Latin America Liberty Forum 2018 shines spotlight on socialism, social justice, and socializing

LALF 2018

Latin America Liberty Forum 2018, presented by Atlas Network with local co-host Fundación para el Progreso and held in Santiago, Chile, brought more than 153 think tank professionals from 17 countries across the region June 14 – 15 for an enthusiastic and energetic event full of engaging speakers, interactive workshops, competitions and awards, and celebratory socializing.

Hosted at the Hotel Cumbres Vitacura in the heart of Santiago, the conference kicked off with a series of five Cornerstone Talks by Agustin Etchebarne (Argentina), Carlos Montufar (Ecuador), Axel Kaiser (Chile), Roberto Salinas Leon (Mexico) and Lucía Vázquez Ger (Argentina).

“The only real way to overcome socialism is to maintain a bottom-up approach where we are working with the masses, getting to know the people, and putting pressure on lawmakers,” said Agustín Etchebarne, director general of Buenos Aires-based Libertad y Progreso. “That’s our role in Argentina!”

Agustín Etchebarne

“We need to focus on the battle of ideas,” said Axel Kaiser, executive director of Chile-based Fundación para el Progreso. “The economists in Chile have had to battle with the socialist-minded philosophers who make demands for a fair system, for an ethically superior society; that is not what the economists are trained for. They’re trained to speak about technical policy, not larger questions on why the system is fair or unfair.”

Axel Kaiser

During the conference, Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips made the special announcement that Dr. Roberto Salinas León will serve as the first director of a new Center for Latin American Policy Analysis at Atlas Network, to be formally launched in November 2018.

“We have to break up the mafia of power in Latin America. It manifests itself in a unique type of crony capitalism; and it is holding the region back from real prosperity,” said Salinas León, president of the Mexico Business Forum. “The policy landscape of Latin America is very much in flux, so it is a critical time to get involved with Atlas Network and its partners in the region. Together, we are well-positioned to foster effective, homegrown solutions to public policy challenges.”

Dr. Roberto Salinas León

The conference included competitions, award ceremonies, and interactive brainstorming sessions along with many speakers on several topics.

The winner of the Latin America Edition of Think Tank Shark Tank this year was Garret Edwards (Fundación Libertad, Argentina) for his “Liberty through Justice” project pitch. When launched, his project will provide legal support to clients otherwise unable to seek recourse from socialist type abuses of power. As winner, he will receive $10,000 USD as seed funding for his project.

“Liberty through justice will allow Fundación Libertad to take relevant cases from Argentina and serve as a voice for the underrepresented citizens of our country,” said Edwards, director of legal research at Fundación Libertad Argentina.

Garret Edwards

The other contestants included Hernán Bonilla (Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo, Uruguay) and Elena Toledo (Fundación Eléutera, Honduras). The judges of the competition were Linda Edwards (United Kingdom), Luis Henrique Ball (Venezuela), Roberto Salinas León (Mexico), and Ramón Parellada Cuadrado (Guatemala).

Hernán Bonilla (left), Elena Toledo (center), Garret Edwards (right)

One of the highlights of the two days was the presentation of the Latin America Liberty Awards.

The Juan Carlos Cachanosky Award for Dissemination of Free Society Principles was won by the Buenos Aires-based Libertad y Progreso for its video series project to promote cultural change, economic literacy, and solutions to structural problems like poverty and corruption in Argentina.

“We are extremely grateful to see our videos rewarded with the Juan Carlos Cachanosky award for a second time,” said Candelaria de Elizalde, general coordinator at Libertad y Progreso. “Our videos are an integral part of our strategy to keep spreading the message of freedom to more and more people by using a simple and easy to understand language. In them, we have found the way to achieve greater impact per dollar invested. It is an honor to receive a prize named after a dear friend of Libertad y Progreso who set a great example for classical liberals throughout Latin America and was an inspiration for all who share the values of freedom.”

Candelaria de Elizalde

The Miguel Kast Award for Free Market Solutions to Poverty was won by the Mackenzie Center for its “Economic Freedom Index for Brazilian States.” The index includes measures of public spending, tax systems, and regulations. The project is a meaningful contribution to the debate on the role of the market and the economic consequences of intervention and regulation in the Brazilian economy.

"For the Mackenzie Center for Economic Freedom to be the winner of the Miguel Kast Award for Free Markets Solutions to Poverty is extremely important. It represents a great recognition of our work, which began only two years ago, and is a pioneer in Brazil, since we are the think thank committed to classical liberalism linked to a university. In addition, in the case of Brazil, where donations to think thanks are not usual, it represents a great opportunity to increase our visibility, and with that, the chances of getting sponsorship. And last but not least, we are honored to receive a prize that bears the name of the great Miguel Kast, who did so much for the poverty eradication in Chile, working in the best tradition of the Chicago School, committed to the principles of economic and individual freedom.”

