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Luis BARRUETO is a journalist from Guatemala, currently working in trade policy at the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA). Studied business and finance journalism at Aarhus University in Denmark and City University London.
Alejandro Chafuen, the main character in this piece by Lee Fang at The Intercept, has since 1991 led the Atlas Network, a leadership-training nonprofit that seeks to spread a business-friendly version of libertarianism and to counter left-wing social movements in Latin America. I met Chafuen briefly a few years ago, as I attended a university that is one of around 450 think tanks and academic institutions with which Atlas has loose partnerships. He's affable, but committed, and he has been one of the key architects of a broad network of libertarian think tanks in the Americas.
Reshaping Latin American Politics
Atlas has had considerable impact in shaping Latin American policy and public opinion. For years, it has offered grants and other forms of funding and capacity building to networks of students and professionals devoted to spreading libertarian ideas. Fang goes into great detail in explaining how the organization has amassed considerable, albeit indirect, influence in most of the Americas. And as some of the more senior members move to the heart of politics, it may be one of the key drivers of the rightward turn in Latin American governments.
Hearts and Minds for "Liberty"In the Trump era, it might be tempting to classify it as an alt-right group, but Atlas is both more serious and more radical than that: It seeks to create networks of people and secure their participation on media to influence public opinion. In short, it's a kind of "mothership" for free market-related think tanks. But, as Fang writes, "the Atlas model focuses less on developing genuinely new policy proposals, and more on establishing political organizations that carry the credibility of academic institutions, making them an effective organ for winning hearts and minds".