have used art to manipulate the populations they control, and the panelists agreed that advocates for freedom must use art even more effectively than tyrannical regimes, making the most of art’s spontaneity and power to reflect reality. The panelists have each been involved in this effort and have seen firsthand the power of art to break the mental chains of tyranny.

Announcement of Atlas Network–Cátedra Vargas Llosa Young Journalism Prize 2021

Dr. Roberto Salinas León was joined by Álvaro Vargas Llosa—son of the Nobel Laureate for Literature Mario Vargas Llosa—to unveil a new project that will be carried out in partnership with Atlas Network and the Cátedra Vargas Llosa. The Atlas Network–Cátedra Vargas Llosa Young Journalism Prize 2021 will award a $10,000 prize to one young Spanish-speaking journalist who shows extraordinary skill and creativity in writing on the ideas of liberty. Carlos Alberto Montaner will preside over the selection committee, and the winner will be announced at Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner later this year in Miami.

Interview with Lila Vilaplana

Sergio Sarmiento interviews Lilo Vilaplana.

Following the announcement of the journalism prize, Sergio Sarmiento of Caminos de la Libertad sat down with Cuban Columbian director and screenwriter Lilo Vilaplana. Vilaplana spoke about his movie, Plantados, which focuses on political prisoners under the Castro regime and the real-life accounts that inspired him.

Regional Liberty Award

Atlas Network President Matt Warner took the stage to speak about the first 40 years of the organization’s work and introduce a video celebrating its anniversary. He was then joined by the three finalists for the 2021 Latin America Liberty Award and announced Fundación Eléutera as the winner of the $7,000 top prize.

Fundación Eléutera’s “Opening the Electricity Market in Honduras” project has successfully supported electricity market reforms, lowering the threshold for consumers to enter the open market rather than be forced to remain under the government monopoly. Thanks in part to Fundación Eléutera’s work, 25 percent of the electricity used in Honduras comes from the open market, which has grown quickly in the few months it has been in operation.

Guillermo Peña Panting of Fundación Eléutera accepts the 2021 Latin America Liberty Award.

Fundación Eléutera competed against two other organizations, Fundación para el Progreso Chile (FPP) and Asociación Argentina de Contribuyentes. FPP has worked to regain traction for the ideas of liberty to counter the rise of leftist and populist narratives that seek to destabilize the success of the free market in Chile. Asociación Argentina de Contribuyentes was a runner-up for their “Justice for the Taxpayers” campaign, which successfully encouraged reform that now rewards taxpayers for staying up-to-date on their tax bill, reducing the total tax burden by almost US$150 million. Runners-up will receive $1,500 each.

Latin America Think Tank Shark Tank

In the closing session of the 2021 Latin America Liberty Forum, Rómulo Lopez announced Bernardo Vidigal of Students For Liberty Brasil as the winner of the 2021 Latin American Think Tank Shark Tank competition. Vidigal pitched his organization’s “Property Rights in the Favelas” project, which will produce several videos on the history of favelas and how private property rights could solve many of the problems endemic to those communities. The videos will then be presented to a variety of groups, including in universities and in the favelas themselves.

Bernardo Vidigal of Students For Liberty Brasil, winner of the 2021 Latin American Think Tank Shark Tank.

Vidigal competed against two other pitches. The first was from Fátima Masse of Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad and her “ABC for Formal Entrepreneurship for Women” campaign, which aims to make it easier for women to register their businesses and take part in the formal economy. The other pitch was from Ana Lilia Moreno of México Evalúa for her “Energy Reform in Mexico” campaign, which seeks to decentralize energy production in Mexico.

Closing Remarks

After announcing the winner of the 2021 Latin America Think Tank Shark Tank, Rómulo Lopez was joined onstage by Ignacio Munyo of CERES in Uruguay; Juan José Daboub, distinguished senior fellow at Atlas Network’s Center for Latin America; and Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal to discuss “The Path Forward in Latin America” and how classical liberal organizations can stem the tide of statism and populism in the region.

Interview with Hon. Luis Lacalle Pou

The 2021 Latin America Liberty Forum closed with a special exclusive interview with the Honorable Luis Lacalle Pou, president of the Republic of Uruguay, by Martín Aguirre, editor of Mirada Sur.

Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2021 will be held in Miami, December 13–14. Learn more here.