While Atlas Network’s 2021 Liberty Forum in Miami was a global event—not just a regional one —it showcased the momentum that now exists among Latin America’s freedom movement. As the director of Atlas Network’s Center for Latin America, I want to bring your attention to some of its highlights and use them to explain what our Center has in store for 2022.
Besides being considered the de facto capital of Latin America, Miami is also an epicenter for much of the courageous Cuban diaspora. As such we wanted to pay tribute to many exemplary leaders, and we leaned on some new and old friends. First, we were excited to partner with our long-time friend and the 2010 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, to award the first Atlas Network-Cátedra Vargas Llosa Young Journalism Prize, which went to Cuban journalist Carla Gloria Colomé, who works for the online magazine El Estornudo and the (very popular) People en Español magazine.
Attending the event were also world-renowned champions of freedom in Cuba: Carlos Alberto Montaner, Rosa Maria Paya, and Tito Vilaplana. Two Atlas Network friends who attended our special Latin America reception during the Liberty Forum and discussed the situation in Cuba were Guatemalan author Gloria Álvarez, and Frank Zimmerman. Frank leads the Latin America project for our partner Federalismo y Libertad and spearheads Balsa Virtual, an ongoing open forum that features dissident artists and young voices, in and out of Cuba, fighting against six decades of oppression and misery on the island. Many of these are members of the San Isidro Movement, which has inspired popular clamor in favor of a single claim: “libertad.”
Given the dire situation in Cuba, this year we plan to work more closely with all our partners across the region who are interested in supporting a free and flourishing Cuba, and especially in exposing the folk myths surrounding icons such as the murderous Ché Guevara, as well as the political fallacies around alleged health care and educational benefits under communism. In 2022, we will launch a project called Cuba Libre, which aims to help our partners expose false narratives, continue to support the ideas of liberty, and demonstrate how they could transform the island into an example of entrepreneurship and prosperity.
Indeed, to start and cap off our Freedom Dinner we had the honor of hosting Grammy Award Winner Yotuel who performed his award-winning song, which has become the anthem for Cuban dissidents, “Patria y Vida.”
Highlighting Macro Economic Challenges in the Region
In 2021, the CLA launched the Latin America Macro Vista, in partnership with Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Económica y Social, an Atlas Network think tank partner from Uruguay. In an intuitive infographic-based format, our Macro Vista provides an in-depth longitudinal overview of macroeconomic activity in 20 Latin American countries. The data is updated every two months and can be seen by country and sector. This online presentation is complemented by a semiannual report that discusses key trends and socioeconomic events in the region. The project contributes to the dialogue among think tanks, multilateral organizations, and policymakers about macroeconomics in the region.
Our 2021 reports focused on the pending dual agenda for structural reforms in Latin America and the challenges to growth that the region faces, including its dependency on external factors. The reports were featured by CNN and were also discussed in one-on-one meetings by Ignacio Munyo with multilateral organizations in Washington DC, including the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank. Ignacio also discussed the report findings in an op-ed for America’s News Network.
Uruguay remains one of the shining lights in the region with a new center-right government that is implementing freedom-oriented policy reforms. During our 2021 Latin America Liberty Forum, CLA advisory board member Martín Aguirre interviewed Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou. The interview has already garnered more than 50,000 views on Youtube.
Mirada Sur, a weekly newsletter for the Center for Latin America
In addition to conducting this important interview, Martín Aguirre is the editor of our Center’s weekly newsletter, Mirada Sur. Aguirre brings tremendous experience to this job, as he is the editor-in-chief of El Pais, the biggest newspaper in Uruguay. Every Friday, Aguirre publishes Mirada Sur, designed as a ten-minute review of the five most important news stories in Latin America, informed by the perspective of Atlas Network’s local partners. Mirada Sur’s subscriber base has grown to 4,000, more than doubling in just the last two months.