Ulisses Ruiz de Gamboa

The Francisco de Vitoria Award for Ethics and Values was won by the Instituto Político para la Libertad (IPL) for its annual leadership training program, the “University of Freedom,” which provides civil and political training for Latin American youth. These trainings seek to promote open markets, limited government, respect for private property and human rights, and thus empower young people to counteract damaging populist ideas and instigate political change within their provinces.

“We are very happy for this recognition of the work of the IPL in Latin America, especially in the training of young people in the principles of freedom and democracy,” said Diego Ato, project coordinator at IPL. “This award motivates us to continue with efforts such as the Universidad de la Libertad (University of Freedom or UDL), our annual program of political and economic training aimed at young people, which has strengthened in its participants the desire to defend freedom and democracy in countries where they are they are threatened by populist discourses.”

"We have made ten editions of the UDL, and the last one was done in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The UDL has been an opportunity for participants and speakers from Latin America to show solidarity with those countries where democracy has great challenges. In these years, the UDL has shown that it is not only a training program, but also a dialogue and coexistence that has generated new opportunities for collaboration among its participants."

Beltrán Gómez Híjar (left), Brad Lips (right)

This year’s Student Award was won by Students for Liberty Brasil for its SFLB State Conferences, organised between March 14 and April 20, which attracted 2,786 total participants in 21 out of 27 Brazilian states. These conferences were the first events of their kind held in some of the states. They received positive media coverage throughout the year.

“Winning the Student Award in the year in which Brazil celebrates 130 years of the country's greatest classical liberal achievement (the abolition of slavery) renews our forces to continue fighting for a freer future in our country,” said Fernando Miranda, executive director of SFLB.

Fernando Miranda

The conference included a special interactive brainstorming session called Crowdsource Liberty. This session allowed 11 individuals to workshop a current or future project of their think tanks with fellow conference participants. Participants of Crowdsource Liberty included, among others, Erin Leyson from México Evalúa seeking to de-normalize violence and crime in Mexico City; Luis E. Loría from Instituto de Desarrollo Empresarial y Accion Social (IDEAS) focused his session on ending the practice of paying public officials in Costa Rica luxury salaries and benefits; and Jorge Velarde Rosso from Instituto Acton focused on learning how to best reach Bolivian youth with the practical ideas of liberty and free markets.

The conference included several high profile and inspirational speakers.

During the keynote lunch session, Chilean Minister of Economy José Ramón Valente, Axel Kaiser, and Brown University Professor John Tomasi had a conversation on why Classical Liberalism should appeal to fans of Social Justice.

“Defenders of a free society should remember that we have the best claim to promote social justice,” said Tomasi. “Socialism is morally bankrupt. And the case for markets is a moral one because it respects individuals and their autonomy.”

José Ramón Valente (left), John Tomasi (center), Axel Kaiser (right)

The dinner keynote address was by José Piñera, one of the famous “Chicago Boys” and one of the liberty movement’s most celebrated economic reformers. “We didn’t destroy poverty with a welfare system but with freedom,” said Piñera. “Chile is the first country that moved from a 100 percent government owned to a 100 percent private owned social security system. We must defend the free-market system without guilt, without complex, because these ideas of liberty and free markets can truly change the world.”

José Piñera

Other sessions during the conference, included “Rethinking Corporate Social Responsibility” a conversation with Pablo Arosemena and Jorge Errázuriz Grez; a “Reckoning for 21st Century Socialism” with Luis Henrique Ball, Rocío Guijarro, and Rafael Rincón; “Intellectual Property Rights can Generate Wealth and Prosperity in Latin America” with Lorenzo Montanari, Guillermo Carey, Dario Paya, Rodrigo A. de Ouro Preto Santos, and Rafael Rincón; a special session on “Doing Development Differently in Latin America” led by Atlas Network’s Dr. Tom G. Palmer; and a session on messaging by Atlas Network’s Daniel Anthony where he said: “If you want real impact in the fight against socialism in Latin America, it’s time to start communicating the benefits and real meaning of your work, not just the wonky features. While these features are essential to our work, they should not be the only things we communicate, because when we do that we neglect making an emotional connection with our audience.”

Daniel Anthony

Latin America Liberty Forum 2018 has been made possible by the generosity of many donors, including major gifts from the Smith Family Foundation, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation, who support Atlas Network’s Regional Liberty Forums throughout the world. We also welcomed a number of freedom champions whose attendance has been underwritten by the Freda Utley Foundation and Peter Flinch.

We’re excited to announce that Latin America Liberty Forum 2019 will be held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic with local co-hosts CREES and Instituto OMG. Miguel Collado Di Franco of CREES and Mónika Melo of Instituto OMG presented a teaser video and invited everyone in Chile to attend in 2019.

Mónika Melo, Miguel Collado Di Franco

Read the recap to Atlas Network’s special fundraising training session, which occured for think tank professionals in the region immediately prior to the conference.

Check out more photos from the event here: Latin America Liberty Forum 2018 Facebook Photo Album

Our extremely talented local co-host Fundación para el Progreso!