February 26, 2018 Print

The nation of Bolivia has faced significant challenges to its democracy and foundational rule of law since the turn of the 21st century. Since the election of socialist President Evo Morales in 2006, sectors of the Bolivian economy such as the hydrocarbon industry have seen talk of nationalization, while Morales has directly violated the Bolivian constitution’s presidential term limits clause by running for a third and fourth term in office, contrary to the constitutional maximum of two 4-year terms.

Despite these challenges, Atlas Network partner Fundación Nueva Democracia (FND), has hosted successful training sessions dedicated to teaching classical liberal ideas to a new generation of students, political parties, and business leaders. With an attendance of 43 individuals for this year’s training sessions, and partnerships with organizations such as Students for Liberty Latin America — another Atlas Network partner — and Casa de la Juventud (House of Youth), FND has provided invaluable education to support the furthering of classical liberal and democratic ideas in Bolivia.

“The challenge of Fundación Nueva Democracia is to contribute, educate, and shape the future of a prosperous and democratic country,” said Iris Illanes Cortes, president of the board of FND and alumna of Atlas Network’s Think Tank MBA. “We began with the Leadership Program eight years ago with the objective to encourage the citizen leadership with classical liberal ideology. In order to rescue the idea of Republic, we talk about citizen leadership to keep out the idea that ‘leaders’ means politicians. In a society in conflict were the government has destroyed the concept of democracy and smeared liberal ideas, Nueva Democracia works from Santa Cruz with a new generation of classical liberal advocates committed to playing an important role for Bolivia.”

Last year’s Leadership Program – the eighth of its kind hosted by FND – focused primarily on the Bolivian Supreme Tribunal’s decision to strip the enforcement of presidential term limits from the country’s constitution, paving the way for President Evo Morales to run for a fourth term in 2019 and overruling a referendum which would have barred Morales from running again. The tribunal, which came into power in 2012, replaced the Supreme Court of Bolivia and almost universally supports President Morales’ policies. The president blamed the results of the referendum on “American imperialism” with little further explanation. While Morales is expected to win once again in the 2019 election, the success of the referendum (despite the end result) and the work of FND shows a considerable movement against the socialist and anti-democratic policies of the president.

“This last year, the Leadership Program reached at least 10 organizations from Santa Cruz,” continued Cortes. “Political parties, youth organizations, public and private organizations participated in the training from April to November [2017]. One of the main results of the training was the replication of the workshop in their own organizations, and what really encourages us to continue with our work is when these leaders continue looking for these ideological trainings in other countries with our partners, and when they stay at Nueva Democracia as staff and volunteers.”

In addition to FND’s work in leadership training, the organization has been active in publishing articles and opinion pieces to further support its mission, with more than twenty pieces published in the last year. FND’s semester and annual human rights report has been downloaded hundreds of times, and the organization’s work has been mentioned in such publications as El Día and Página Siete. This work highlighted the Bolivian government’s crackdown on free speech and press, detailing hundreds of instances of bullying of journalists, political persecution of anti-Morales activists, and instances of violations of due process. Bolivia has dropped ten spots since 2016 on the Reporters Without Borders’ international press freedom rankings.

Fundación Nueva Democracia received an Atlas Network grant in support of its Leadership Program training sessions.