A group of 11 conservative and centre-right leaders from Latin America and Spain, among them Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri, launched a new political forum on Friday designed to boost regional coordination and take on the rise of the “populist” left.
The Grupo Libertad y Democracia (“Freedom and Democracy Group”), led by former Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, is a new space for discussion and coordination. Its members say they seek to combat the advance of “populist” left-wing governments in the region and tackle corruption.
"This group was born here today, in Santiago, because we believe it is absolutely necessary to organise ourselves, to group together, to defend freedom and democracy in our continent," Piñera said at an event, also attended in-person by former presidents Andrés Pastrana of Colombia and Jorge Quiroga of Bolivia.
Also in the group are presidents Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador and Mario Abdo Benítez of Paraguay, as well as the former heads of government of Spain, José María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy, and former Mexican presidents Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox. The list is completed by former Colombian president Iván Duque and Macri.
During the launch, the leaders – most of whom participated virtually – criticised the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela over their "lack of freedoms" for citizens and alleged human rights violations.
At the same time, they questioned the "silence" of left-wing governments in the face of such behaviour, notably Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
According to Piñera, the forum will bring together politicians, academics, foundations and representatives of civil society to advance the conservative cause.
Macri, who addressed the group from a VIP lounge from an airport in Madrid, said that his own country is going through a “very serious level of destruction” under a populist administration. Charging against President Alberto Fernández, he said Argentina’s government is one “without direction, without a plan, that only kicks problems forward.”
He also claimed that several former presidents and leaders in the region were “working together” through left-wing movements such as the Foro São Paulo and the Grupo Puebla.
They have acted so "cohesively in order to impose these ideas that have been so destructive, but with a very successful narrative and that in many moments we have underestimated them," he declared.
"This group was created ... to confront the enemies of democracy, with greater efficiency, with greater will and with greater courage, to really coordinate our action and move from words and good intentions to action and results," Piñera stressed.