Alejandro: Well thank you very much for the time and for trying … for being able to solve this. Ok, and can you hear me well?
Soledad: Yes, great.
Alejandro: Great, then thanks for the time and I have one question, how can we Spanish, can we speak English does not matter to me?
Soledad: Look, I prefer Spanish, because I’m eh… It’s going to be a more fluid conversation than in English, maybe we could …
Alejandro: Perfect let’s do it
Soledad: Maybe we could try in some other opportunity, if it’s going to be an interview more …
Alejandro: Quiet no matter what we do in Spanish. Well thanks again and if you want we can, I usually start this with two questions that are always the same. What normally in the morning which is what you do to start the day with, now it’s up to me to practice Spanish hahaha
Alejandro: Start the day with the mentality
Solitude: Change the chip
Alejandro: If I have to change it. Start the day, which is what you do in the morning to start the day eh … to keep a thought, a clear mind, how do you say?
?Soledad: Yes, I eat … well, if I do not speak it directly to Spanish, but I understand the question.
Alejandro: When you start the day, what do you do to make sure you’re thinking how you should think, and calm down and how it gives you a good place to start the day? Soledad: Well, the truth is that in the mornings I’m not going around a lot, I get out of bed, I drink tea, and I go out to the corridas and I’m in the street. I am very practical in that sense I am not one of those who take time to have breakfast and do everything slowly, in the morning I tend to be very quick, it is more accepted that I have an error, something to improve that I do not have breakfast, and that really I think it’s not good for daily habits but good I go out I have a tea, I’m a tea fanatic, and that gives me the energy to face the day.
Alejandro: ok, very good, and then the next time you have lunch, for me when you say you do not eat breakfast, I almost do not understand it, because I eat every 10 minutes, haha, wow great. Tell me a little about your youth, where was it that you were born? Where did you grow up? How did the community look? And, we can start there.
Soledad: Yes, I was born in Asunción, which is the capital of Paraguay, a small city compared to the rest of the Latin American capital cities. Asunción has a little more than 800,000 inhabitants, a very calm city, it does not have the noise of a San Pablo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City or Bogotá, a city that almost all of us know, in the sense that you always know someone who is interconnected with your first Asunción ring is very small, it is a very green city, it is in contact with the river, a flat city we do not have mountains, where the people are very hospitable, where one finds kindness in the streets, and good I grew up in that environment of small city, in that environment of friendly city, of friendly city and my childhood was loaded with a lot of dynamism and of activities, os my parents were to go out always going to the interior on the weekends, we had contact with nature, we went to the river to walk, to the Chaco that is the most unpopulated area of ??Paraguay to take contact with the fauna, with the flora and that was my childhood as an adventurer, was not it? I wanted to make contact and go out to Asunción, that is, despite having been born in a capital city, I was never a girl from the capital city of being locked in her bubble, but I had a lot of contact with the interior of the country, also in my time of teenager, as a young girl
Alejandro: And doing this has helped you to maintain a love of nature because it seems that they went out a lot to the outskirts
Soledad: Yes, if I believe that this is the origin of, or from that time, my appreciation of nature is born, the truth that to this day I believe that nature helps us to understand our size within the universe, when one has the possibility of appreciating things that are wonderful, from the simple birth of a tree, the growth of a plant, spring with flowers, to the imposing that one can see in the rivers, in the mountains, all that strength in nature , who shows us every day, no?
Alejandro: And how big was the family, you had, you have brothers, sisters?
Soledad: Small family, I am the oldest of two sisters, my father is the only man in the family, in the sense that he is surrounded by women
Alejandro: How complicated.
Soledad: My mother, the two daughters, and I also have two nieces, that is, my dad is really the only man in the family, so I grew up in a family of women
Alejandro: And he wanted a man sometime or was not he? because many times I always see what happens, that when the pope wants a son, he has four daughters and he forgets that he wanted a son.
Soledad: We always made jokes with my sister, from small, but he always answered that for him the important thing was that we could be born healthy, that we enjoy life, that we grow well, and that he did not feel that he did not feel he wanted to have a male son, bone that really was very grateful to both, I do not know if it was that pure chamuyo, if it was really true, we always made jokes, the truth that my dad took care of us, raised us as women, brave, independent I think a of the most positive things that I recognize from the education of my parents? It is giving me all the support to make my own decisions, so that I understand, the responsibility of my actions, that I can take care of what I have been, and they educated me in freedom in that sense, that is always to pursue my dreams and encouraging me at all times in life
Alejandro: And what were your parents doing? What did they do at that moment?
