How to effectively defend liberal values? That is certainly the big question that keeps our network alive: what routes should we follow, what should our strategies be, and what priorities should we focus on? These are questions we will often ask at congresses, meetings, workshops and at every opportunity we find to discuss our mission as Latin American liberals, and the upcoming Relial Congress in Guatemala will provide the perfect opportunity to reaffirm our principles. 

The multiplicity of perspectives and approaches is a reflection of the diversity of our organizations; since the early days of Relial, combining the work of think tanks with that of political parties has remained a challenge, and achieving a synergy of efforts has always been our key goal. Having clearly defined shared values — the defense of democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the advancement of the market economy — we have now successfully marched together for almost two decades. Furthermore, if there is one thing that keeps us united above all, it is the fact that we do not tolerate authoritarianism. And what can we say now, considering the current situation in the region?

At the turn of the 21st century, our democracies were already shaky. What was left over from the Bolivarian model of that time — Chávez, Da Silva, Correa, Morales, the Kirchners, the Ortegas, etc. — was recycled and dressed in new “democratic” garb. Throughout those years, left and right-wing populisms were comfortably established, making it easier for any political evaluation to limit itself to a ” swinging pendulum” of reflection. What the present brings to the table is an even more worrisome reality. The 2023 report by Corporación Latinobarómetro — which offers a comprehensive study on people’s perception of democracy in the countries of the region — points directly toward a democratic recession, which “is reflected in low support for democracy, increasing indifference to the type of regime in power, preference and attitudes favoring authoritarianism, declining government performance, and a deteriorating image of political parties”. The report convincingly voices an urgent wake-up call to us, the liberals of Latin America, more than anyone else. That is why we decided to give the Relial 2023 Congress the title of “Shutting Down Authoritarianism”, as it is precisely that reality what brought us together in 2004 to establish a formal network. It was — and still is — the vulnerability of our countries’ institutions that demands that we make every possible effort to defend the rule of law. If, as the report says, “democratic recession is citizens’ disillusionment with democracy”, then that is precisely when we should place greater emphasis on the value of individual responsibility, the rule of law, and respect for private property. Now is the time when liberals certainly have the opportunity to assert our principles and ideas as effective guarantees and safeguards of democracy, our policies as real alternatives for prosperity, inclusion, stability, security, and above all, as the basis for building free societies. 

Also resulting from this context and at such a key moment, we have agreed that our Assembly of full members should endorse our Declaration of Political Action, a commitment that Relial has firmly undertook in order to put our liberal vision into practice. 

The daily news and the findings reported by Latinobarómetro point to pessimism. But there is no time for discouragement. As our dear friend Carlos Alberto Montaner said in his last letter: “Democracy and freedom are well within the reach of anyone who will commit to it”. So for us, liberals, this is a time for hard work.