Neoliberal Networking

BERLIN/LA PAZ/ROSARIO |

BERLIN/LA PAZ/ROSARIO (Own report) - The Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF, affiliated with the German Free Democratic Party, FDP) has initiated a new program for networking neoliberal forces throughout Latin America including opposition forces from Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. The online-project, launched on Monday June 30, will last two months and is aimed, among other things, at "liberal political leaders and their action groups". The objective is to prepare the participants to seek, through neoliberal political methods, "solutions to current socio-political and economic problems". The FNF is cooperating, in this project, with the "Red Liberal de América Latina" (RELIAL), a network linking 46 organizations from 17 countries of the sub-continent, founded at the initiative of the FNF in 2003. By propagating liberal market concepts, RELIAL is in open opposition particularly to the governments in Caracas and La Paz, who reject these models. The support RELIAL members are giving Bolivian and Venezuelan secessionist movements is a highly explosive issue. With its activities, the state subventioned FNF has already been provoking public protests in Latin America.

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) is organizing the online seminar "Pensamiento Liberal Contemporáneo. Enfoques Básicos" (Contemporary Liberal Thought. Basic Positions) in cooperation with the RELIAL network that was founded at FNF'S initiative. The seminar began Monday, June 30 and is aimed toward "liberal political leaders and their action groups" as well as "members of institutions and organizations close to liberalism."[1] Through internet the participants are detached from their local bonds, facilitating cooperation throughout the subcontinent. Besides ideological training, the seminar will also discuss the "potential (of liberalism, gfp) for solutions to current socio-political and economic problems".[2] Only members of FNF and RELIAL can participate.

RELIAL

RELIAL was founded at FNF's initiative at the end of 2003. At that time, movements in opposition to neoliberalism were gaining prominence in Latin America and were striving to establish a power bloc that is less dependant on the EU and the USA. Today Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia (since 2005) form the nucleus of this tendency. RELIAL is opposed to state intervention in the economy and propagates the opening of Latin American markets to western industrial states. It links neoliberal political organizations throughout the subcontinent, from Tierra del Fuego to the southern border of the United States. The network unites political parties, educational and research centers, think tanks, foundations and liberal youth organizations.[3] Currently 46 organizations from 17 countries including opposition forces from Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia are members of RELIAL.[4]

Internet as Platform

The FNF has repeatedly used the internet as a platform for events, such as the online seminar that was launched Monday, June 30. In 2005, in association with its partner organization, the "Instituto de Estudos Avancados" (IEA, Sao Paulo), the FNF initiated, as a first step, a virtual platform for municipal officials from the Brazilian federal state of Rio Grande do Sul entitled Kommunal Praxis Online - KPO (Municipal Experience Online). This first step, as explained by the foundation, was to engage, through the "interactive transfer of data," a steadily "growing network of liberal mayors and municipal council members" with liberal urban and community governments "supporting them in their concrete tasks and aiding them in the active development of digital communication structures".[5] But in fact these networks strengthen neoliberal positions as well as the personnel engaged in this mission.

Strategic Policy Planning

Last year RELIAL, for the first time, carried out an online seminar, aimed at the entire spectrum of the Latin American neoliberal elite, beyond all considerations of nationality or function. Entitled "Planificación Estratégico-Política" (Strategic Policy Planning) the seminar, which ran from August to November 2007, was designed to impart to the participants an understanding of "planning, strategies, objectives, plans of action, leadership, communication and marketing."[6] The current online seminar is a sequel. The spectrum of potential participants coincide for the 2 courses, the continuity is assured through the closed character of the seminar. As with the establishment of the earlier internet network of municipal functionaries, the Brazilian "Instituto de Estudos Avancados" has been entrusted with organizing this seminar.

Secessionists

An example taken from the Bolivian policy demonstrates how the neoliberal opposition can be strengthened in states such as Venezuela and Bolivia, when linked into a network under the auspices of RELIAL. Some of the RELIAL groups are linked to regionalists, currently threatening the territorial integrity of several Latin American nations with their secessionist demands. Among these are Bolivia and Venezuela.[7] The FULIDE ("Fundación Libertad y Democracia"), a Bolivian RELIAL member, openly supports the autonomy referendums carried out by the regional prefectures over the past few weeks, in disregard of the verdict of the electoral court. FULIDE has been active toward this objective for the past few years. Already in the fall of 2006, representatives of this organization participated in a regionalist symposium in Ecuador.[8] Since it joined RELIAL, FULIDE is well integrated into the Latin American-wide network. In the meantime the entire RELIAL network supports the autonomy referendums. Last year, observers were warning against a "Balkanization of South America."[9]

Adversaries

But resistance is growing in Latin America to the activities of the FNF and RELIAL. Hefty protests took place on the occasion of the 3rd RELIAL Congress, in the Argentine port city Rosario in March. Angry demonstrators threw stones at the bus bringing the FNF Chairman Wolfgang Gerhardt to the congress.[10] There it was informally made known that the FNF intends to supplement its growing Latin American activities with high-visibility PR actions. It is said that in the Paul's Church in Frankfurt, November 8, 2008, the FNF will award its next "Freedom Prize" to a prominent Latin American personality, the Peruvian author, Mario Vargas Llosa. Vargas Llosa is a declared adversary of the Venezuelan and Bolivian presidents, Hugo Cháves and Evo Morales.

[1], [2] RELIAL convoca al Seminario online 'Pensamiento Liberal Contemporáneo. Enfoques Básicos'; www.relial.org 21.05.2008
[3] Aktivitäten in Lateinamerika; www.la.fnst-freiheit.org
[4] Integrantes; www.relial.org
[5] Aktivitäten in Lateinamerika; www.la.fnst-freiheit.org
[6] Planificación Estratégico-Política; ffn.iea.org.br
[7] In Venezuela ist vor allem der Bundesstaat Zulia betroffen. Venezolanische Rechte übt Separatismus; www.amerika21.de 20.05.2008
[8], [9] see also The Balkanization of South America
[10] Lateinamerika: Gerhardt warnt vor autoritärem Populismus; Presse-Info der Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung 31.03.2008