May 13, 2018 Print

Gerardo Bongiovanni, president of Fundación Libertad; Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile; Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina; and Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Laureate, at the 30th Anniversary Dinner of Fundación Libertad, held in Buenos Aires.

The 30th Anniversary Dinner of Fundación Libertad, held in Buenos Aires, was attended by Presidents Mauricio Macri (Argentina) and Sebastián Piñera (Chile), Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and more than a thousand business, intellectual, and political leaders from Argentina and Latin America.

The Rosario, Argentina-based Fundación Libertad recently commemorated its 30th Anniversary with a special dinner, in which Presidents Mauricio Macri (Argentina) and Sebastián Piñera (Chile) participated, as well as Nobel Prize in Literature Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.

The event took place in Buenos Aires and was attended by more than 1,000 businessmen and women, journalists, intellectuals, academics, and national – as well as international – politicians; among them, the candidate for the presidency of Colombia, Iván Duque; the former president of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga; the former mayor of Caracas (Venezuela), Antonio Ledezma; and the Chilean historian Mauricio Rojas.


From left to right: Gerardo Bongiovanni, president of Fundación Libertad; Cecilia Morel, Chile’s First Lady; Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile; Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina; Juliana Awada, Argentina’s First Lady; Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Laureate.

"Thirty years ago we started with this dream in a small office in Rosario, where we started to create Fundación Libertad with the aim of defending the values of democracy, the republic, private initiative and tolerance," said the president of Fundación Libertad, Gerardo Bongiovanni, in his opening speech. "I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate these 30 years than with this change of climate, this tolerance and democracy that exists today in Argentina, led by President Macri and in the company of presidents like Piñera and other candidates for the Presidency of countries of the region that accompany us today and hopefully can fill those roles very soon to have a different Latin America."

Then, Bongiovanni gave way to the main course of the event: the interview that Vargas Llosa conducted with the two presidents, in which they discussed and analyzed issues such as equality of opportunity, education policies, populism, the decline of Venezuela, and the prospects for their governments.


Bongiovanni opens the ceremonies at the 30th Anniversary Dinner of Fundación Libertad.

Prior to giving the first answer to the question of the Nobel writer, each president praised the work of Fundación Libertad throughout its history: "I want to congratulate Gerardo and Mario for 30 years dedicated to defending freedom,” said Piñera. “The struggle for freedom is not easy. The enemies of freedom are very powerful and many times they have won the battles, sometimes by their own strength, but many times because of our own weaknesses in defending it.”

Macri congratulated the institution as well as the work done by its president: "To Gerardo Bongiovanni and his effort of all these years," and also "Mario, who has had the courage to defend freedom for many years and in very difficult situations, and has been an example of intellectual honesty."

EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITIES

Vargas Llosa opened the conversation with a brief preamble and then followed with his first question: "Can there be equal opportunities in a democratic Latin American society, marked by enormous economic inequalities?" Piñera replied: "Yes. Equal opportunities must be ensured with concrete tools such as quality education at an early age." Meanwhile, Macri said: "Technological revolutions in education require us to gain time in an Argentina that lost decades when it did not find its right path. To generate opportunities from the Internet connection throughout the country to provide opportunities and health to children from the first 45 days of birth onwards, since that is the crucial age to acquire knowledge.”

EDUCATION

Vargas Llosa also touched on education: "Few people in the world remember that Argentina had the most extraordinary educational system. The system was a model for the world over one hundred years ago. What happened? … Chile is the country that has advanced the most to modernity in Latin America, although there have been protests by students who are not happy with the current system."

"We are leading a very difficult debate because the unions have taken a lot of power,” said Macri. “We want to propose a change in education, but they are opposed beyond the fact that teachers agree.” He then added that a change in the education system is a "wonderful" discussion, which must be carried out to achieve "the Argentina we want" and held that "we should not get angry with private education, but improve the public one."

Piñera, for his part, said: "It takes a lot of courage to adopt the task of recovering lost time and recovering an education system in the long term. Telling a country that it must leave populism and demagoguery requires great courage and perseverance. I believe in a mixed educational system. We do not agree with a State that fully administers education. Those who defend the all-powerful hand of the State are committed to demagogy. The State must be a good father or a good mother, who loves all her children equally. A government that wants to fulfill its moral mission must be the voice of those who have no voice."


Sebastián Piñera (President of Chile), Mauricio Macri (President of Argentina), and Mario Vargas Llosa (Nobel Laureate in Literature), in a panel moderated by Llosa.

THE SITUATION IN VENEZUELA

As a third topic to address, Vargas Llosa invited both presidents to reflect on the situation in Venezuela: "How can we help the country that in its times of brilliance opened its doors to the rest of the Latin American countries?"

At the time of answering, the two leaders agreed that they would not recognize the result of the Venezuelan elections. "Venezuela was sitting on a sea of oil and today refineries and electricity do not work," said Macri. "I feel frustrated because we continue to file complaints and we continue to find obstacles. In what we differed – the Argentines – is that we said we will not stand it anymore. These magical proposals that sound like siren songs do not have to exist anymore in the world."

“The situation in Venezuela is a humanitarian tragedy,” said Piñera. “A dictatorship was installed, there is no respect for human rights and all the countries that showed an inclination for this regime have a part of the responsibility." Continuing with this idea, he talked about the current President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro: "I wonder how he can have such ambition for power that, seeing the suffering of his people, he persists in perpetuating himself there. He should realize that he is part of the problem and will never be part of the solution."

Piñera called for unity and consensus among Latin Americans: "Latin America is united in supporting the opposition. We are not going to recognize a government that does a coup d'etat and that steals all the powers; nor an election that does not comply with any of the standards that a transparent democratic act must fulfill."

GOVERNMENT PERSPECTIVES

To complete the dialogue, Vargas Llosa asked both presidents to reflect on the country they envision for the end of their respective terms. Macri reaffirmed his intention to continue lowering poverty in Argentina and encouraged the establishment of policies "without shortcuts" so that in ten years there will be an annual growth of 4 percent. Meanwhile, Piñera closed with the desire to leave "a Chile where there is a real development with equal opportunities, democratic quality, and safety on the streets."


More than a thousand business, intellectual, and political leaders from Argentina and Latin America attended the 30th Anniversary Dinner of Fundación Libertad.

Fundación Libertad's director of legal research, Garret Edwards, recently completed Atlas Network's Smith Fellowship. Read about his time spent in Washington D.C. here.