Atlas Network: Right-Wing Internationalism and its Influence on Latin America

Miguel Ruiz Costa the context of the electoral process in Ecuador that will culminate on February 7, 2021, the influence of the international organization of the right wing in Latin America has come to light through the Atlas Network, of which the notorious Ecuadorian banker, Guillermo Lasso Mendoza, is a member.

The Latin American right wing, at the behest of Washington, is sparing no effort to ensure that Lasso Mendoza, the beneficiary of the national holiday that ruined this small Andean nation at the end of the 20th century, achieves the Presidency of Ecuador at any price, in order to continue imposing its political-economic project of accumulation by dispossession for the benefit of the plutocratic sectors.

The right-wing sectors, through fascist and conspiratorial methods, continue their efforts to dominate Latin America, for which the Organization of American States (OAS) is the instrument that the Department of State has set up as a mechanism that makes it possible to violate the democratic processes in the region.

It is no secret that the candidate-banker Guillermo Lasso has been managing a foundation called Ecuador Libre since 2005. Nor is it a secret that this foundation is part of the Atlas Network, as it is stated on their website.

What is less well known to the people, however, is the importance of that network in the fabric of the international right-wing, which has an important presence in Latin American political life. Knowing the organic links that exist between Lasso and that planetary network of right-wing organizations provides us with a better understanding of what is at stake in the electoral process before us.

What is the Atlas Network?

Founded in 1981 by British businessman Sir Antony Fischer, an admirer of the ultra-liberal capitalism guru Friedrich von Hayek, the US-based network is dedicated to promoting so-called “free market” policies across the globe.

How does it do this? By supporting hundreds of think tanks with which it shares principles and goals, such as the Lasso Foundation in Ecuador. According to Aram Aharonian and Alvaro Verzi, the Network “offers scholarships and grants for new think tanks, teaches courses in political management and public relations, sponsors networking events around the world, and in recent years, has dedicated special resources to inducing far-right libertarians to influence public opinion through social networking and online video”.

Such a strategy serves a clear objective: to push its agenda of tax cuts for the rich; to reduce public spending; to encourage processes of corporate privatization; and to disempower political organizations that question the neoliberal agenda.

Who finances the network? In 2017 Atlas was financed by other foundations (56%), individuals (37%) and private corporations (5%). To give just a couple of examples, in 2005 Atlas received nearly half a million dollars from the oil company ExxonMobil and more than $800,000 from the Philip Morris tobacco company.

The network has also been supported by foundations of the Koch family, one of the richest families in the world, whose interests include multiple branches of the economy around the planet: manufacturing, refining, oil distribution, petrochemicals, mining, fertilizers, finance…

With this list of financiers one can only imagine with what ultimate purpose the Network was created: to combat the initiatives of state regulation of big capital and to give free rein to its processes of accumulation.

What does the network do and who does it work with in Latin America?

Although Atlas Network had a presence in our region some time ago, it was at the end of 2018 that it was consolidated with the creation of the Center for Latin America, under the direction of Roberto Salinas León, advisor to the Mexican Grupo Salinas, owner of TV Azteca.

According to the Center’s website, it is in charge of weaving a collaborative network with close to 100 “independent” Latin American civil society organizations, as well as other networks of similar orientation such as the International Freedom Foundation, presided over by the writer and ideologue of Creole neoliberalism, Mario Vargas Llosa. This foundation issued an anti-progressive Manifesto in April of this year, whose signatories include the former presidents of Spain, José María Aznar; Argentina, Mauricio Macri; Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox; and Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, among others: all of them controversial ‘men’ of the Hispanic and Latin American right.

Even before the creation of the Center, the Atlas Network had succeeded in building a network of collaborations with right-wing “think tanks” throughout the region: from Mexico to Chile and Argentina, via Ecuador.

In Ecuador, in addition to the aforementioned Lasso Foundation, there are also: the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy based in Guayaquil, whose lifetime president is the economist Dora de Ampuero; as well as the Economics and Development Foundation, and Students for Freedom, in Quito.

An indication that Latin America has been a priority region for the Atlas Network is the fact that between 1991 and 2018, the CEO of that organization was the Argentine economist Alejandro Chafuen, who is also a member of the select Mont Pelerin organization, founded in 1947 by the same Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, the main referents of neoliberal thought, whose disciples were protagonists of the neoliberal counterrevolution under the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

In the words of Chafuen himself, what the Network seeks are “private solutions to public problems,” according to the interview conducted by The Intercept during the Forum for Freedom in Latin America organized by the Atlas Network in Buenos Aires in mid-2017.

According to the same digital media report, the Network “has reformulated the balance of power in country after country, and has also functioned as a discreet appendix to U.S. foreign policy. The think tanks associated with Atlas receive funding, also discreet, from the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an essential arm of U.S. ‘soft power’.

The Intercept’s statements do not appear to be part of an unfounded conspiratorial discourse, but rather refer to specific facts that can be verified, such as Atlas’ support for the Free Brazil Movement, one of the organizations that organized the protests against then-President Dilma Rouseff in 2015; protests that paved the way for her dismissal; or support for the Fundación Pensar, the Argentine think tank that would end up becoming the PRO, the party that brought Mauricio Macri to the Casa Rosada.