Español“Harboring a little liberty in Chile in #EsLibertad while denouncing electoral fraud in Argentina.” That was just one of the many Twitter messages, utilizing the hashtag #EsLibertad, to refer to the first Estudiantes por la Libertad Latin American conference, held this weekend on the campus of San Joaquín de la Pontificia Universidad Católica. Over three days in Santiago, Chile, 100 students and young people from more than 15 nations escaped the reality of their homes to participate in the gathering, with the goal of defending or claiming their freedoms.
Respirando un poco de Libertad en Chile en #EsLibertad mientras en Argentina muchos denuncian fraude electoral.
— Gui Sutter Schneider (@gsutters) October 27, 2013
Estudiantes por la Libertad (EsLibertad) — the Latin American version of Students for Liberty (SFL), which is an international, nonprofit organization — organized and hosted the conference from October 25 to 27. According to the promoters, they chose Chile because it is a “beacon for liberty” in Latin America.
Julio Clavijo, chairman of EsLibertad, explains that the objective of the gathering of such diverse students was to allow debate of the ideas, with participants learning from the challenges and experiences of members from neighboring nations. In addition, it was a learning opportunity for those new to both the group and the movement that spans sometimes-conflicting ideologies and approaches to activism, from classical liberals to anarcho-capitalists. The many topics under scrutiny included the legalization of drugs, protectionism, monopolies and cartels, and the fight for civil liberties.
All the while, the Latin American coordinators shared their experiences through social media. Victoria Ramírez, representing Estudiantes por la Libertad in Ecuador, targeted how to promote liberty on university campuses — where all too often administrators stifle free speech.
“We wanted to pass on what we have learned in our own time spreading these ideas, so that those who want to do so in the future will be more successful,” she says.
Clavijo, on the other hand, targeted local chapter coordinators with SFL’s Social Change Theory or mission. It affirms that to change the policies of a society, one must first address and transform the underlying ideas that sustain the society and its policies.
“The focus of EsLibertad is to empower and train its members, so they become agents of change in both their universities and communities.”
The key activities of the event took place across a variety of conference rooms, with debates, academic presentations, discussion panels, and plenty of engagement with the audience from speakers. Always, even during the debates, leaders sought to maintain a collegial environment — since personal attacks inhibit the free flow of ideas.
“The event really is without equal for generating friendships across borders, friendships based on a shared affection for liberty,” Clavijo explains.
Tatiana Macías, a participant, considers the most important lesson one obtains from the conference to be the moral weight of liberty — that it is “una causa honesta” worth defending. In particular, the work of the Bolivian delegation impressed Macías.
Ramírez, the coordinator from Ecuador, believes that as more people become conscious of the ideas of liberty in their lives, the more likely we are to reach a critical mass. While Latin America suffers from many forms of tyranny, particularly violations of free speech, at some point the beliefs and knowledge can turn into policies, and we’ll be able to enjoy the higher degree of freedom we seek.
“When you believe in a cause, that you are only at the beginning of its journey is not important. If the cause is noble, as liberty is, and if you have dedication and are prepared, nothing is impossible.”
During the event, EsLibertad and Unversidad Francisco Marroquín of Gautemala presented the Manuel F. Ayau Award for a a life dedicated to freedom. It went to José Piñera, who received the credit for creating the private pension system in Chile and for generating positive social change based on the ideas of the conference.
Translated by Fergus Hodgson.