Soledad: Yes, my parents were always involved with the private sector, they have a small international trade company, my father was always linked in that environment, and since I was very young they instilled in me all the culture of work, of accompanying, remembering small undertakings during my summer vacation, winter, to learn daily things they do in the workplace, and I think that was forging my skills, my character, throughout this stage of growth as one goes knowing the world and absorbs many things, right?
Alejandro: And they were entrepreneurs? Did they own their own company?
Alejandro: Oh yes, and what were they? I did not understand you very well
Soledad: A company in the international trade sector, handling curiel loads? all that implies logistics in international terms, that is, they had the representation of an American company in Paraguay and from that moment on they were growing, and they were also connecting to other networks within the entire international trade sector.
Alejandro: And at that moment, seeing that and having the experience of seeing your parents with this company, did you get some ideas that soon in the future this was what you wanted to do or was it always completely different?
Soledad: No, I always project my professional career towards the private sector, I never imagined working with the public sector, since I was a little girl they told me that I was going to be an architect, because I loved to assemble, disarm things, I made plans since I was 10, 11 years, without knowing what that was, but I began to draw little plans, that made the house in the tree, that houses anywhere, then adults always try to condition the children, and guess what their future will be professional, then in that sense, is that I always listened to my uncles, my aunts, my parents, tell me that I was going to be an architect, so much so that at school I chose to specialize the last three years of high school, or specialize in Baccalaureate in technical as in graphic design, in art history, because in the vocational tests had come out that that was my way, and I think that having studied these subjects, made me realize that in truth, I liked science much more Hard that creativity, it was good, I loved projecting, I loved drawing, but I felt a greater attraction to mathematics, to physics, to hard sciences, and take the deed to the last year of pursuing engineering civil, until now I remember the moment, had inspired me in some news from the Paraguayan press, which said that Paraguay was the most backward country in kilometers of paved roads in all the continent, that caught my attention, and at that moment I thought that I was going to dedicate myself to road engineering, as a branch of civil engineering, I completely changed course when I was transiting the race, in university time, but at that moment , it was one of the reasons, and I changed overnight, I woke up one day and I told my mom, dad I want to continue civil engineering, I enrolled in the course and I started studying to enter the National University of Asuncion, where the income was very difficult, only a little over a hundred students enter each year, and there are more than a thousand applicants, and also a career that is conceived by society, as a career for men, in more than 90% of the students at that time they were men, women followed more architecture, and men were engineers, then it was to challenge that stereotype that was installed in society, in my promotion we entered eight women, and one hundred men, that was the promotion .
Alejandro: Eight women, and one hundred men, wow
Soledad: I really liked engineering, I learned a lot in college, but we had, say, as we were few women, to fight against a concept that is installed, and I always tell as an anecdote that I even had to have a professor at the university that said that women were not cast to be Engineers.
Alejandro: Oh god ..
Soledad: That women had to be like in the kitchen, towards jokes, not jokes, jokes come …
?Soledad: Generally these ideas are reinforced by a machista conception that is badly installed, still in Latin America, and in other parts of the world as well, and it is a challenge that we also have and that I take it as a challenge, and always I tell women when someone tries to tell them that they will not be able to achieve something, they will not feel less, on the contrary, take that as an impulse, as a force, to really demonstrate that being a man, or being a woman, is not It should be a differentiator of the abilities we have to face the challenges, which we have in mind, so I take that challenge, and finish the race not only in the stipulated five years, but with the best grade of the entire promotion. Moving away: Great! Soledad: It was also a personal way of demonstrating, of responding to those barriers that I felt at that moment, during my university days.
Alejandro: At that time, at that time, was there anyone outside the family who, at that time, could be outside the university, which was, as they say, a mentor?
