January 25, 2016 Print

A new administration has just entered office in Guatemala after an historic public uprising against the corruption of the previous administration. Recent elections in Venezuela and Argentina also signal a desire to turn the page on the 21st century socialism that was peddled for so long by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and those he inspired. Atlas Network partners in these countries deserve tremendous credit for helping to shape the changing climate of ideas. In January, they joined together for the 2016 Latin America Liberty Forum, held this year at Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to strategize for even greater impact in the months to come.

“Socialism divides societies between ‘ordinary folks’ and the ‘anti-folks,’” said Agustín Etchebarne, general director of Argentinian Atlas Network partner Libertad y Progreso. “The latter receives the name of oligarchy. In Argentina, we have just started with the battle of ideas.”

Freedom champions like Mauricio Rojas, a former communist; and Luis Pazos, a Mexican liberty activist who has written more than 40 books, shared their experiences advocating for individual rights and free markets in Latin America, sharing how their projects enhance economic freedom in their countries.

Guillermo Peña, a Honduran political analyst based in San Pedro Sula and founder of Atlas Network partner Fundacion Eléutera, spoke about how young people need to learn patience and not to expect overnight political changes.

“Young people are used to immediacy for everything,” Peña said. “Everything is in their hands with the smartphones. We have to establish goals that can be achieved in 10 or 15 years.”

Other speakers included Marcel Granier, general director of Radio Caracas Televisión in Venezuela; Pablo Arosemena, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Ecuador; Luis Pazos, economist and director of the Research Center for Free Enterprise in Mexico; Rodrigo Arenas, director of Movimiento Cívico Nacional in Guatemala; Surse Pierpoint, general director of Colon Port Free Zone in Panama; Alfredo Bullard, a Peruvian lawyer and college professor; Fernando Cáceres, a columnist and director of Contribuyentes por Respeto in Peru; Helio Beltrão, president of Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brasil; Ricardo Castillo, UFM general secretary and director of Centro de Estudios Economico-Sociales in Guatemala; and Mauricio Rojas, senior fellow with Fundación para el Progreso in Chile.

Latin America Liberty Forum attendees toured the UFM campus and saw how students there put into practice what they learn in the classroom. They watched Poverty, Inc., the 2015 Templeton Freedom Award-winning film from Acton Institute, and participated in “Un-Conference,” which brings a workshop atmosphere to traditional policy conference format.

Presentation of the 2016 Latin America Liberty Awards by Atlas Network President Alex Chafuen and CEO Brad Lips closed off the event during the concluding banquet dinner. The nearly 200 attendees heard from Esperanza Aguirre, often described as Madrid’s version of Margaret Thatcher; Carlos Alberto Montaner, legendary Cuban exile and author; and Gloria Alvarez, one of the brightest young faces of the Latin American liberty movement. Giancarlo Ibarguen, former president of UFM, received a Freedom Award in recognition of a life dedicated to fighting for liberty.

The nearly 200 attendees at the conference represented the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Paraguay, and Haiti.

Latin America Liberty Forum was the first of several regional forums that Atlas Network has planned for 2016, and set an encouraging precedent for the level of energy and productivity we can expect from these strategic conferences.

“It is a testament to the growth and maturity of the global freedom movement that we are able to support such significant events on five continents this year,” said Atlas Network's CEO Brad Lips.

By combining training, structured networking, and competitive awards, each event furthers Atlas Network's “Coach, Compete, Celebrate!” model of inspiring and supporting excellence in the movement. For example, the week's events included a densely-packed, two-day regional training on video communications, part of Atlas Leadership Academy and the Lights, Camera, Liberty! grant program, during which partners workshopped their best story ideas and honed the process of creative development.

Agustin Etchebarne, general director of Libertad y Progreso in Argentina and recipient of one of this year's Latin America Liberty Awards, completed the training and called it “an intense creative environment.”

Alvaro Salas, founder of Democracy Lab in Costa Rica and winner of Atlas Network's 2015 John Blundell Elevator Pitch Competition, also joined the training to expand his skill set.

“Since my background is research, converting my ideas and findings into compelling stories for large audiences is a new challenge,” Salas said. “Thanks to Lights, Camera, Liberty, I now understand how to produce a high quality video.”

The UFM campus served as an ideal location for this year's event, and the entire leadership team — including UFM President Gabriel Calzada and Development Director Lissa Hanckel — deserve tremendous credit for the event's success.