Atlas workshop in Jamaica

Jesús Eduardo Rodriguez, Arturo Fontaine, Gordon Tullock, Alberto Di Mare, Michael Walker, and Donald Stewart Jr, at Atlas first workshop for Latin Americans in 1987

The first workshop for Latin Americans took place April 21-26, 1987, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, at the beautiful Half Moon Club. It was a “workshop to encourage and support Public Policy Research Institutes in Latin American and Caribbean countries.” The location was selected before my arrival to Atlas by then VP Robert Tefry. I visited the country before to seek support and visit with Delroy Lindsay, head at the time of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ). Antony Fisher began sending letters to identify candidates to start an institute in Jamaica the year Atlas was founded, 1981. Three decades have passed, and Atlas still does not have a strong ally in the country. Arthur Shenfield, who at the time was John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Colorado School of Mines, made a correct forecast: “I am inclined to think that the job [starting a think tank in Jamaica] cannot be done until North and South America are so far forward on the right lines that their intellectual influence spills over into the Caribbean. For nearly 50 years the West Indians have been taught, first by British officials and then by their successors, that Government has the key to all problems.”

Nevertheless, Atlas landed in Jamaica and conducted a workshop which attracted a wonderful group of free society champions. Several have spent the last quarter century promoting important efforts in the Americas. Of those who are still with us and working with full strength I recall: Arturo Fontaine, who served as president of Centro de Estudios Públicos, in Chile, until 2013, and an award winning novelist; Eduardo Marty, who later became an Atlas and I.H.S. fellow and founder of Junior Achievement in Argentina; Lucy Martinez Mont, from Guatemala, who currently leads Universidad Francisco Marroquin’s Liberty Fund partnership program; Alberto Benegas Lynch Jr., active writer and educator; Rolando Espinosa, from México, head of an academic think tank; Jesús Eduardo Rodríguez, noted Venezuelan free market champion an intellectual entrepreneur; Marcos Victorica, from Argentina; and Nancy Truitt, from Tinker Foundation and at the time working for Hernando de Soto’s ILD. Star speakers included Michael Walker (Fraser Institute), Dr. Walter Williams, and Dr. Gordon Tullock. CIPE sent Howard Wallack, and a delegation from Colombia (Tito Livio Caldas and Hernán Echavarria Olózaga) which soon later founded ICP, and a group from FUSADES think tank in El Salvador.

Another participant was Stan Marshall, who started the James Madison Institute, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Several of those who attended worked for freedom and free enterprise until their death including: Donald Stewart, Jr. from Brazil; Ricardo Zinn, from Argentina; and Alberto Di Mare, from Costa Rica.

During that event I led a session on the use of computers to communicate information. Borut Prah, a former executive at IBM, who I met thanks to Antony Fisher, thought that the PROFS software could help increase the efficiency and efforts of Atlas. He lent me the proprietary slides used by IBM to promote the product which was already in use at the White House and other government agencies. Borut Prah, a native of Slovenia, and his wife Nadine became major supporters of Atlas work. I believe that this was the first time that an organization promoted the use of the internet for think tanks.

The major donor for the event was the Smith Richardson Foundation. Devon Gaffney (Cross), was a senior program officer at the time. She is the sister of Frank Gaffney, a think tank leader in the security area. Walter Williams, who became acquainted with Atlas Latin American outreach at that meeting, later introduced Atlas to Gordon StAngelo, of the Lilly Endowment. The Lilly Endowment became a large donor of Atlas. It is still the foundation that donated more to Atlas throughout our history. They help fund Atlas Latin American programs. We are still benefiting from the fruits of that first workshop, and still hoping that we will see an active think tank emerge in Jamaica.