On October 15, 2016 102 students from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, and the United States attended the third annual Ruta De Libertad: Retomando Las Raices, hosted by Estudiente Por La Libertad Guatemala. The conference was located bout 220 miles north west of the nation’s capital in Xela, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. This was the first conference located outside the capital, representing he burgeoning effort to spread ideas in a decentralized way. What drew students hundreds of miles away, from all across Latin America? Liberty.
ESFL Promotion on Television.
The conference was organized by Mariana Cordon, an International Relations student at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Local Coordiantor Rey Rodriguez, an architecture student at Universidad de Occidente, and other members of the EsLibertad team . Their efforts prove libertarianism is as popular in Central and South America as it is in North America. Eager students got the opportunity to listen to ten speakers on topics ranging from a poetry and freedom of expression to the knowledge and planning problems of socialism to successful student activism. No stone was left unturned.
The day before the conference, Rey appeared on local TV and radio, and went from classroom to classroom at his university to promote the event. When asked why this event warranted so much effort, Rey Rodriguez said, “going to the roots was the event that all liberals in the country needed to understand the current lack of freedom, take on new challenges, set new goals and grow as individuals.” EsLibertad members Keila Yuwono, Byron Hernández, Geovanny Cannel, Oscar MuñozNo further advertised the conference through radio.
Student activism panel.
Guatemala’s economic freedom has suffered and the country is going through turbulent times. Like many Latin American countries, Guatemala struggles with narcotics trafficking, poorly defined property rights, political corruption, and lagging private investment. All of the country’s problems stem from an overall lack of rule of law.
In August 2016 protesters were out in Constitution Square with signs that read “NO MORE TAXES!” in response to tax hikes on cement and gasoline. All this amid heightened tensions after Former President Otto Pérez Molina, an ex-Army general, and his Vice President Roxana Baldetti were arrested on charges of corruption in 2015.
Estudiente Por La Libertad recognizes the rent seeking behavior in their government and want to move toward an economically freer future. They want more foreign investment, more global trade, and more prosperity for everyone. Status quo politics will not bring about a free, prosperous Guatemala, however. That requires libertarian public policy.
But liberty is about more than just economic freedom. “Liberty is the most natural quality for human beings and it should not be taken away from anyone. More important than political freedom, we must have social freedom,” says director for Estudiantes por la Libertad in El Salvador, Sarah Arevalo Rodriguez.
Pep Barcacel, a Universidad Francisco Marroquin graduate, poet, and author, spoke about freedom of speech, Hunter S. Thompson’s influence, and his work for Nomada. In keeping with the theme of art’s effect on social change, which Sarah Arevalo Rodriguez knows all too well, ESFL is trying to break the old world mentality that keeps sex and marijuana taboo, with efforts to End The Drug War and promote sexual freedom. Nude photographs could be seen hanging all over the hotel which hosted the conferences after-party, courtesy of Ricardo Arroyo, a Guatemalan photographer and student.
Chris Lingle accepting the Jamale’l.
EsLibertad Guatemala also presented, for the first time, the “Jamale’l” award, (which means “Freedom” in Kaqchikel). With this annual award, ESFL seeks to give recognition to the work of those who have dedicated their lives to spreading the ideas of liberty. This year, Christopher Lingle, a Visiting Professor of Economics at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, received the honor.
In the words of Regional Director Mariana Cordón, “this award represents exactly what we focused on doing for the Conference. Remember the importance of the roots of liberty, in order to understand our present, and thus, understand the path we shall take to work for that freedom every person needs to prosper and go in the pursuit of their personal sense of happiness”.
Some of the other experiences offered by the conference was a historic walking tour of Quetzaltenango, Belly Dancers, poetry readings, and live music. The event only cost 35q and the fee covered lunch, a room at the hostel, and a round trip bus ride from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango.
The Regional Conference in Quetzaltenango exceeded everyone’s expectations, and for good reason. The liberty movement in Guatemala and Latin America is growing stronger with every passing semester because the students are making the future of their countries a personal matter.
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