Since 2008, the Instituto Político para la Libertad Perú (Political Institute for Freedom Peru or IPL) has organized and hosted an annual leadership training program for exceptional youth leaders committed to democracy and basic freedoms, originally focused only on Peru but having since expanded to encompass Latin America more broadly. The program – Universidad de la Libertad (Freedom University or UDL) – has become a highly-regarded Latin American youth training program, with past participants coming from a handful of countries in Latin America & the Caribbean.
Hosting participants from Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela, the most recent Freedom University took place in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, from November 16-20, 2017. IPL first took its annual Freedom University abroad in 2015 when it brought 20 Latin American youth to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where they were joined by 20 Haitian youth for the four-day training program. It then traveled to Caracas, Venezuela in the following year, training over 40 from seven countries on the challenges to democracy in their home countries.
“Our main objective was to open a space for debate, knowledge, and skills generation aimed at young people from Latin America [who] defend freedom and democracy,” said Diego Ato Cadenas, project coordinator at IPL. “In this way, we help to counteract populist discourses that damage democratic values. For this objective, we considered Bolivia as an important country because 30 percent of its population is younger than 30 years old and the youth constitutes 24 percent of the electoral list.”
The organizing theme of Freedom University 2017 was “Youth, Citizenship, and Rule of Law,” and other topics discussed were democracy in Latin America, market economy, literature, and the relationship between freedom and development, in addition to others. A “Meeting Bolivia” panel allowed participants and speakers to deepen their knowledge about the political, economic, and social situations of the host country.
IPL’s Venezuela-driven campaign “Do not leave them alone” was projected during the Freedom University (video in Spanish).
IPL had two goals for the Bolivian iteration of Freedom University: first, to strengthen the leadership skills and democratic principles among Bolivian and Latin American youth and, second, to raise regional awareness of Bolivia’s political situation by fostering youth networks, increased solidarity, and a social media campaign.
“At the present time, the Bolivian participants are planning to replicate the workshops in other cities of their country,” continued Cadenas. “Also, the participants of the event committed themselves to disseminate what they learned in their local communities through mass media projects. Like this experience, we will have more each year, arriving to new countries that have problems with freedom and democracy.”