June 28, 2008.
Today we went to town of Nueva Italia. We went to visit the Municipality there and meet the town mayor. The best way to explain the set up of a Municipality here in Paraguay can be explained as: The Mayor holds basically all the power. The only check on the mayor’s power is the Junta that has to approve all of his work. However, the Junta cannot create any type of project. Their only role is to approve the Mayor’s proposals or reject his proposals. The Junta is usually split between the two national political parties. They junta also usually reflects the political party of the town in which it resides. If the town is split between the two parties, the junta will be split to reflect the representation of the town.
Well today, we went to the Municipality in Nueva Italia. We had the opportunity to listen observe the Junta in session and listen to them discuss the issues of their town. After that, we were allowed to review all of the requests (pedidos) for funds of projects. The way it works, if you want to money for a project you have to gather support by creating a neighborhood commission (comsion vecinal) and formally present all of the details of your project and then you can request the money. There are hundreds of neighborhood commissions and there is never enough money to go around. So today 6 of us reviewed all of the pedidos and we decided which ones would be approved. It was interesting to see what the people were requesting. The sad thing was that rarely anyone request money for capital expenses. All of the money was for immediate benefit or consumption. For example, no one requested money for a tractor in order to be able to farm a piece of land for the next 10 years. Instead, people were request money to pay for a man to come and spray their crops. These kind of projects we didn’t approve. Why? Because next year, they are gonna be looking for this money again. They type of projects we wanted were ones, that might have brought a guy in to teach that area different ways to protect their crops from pests, or teach them how to spray their own crops. Either of these aforementioned ideas would help the group to be better prepared and more independent from help from the outside. It was an interesting day. We learned a lot and I think, our work will be very similar to this when we go out to our sites. Another job we might do at our sites, would be to go out to these specific communities who are requesting money and help teach them on how to prepare and better pedido (request) in order to help them get the funding approved, by helping them to understand that sustainability and independence will help the municipality be more likely to approve their request. The way things are set up now, the people continue to deal with the same problems year after year (like pests eating up all their crops) and the only way they solve it is waiting for the municipality to come and give them some money to spray their crops. On too many occasions there crop harvest is little or nothing because they wait for someone to come and do it for them.