Soledad: As a mentor, Yes, the truth that a professor of mine in the university for me was key, was a teacher of material resistance that as one of the most complicated subjects of the race that at the end of the second year when I pass the subject he He invited me to be part of the chair, there I began to know the teaching, I taught for more than seven years that subject in the university, and that teacher for me was an example of a teacher committed to teaching in the university, which was a good inspiration and a good mentor for me at that moment, and like him, during my career I was knowing, I think, that life put the right people on my path, from whom I could learn a lot, my first bosses of one of the builders where I work, they were two really exemplary people, who helped me a lot also to forge the character also in the professional field, and I learned a lot from them, I think that in the end we are all the product of the people we are getting to know and we must always be open to learn something from the ones next to us and that was always my attitude in life, and I think that today I would not be the person I am, if not for all the people I could meet and helped me at a certain moment in my life to grow not only academically, personally, spiritually, but also in all dimensions that human beings have.
Alejandro: When you got out of college, did you just mention that it was those two your first bosses, in that construction company that was that company, was the first you went after college?
Alejandro: What was his name, and what was it?
Soledad: It was my first job, the company was called “Thesis and industrial technologies in construction?” and I arrived there like any young person looking for work in the labor market, I was 23, 24 years old, and I find these two people really full of values, who ran some of the most important companies in the country with a very clear vision , with a mission, and they were quickly giving me confidence and responsibility, despite my young age, I grew professionally in a very short time, I remember that I told my bosses from the beginning that I wanted to be on the ground, I do not I wanted to be a desktop engineer, I did not like to be calculating in front of the computer or doing metric calculations, or making budgetary estimates, I would like to direct a work that, also, is usually a difference between men and women, women are much more in the office, men much more on the ground, then also overcome that stereotype, I said no to me I like the contact with the be able to organize the work schemes, to transform some to teach one of the largest settlements in Asunción, then in the university, one when he is young, he does not easily find the answers to all the questions, but if you ask many questions, I think that is something very important for youth be questioning everything, all the time, well I was a young woman worried in that sense, I questioned what was my role as a university, in a country where only 4% of the population has access to a tertiary education, I questioned the opportunities to which I had access, simply because of the place where I was born, I questioned, if what I was doing was really enough, if what would have to be my professional career was a lot of questions without answers at the time but then what I was connecting with the search for this purpose in life that for me today is super clear, today I know that in the place that I am, in the place where I am, I want to take actions that have an impact on my community, society, I want to be an element and a tool so that we can all live in a better place, to be able to influence if one cannot change the world, but to be able to influence the small environment where one found and my commitment was growing in that sense, it was the university ceiling a chapter in my life a Techo for my country that I always say was one of the best masters that I have to have the proper education of work with people in the most vulnerable.
Alejandro: What was the Techo? You can describe about the organization and what the mission was.
Soledad: Yes, well Techo is a Latin American youth organization that seeks to transform the reality of precarious settlements, through involvement and all youth and through an intervention model, where houses are built, emergency, as a first step together with the most vulnerable populations in the different countries of Latin America, and I had known Techo when I was in college at the invitation of a friend who was in Chile and spend all my summer and winter vacations, when I was 20, 21 years old, building near the Andes mountain range, and also in the northern zone of Chile, in the desert, emergency housing, with families living in poverty, and in the meantime, I discovered, a Techo for me country, a Techo, I had the intention of growing in Latin America, opening offices in other countries, and so a ceiling arrives in Paraguay, and after the first year of implementation, I propose to assume the executive direction of the NGO in Paraguay.
Alejandro: Where did Techo begin?
Soledad: Techo (Roof) started in Chile.
Alejandro: Then it was Chile, and then you went to Chile, during the summers, during the times you had to go to support When you were there, in what way was it that someone young from the university could support?