During 2021, Mirada Sur discussed some of the most important events in the region, including the Cuban protests on July 11; the elections that occurred all across the region in Chile, Ecuador, and Peru; as well as provided constant updates on local events. It also has put focus on key narratives of dignity, bureaucracy, social mobility, inclusive prosperity, and innovation.
Both Martín Aguirre and his colleague from Uruguay, Ignacio Munyo, joined Diogo Costa (Brazil), and Sary Levy (Venezuela) in the Latin America Regional Deep Dive session during our Liberty Forum in Miami.
The Index of Bureaucracy
Speaking about Sary Levy, just prior to Liberty Forum, our Center launched The Index of Bureaucracy in Latin America, which quantifies the amount of bureaucracy in Latin America and how many barriers stand in the way of people in the region to earn a living. This was a joint collaboration with six think tank partners across the region and in Spain. The project was led by CEDICE Libertad in Venezuela and their advisor, Sary Levy, who, along with Roberto Salinas, were the main facilitators of the project. Sary gave a presentation on the index in our Latin America Deep Dive panel. The other five think tank partners in the project were Fundación Libertad (Argentina), Instituto Liberal (Brazil), Instituto de Ciencia Política Hernán Echavarría Olózaga (Colombia), México Evalúa (Mexico), and Fundación Civismo (Spain). We conducted an online launch event for the index on November 9. The streamed event was viewed live by more than 1,800 individuals and the Index was mentioned in 19 different articles in various media outlets across the region including some of the most prestigious outlets in Latin America such as La Nación in Argentina, and in the United States by El Nuevo Herald, which is one of the most impactful mainstream newspapers for Hispanic news in the country and is well regarded in the region, as well.
The Center for Latin America in the news
Throughout the year and especially around the time of the Liberty Forum, the Center for Latin America fellows and staff were very active in the media. Our executive director, Roberto Salinas, had media hits commenting on liberalism’s hour in Latin America, co-written with our general manager, Gonzalo Schwarz. And to close out the year, Salinas discussed the economic environment in the region on CNN:
Senior Fellow Axel Kaiser discussed in the Wall Street Journal the election in Chile of radical socialist candidate Gabriel Boric and warned about the challenges to come for the country, which was once the guiding light for progress in the region.
Fellow Antonella Marty, now a major social media influencer, was interviewed by Reason Magazine. She was very active during the Liberty Forum, giving a cornerstone talk, and appeared in various outlets throughout the year including Infobae, Epoch Times, and El Español, to name just a few. Her podcast, Hablemos Libertad, has been a welcome success.
General Manager Gonzalo Schwarz and Senior Fellow Dr. Juan Jose Daboub were also active in the media, discussing the reasons behind Central American immigration to the United States as well as potential solutions.
Time to Accelerate
Looking back on 2021, our Center for Latin America can take a lot of pride in how we made progress in better defining the liberal ideals that “Freedom Movement 2.0” is working toward, and getting real traction with exciting projects as described above.
Now it is time to expand our audiences and scale up strategies that are working. This fits perfectly with the “Accelerate” theme Atlas Network has adopted for its series of Liberty Forum events, which will take place around the world during 2022.
We must double down on our efforts in the Latin American region and the world to think “outside the box” and to push forward a positive framework for the ideas of liberty. With so many governments having overplayed their hands during the COVID era, we have a unique opportunity to show the importance of having simple rules for a complex world. Our vision is the best hope for creating the flexibility, innovation, resilience, and social mobility that ensure lasting open societies and inclusive prosperity. Our community is well positioned to stand up for these principles and to provide a positive alternative to the politics of hatred and polarization that have risen with autocracies and illiberal populists.
From the outset, a key lemma at the Center for Latin America has been “Sí se puede.” It is now crucial to accelerate the ideas of liberty and expand our message across a region that is fraught with turbulence and discontent, but where hope for a better future remains very much alive. We look forward to building on our present momentum over the course of 2022, and we welcome your active engagement in our efforts.