Major book release defines populist surge and need to confront it

Atlantic Forum

A long-awaited project of the Madrid-based Fundación Internacional para la Libertad (FIL), The Outbreak of Populism (El estallido del populismo), became available in June and has been on a high-profile international book tour throughout Spain, Latin America, and soon, the United States.

The brainchild of FIL and its Advisory Business Council, The Outbreak of Populism argues that, “of all the problems facing democracy today, it is populism that may end up ruining the progress made by many generations,” explained FIL’s Vanesa Colmegna (translated from Spanish).

Mario Vargas Llosa (left) at the presentation of The Outbreak of Populism at Atlantic Forum on June 6, 2017.

Mario Varga Llosa defines the phenomenon of populism in the prologue: "Populism is not an ideology, but a viral epidemic - in the most toxic sense of the word - that attacks both developed and backward countries alike, adapting various masks for each case … it appeals to the strongest instincts in human beings, the tribal spirit, distrust and fear of the other, that is of different race, language or religion, xenophobia, patriotism, ignorance" (translated from Spanish).

Álvaro Vargas Llosa (left) and Chilean presidential candidate Sebastián Piñera.

The book is written not only for Spain but for all countries facing democratic challenges. In fact, the book is divided into three parts: Europe, Latin America, and the United States, thus covering the complexity of the phenomenon as a whole. It is edited by Álvaro Vargas Llosa and composed of assorted works of Mario Vargas Llosa, Gerardo Bongiovanni, Roberto Ampuero, Cristián Larroulet, and Yoani Sánchez, among others.

“The high level of the intellectuals who participate in it, together with their personal commitments to work in the field of ideas and disseminate them in press, events, presentations, internal meetings with political representatives, etc. constitute solid work in a network that tries to counteract the strong and successful populist propaganda, that in Spain for example with the concrete case of Catalonia, has arrived to sneak even in the educational material of schools and colleges,” continued Colmegna (translated from Spanish).

Former Chilean president and current presidential candidate, Sebastián Piñera, read The Outbreak of Populism on the campaign trail.

Starting with FIL’s annual Atlantic Forum in June, the book has taken an international tour from Spain to Latin America in the ensuing months. Over 500 people, including intellectuals, politicians, and entrepreneurs, have been in attendance at presentations on The Outbreak of Populism held in Madrid (Spain), Bogotá (Colombia), Guayaquil (Ecuador), and Santiago (Chile). With over 70 media outlets covering FIL’s promotional events, it has also attracted high-profile readers, with Chilean presidential candidate Sebastián Piñera publicly reading the book on the campaign trail. The tour is set to travel next to book fairs in Washington, D.C., and Miami.

Fundación Internacional para la Libertad (FIL) is a recipient of Atlas Network’s Illiberalism Grant, which is awarded to help its partner organizations that are working to combat the new authoritarianism and stop the rise of illiberal statist sentiment.