Soledad: Well, when I go to Chile, we go with a group of fellow students from the National University of Asunción, six engineering students, and we also connect with many other young people from different parts of the region, I still remember that there was a group of Colombians, there were Panamanians, there were Brazilians, and what always struck me as a Techotop, in its regional context, was that we could meet anywhere in the region, and I had to work in favelas in Brazil. In the displaced camps of Bogotá, I was touring the slums in Argentina, and it did not matter the context, or the geographical location, the settlement, we were young, we had different backgrounds, we told different stories, maybe, different aspirations, but we united something that was the recognition that this reality should not exist in an extremely rich region like our Latin America region, united us the intention to do something to respect, to say we do not want to be just young people outraged by something, but we stayed behind the keyboard, or we have a passive denouncement attitude, if not we want to do something to change this reality, and that invited us to go all the ends week, every week to work with the families of the settlements to build a better future, and one was involved much more with the reality of poverty in our countries, recognizing that poverty is nothing but an absence of opportunities for more than that, sometimes we associate it with a lot of prejudices, I hear many times in our society that the poor are poor because they want to be, or because they do not work, because …, in truth, one is going to find people of that type in all socioeconomic sectors, in their countries, both families in poverty situation, as families that had greater acquisition capacity say economic, then one is in a the equality of horizontality and there begins to engage much more with social issues, at least it was my life experience in that sense, to recognize in the field work that I had to do something about it, I felt I could not just ignore that reality, or wash my hands or say that it is something I do not incube, or say that someone else takes charge, as all the challenges we have in our country, it seems that sometimes we want to wait for someone to come a messiah and that Solve everything, we do not realize that we can really be actors that really make a difference.
Alejandro: When you were in Chile, or when you went to Brazil in the favelas, what did you notice … there is something in those experiences being there, seeing the population, talking to the community, that you realized, that we are not very different, or that suddenly if it is very different in the way how this type of community lives day to day are some things that you realized within those experiences that helped you understand a little more about poverty?
Soledad: And, in the moments that we built the houses in emergency, there was always a special moment, during that process, created during lunch, we all sat down to eat at the same table, the volunteers, and the families with whom we were working, and there was always a conversational conversation like any other one that you would have with your family on a Sunday, which you would have with your family any day of the week. And those moments for me were very inspiring in the sense of connecting with the other family, not in a vertical plane, as saying I come here to give something, or give something, if not find you, or connect in a much more horizontal space , where we all recognize ourselves as part of our community, and there always flourished a lot of conversations, where we shared dreams, we realized that we had the same dreams, where we talked about the country we want and we had the same values, we planned the same, and those were the moments where one could visualize or feel really the same, despite the differences one may have.
Alejandro: How long are you working? How often…
Soledad: I spent 4 years as an executive director in Paraguay, it was not easy to make the decision to enter the NGO, because sometimes, there are also many prejudices, associated with the civil society sector, especially when, if a person is ambitious in her profession, normally and I pass, there were people who told me that my career was not going to grow if I entered the civil society sector, that I had to keep growing within the private sector, that I had to plan to have my company construction, which was not going to be successful, if it was going to work for a volunteer organization, because volunteering, also is not very valued in society one sees it as a good-hearted activity, which one does when he has a surplus time, it would seem that what is not monetized has no value, then to be able to work in all that reconversion of the deepest sense for progress or development in the society of volunteering was also super challenging, also serve the civil society sector as a tool to influence public policy, to contribute to the guidance of the public, this allowed me to connect much more also with the government, in the sense of being more informed, having to be more informed, to understand that the public is not the foreign, to understand that the public belongs to everyone, they are concepts that were handled during or personally I was managing it during my transit through the civil society sector by the NGO sector and particularly on the Techo.
Alejandro: When you started directing a Techo in Paraguay, they gave you a team, you did not have any resources, you knew what the mission was, and it is starting from scratch, as it was the thing, knowing that you are directing something …
Soledad: Sure, I jump out of the private sector, I travel a year to study, outside I was at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, studying a specialization in Project Management, Management and Management of construction projects, at that time, I get the offer of the NGO, to return to Paraguay, I without thinking twice I make the decision to return, that’s when I receive all these concepts from people who told me no, that I was going to truncate my professional career, that I was returning after studying outside, that because I was going to enter the NGO sector, but I felt deep in my heart that my place was there, it was what I wanted to do, I wanted to be able to dedicate my profession to the social, I found in a Techo for my country a way to do, the challenge was to grow the organization in Paraguay there was nothing we were two people who were full time, we had the mission, we had the vision and we had to get the funds, we had to assemble the structure we had to mobilize the volunteers we had to identify the families we were going to work with, starting from scratch, but I have to say that I’m not afraid of that kind of challenge I’m passionate about and I really like everything what has to do with assembling teams, with starting things from scratch, with creating, with innovating, with proposing, and that was the Techo at that time, and also coinciding with a very specific country moment, also in the sense of that there were not many organizations for young people at that time, more than ten years ago so we had to make our way in the … ???? Begin to summon to captivate minds the hearts of young university students to have a strength that has a voice, and that allows to give visibility to a problem in Paraguay that affected us and continues to affect us all, that was my stage of social activism, from the sector of civil society, and that I am deeply grateful because today I would not be the person I am if it had not been for that stage of my life.
