Think tank targets Latin Americas leftward drift

MEXICO CITY — With the help of right-wing parties and former elected officials in Latin America, the Madrid-based Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies (FAES), led by former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, is attempting to halt the advance of the left on the continent.

A 98-page report titled “Latin America: An Agenda of Liberty,” recently released by the right-wing think tank, warns that the shift to the left is threatening Western liberal values such as freedom, democracy and private property rights. It claims that left-wing parties that govern much of Latin America place collective rights before individual rights and are therefore undermining democratic institutions and personal freedom.

“Ignoring recipes that have functioned in emerging economies,” the report says, “the populist left in Latin America defends the nationalization of natural resources and the collectivization of land, with its damage to private property and discouragement of investment.”

Furthermore, the report says, the revolutionary left, frustrated by the fall of the Berlin Wall, has developed a project “to construct an ideological bloc against the Western democracies.” It says the leader of this movement is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “Chavez ... intends to forge a genuine anti-system alliance whose objective is the implantation of ‘socialism of the 21st century in Latin America.’”

Without providing any evidence, the document also claims the Latin American left has formed an alliance with Islamic terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.

To defeat Chavez’s project to build socialism and the presumed Muslim terrorist threat, the authors of the FAES document call for greater “cooperation” and “integration” among liberal, Christian Democratic and conservative parties of the center and center-right in Latin America.

As part of its plan to impede the growth of the left, writes Madrid-based correspondent Armando G. Tejeda in the Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada, FAES has “established a series of agreements of cooperation and collaboration with other parties [in Latin America], like with [Mexico’s] National Action Party (PAN), which permits the exchange of information as well as the attendance of young Mexican politicians in training courses in Madrid.”

According to Spain’s Aznar, 200 young Latin Americans have attended these courses and “some of them already have taken decisions in strategic places in these countries.”

Apart from functioning as an academic think tank, FAES also serves as a university for right-wing parties and movements in Latin America and Spain. The foundation offers courses in areas such as election work, public speaking, political science and economics. It also sponsors seminars in Latin America.

An anonymous source in Mexico’s military intelligence services told the World in an interview that FAES also channels money to center-right and right-wing parties in Latin America through nongovernmental organizations, in much the same way that the U.S.-government-supported National Endowment for Democracy does.

“Latin America: an Agenda of Liberty” was drafted with the assistance of leading figures of right-wing parties across Latin America, from Manuel Espino, president of Mexico’s PAN, to Napoleon Melendez, an organizer for El Salvador’s Arena Party. Two ex-presidents from Columbia, Belisario Betancur and Andres Pastrana, as well as former cabinet ministers from Spain and Argentina also contributed to the document.

In particular, PAN has been an active in efforts to halt the advance of the left in Latin America. PAN’s Espino met recently with Venezuelan leaders of the anti-Chavez opposition in France who supported the coup against Chavez in 2002. The meeting included Marcel Granier, president of Venezuela’s RCTV, who helped plan the coup in 2002.

A scheduled April 29 meeting between former President Vicente Fox, who left office only five months ago, with anti-Chavez opposition leaders at his ranch in Guanajuato did not take place. Fox’s spokesperson said that the ex-president intends to help design a strategy to remove Chavez from power.

tpelzer @shaw.ca