EspañolYoung liberals across Latin America are forging connections, sharing ideas, and working tirelessly for economic and political liberty. Nowhere was this more evidenced than at a December 12-14 conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where 30 young leaders of political and student organizations moved towards the creation of the first network of young liberals in the region.
The aim is to give international support to members of liberal associations, and to share public policies and success stories in the political and social arena. The seminar, entitled “Youth Participation in Latin America: Young People Taking Decisions,” was organized by the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFRLY) with the support of the European Union’s Erasmus program.
Over three days, participants analyzed the political systems of their respective countries, drew out differences and similarities in regional institutions, and affirmed the need for greater coordination between young liberal organizations across the continent.
One of the objectives of the weekend, said Frerik Kampman, secretary general of the IFRLY and conference organizer, was to create links between European liberals and their Latin-American counterparts.
“We’ve been discussing what liberalism means for each country, and what differences exist between us. It’s good that there are differences. I believe that, as liberals, we’re open to new ideas,” said Kampman, from the Netherlands.
But, for Kampman, the liberal message is sometimes misunderstood. “If you go to Africa, a very poor continent, people understand liberalism as a group of people with lots of money. But I’d understand it as a way of creating new businesses and resources,” he said.
The Dominican Republic: Fighting for National Freedom
Desiret Castro, of the Dominican Republic’s Center for Public Policy Analysis, analyzed the ongoing tensions between her country and neighboring Haiti. After the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACH) condemned the Caribbean nation for discrimination against Haitian immigrants, the Dominican Republic withdrew from the Court, declaring its membership to be “unconstitutional.”
“My country, as an independent country, issued a ruling, and later international courts tried to modify it and impose different verdicts. As I understand it, as an independent and sovereign republic, we alone take decisions about what we want in our country, and what’s best for our borders,” the Dominican activist told the PanAm Post.
In spite of the risks of withdrawal signaled by human rights organizations, Castro defended her country’s autonomy. “The decision should be respected within and outside the Dominican Republic, without turning to third parties and any power they might have,” she said.
Mexico: Battling the Narco State
Meanwhile, Melody Velázquez of the Mexican Libertarian Movement criticized those within the progressive sector of her country who had only blamed the government of Enrique Peña Nieto for the tragic disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa.
“The Mexican left has blamed the current PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) government, saying that they were the ones that made the 43 students disappear. It turns out that the people who gave the order to kidnap the students were a left-wing mayor [José Luis Abarca of the Party of the Democratic Revolution] and his wife, whose entire family is linked to narcotrafficking,” noted Velázquez.
She feared that the case will serve as an example to other progressive sectors in her country. “While we’re tolerant of their ideas, they just give the order to make people disappear.”
Spain: Radicalism on the Rise
“The [conservative] Popular Party (PP) have used their influence over the media to give lots of air time to Podemos and its emerging leadership, with the objective of fragmenting the left-wing opposition. They’re looking to create a divided left, despite a serious economic crisis and social conflicts arising from high tax rates,” Puig explained.
“This media attention has gone so well that now opinion polls have recognized Podemos as a viable option for radical change. And now these same media outlets that gave them space in the first place are looking to point out defects in their economic program.”
Puig noted that the progressive party has also begun moderating their economic discourse, so as to present themselves as a more palatable political option in forthcoming elections.
Brazil: Murky Business-State Ties
Débora Gois, of Brazil’s Students for Liberty, commented on the huge corruption scandal currently engulfing her country.
“Petrobras has been totally corrupted by the Brazilian government. It was the biggest producer of petroleum in Latin America; now it no longer has any resources. The government used the company for political ends during its electoral campaign,” Gois said.
“The solution is to privatize the company, to prevent corruption spreading from the government,” she added.
Venezuela: Repression and Crisis
Gabriela Ruíz, coordinator of the political movement Vente Venezuela — whose leader is opposition politician María Corina Machado, currently facing jail for “conspiracy” — railed against Venezuela’s severe economic crisis, and the repression and persecution of the student movement by the government.
“María Corina Machado, acccused of plotting to kill the president, a crime which carries between 18 and 20 years in prison, was targeted simply for being a critic of the regime,” said the youth leader.
She accused the government of President Nicolás Maduro of bringing chaos to Venezuela, noting that 2013 saw 24,700 violent deaths take place in the country, and predicting a figure for 2014 of around 34,800 deaths.
The conference brought together young people of different levels of political experience, and organizations of different leanings — some part of the classical liberal tradition, some libertarians, and others more centrist. But all came to a common agreement, and delivered a shared message: liberalism, through a democratic system and strong institutions, is the only ideology that can bring progress to society.