Alejandro: When you started the Techo, he gave you the mission … you said that it was your turn to find your own funds, as one does in Latin America, I am already pure American here in the United States and in this world it is very hard within the United States, where there is money that within the communities that do support there is a fervor of foundations, there is a rummage of things and it is still very hard to find this type of support financially. How did you do that in Paraguay?
Soledad: One of the most important activities was the great annual collection that was done in the streets in the month of youth we had a slogan that we said that the young people took the streets, that we left the settlement where we were working to invite society to join the great challenge we had to end poverty in our country, because the goal was so ambitious, I am one of those who believe that one has to consider goals that seem impossible, because if you look away really it gets to achieve things that are beyond the limits that you feel you have today. Then that day of collecting the country was transformed young people went to the streets felt solidarity, not only of individuals but also of different companies, the private sector that also assumed its role, and their commitment in that process and of course it was not easy the institution was growing, the first year when we had to build the first five, or the first ten homes, it seemed impossible, after a year we built one hundred weekend, we built two hundred homes in one weekend.
Soledad: We became the country that built the most per capita in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, the regional office in Chile, which is where the central office was, put Paraguay as a reference. Many times in conversations with countries like Mexico, Brazil where we ended up feeling a country that really aiming high achieved unimaginable things, and we came to work with more than four thousand families mobilizing more than fifteen thousand young people throughout the country opened offices in three other cities of the Inside were the main cities and it was an experience that showed me that if you can, my conviction was transformed by that transit into the Techo.
Alejandro: From that experience managing a Techo in Paraguay and doing everything you just said about supporting four thousand families, fifteen thousand people, what … and I know you should have a list of everything that was super difficult to solve but that is something inside the process of being able to run homes for people that is something that really always every time you are in the process when you are getting close to this part and you say u and this is going to be the hardest thing, always this part is the hardest to be able to solve what would that be? Was it funds, or was it material, or was it the relationships with the companies that do the construction or how was the thing?
Soledad: Nothing was ever easy and everything required a lot of effort and work to get the funds was not easy resources are always a constraint, but there were other challenges that should be, for example the process of building trust with the communities when we arrived with nothing, that is, to knock on doors and say we are from a Techo for my country and we came here to work with you, it involved a long and profound process having to selecting families, it was not a difficult task either … I say easy, having so much need with limited resources having to make the decision of what family to work with was very hard because sometimes you had a hundred families that the hundred were living in a vulnerable situation a dirt floor under a thatched Techo or sheet metal and you had resources for thirty and you had to choose thirty of film and that process was emotionally very strong for all the volunteers that were involved with that process and then always the taste challenge bitter of the one that comes after, of how to link the concrete actions from the civil society, with a process of construction of public policies in the long term, because replacing a precarious house for an emergency housing is achieved a very high impact on the quality of life of the family but poverty goes far beyond the need for a Techo, then how to reconcile all the other policies was like the challenge that comes next, and that taste of saying we did a lot but it is not enough and that was also very difficult with what we were dealing with day by day because we depended on other actors to guarantee that these families could really break that circle of poverty that had them trapped in it moment.
Alejandro: And after Ceiling, this was when President Cartes, chose you to be the Minister of how to say Housing and habitat …
Soledad: Housing and habitat.
Alejandro: The immediately after Ceiling there was when this happened?
Soledad: Yes, well I really leave Techo I go to the United States for a short program, some three, four months and when I return to Paraguay I receive the call at that time from the planning minister, I was in many civil society organizations , not only in Ceiling, but also activated in other boards, was linked to many networks I was part of a national team country strategy giving advice to the president of the republic for poverty reduction plans was one of the three young people who were inside that space that was built and coordinated by the planning ministry, the planning minister told me propose to join the ministry team to work and coordinate the poverty reduction plan at the national level and also work with the open government action plan that were all activities developed by different public institutions to fight corruption, to be more Transparent, to improve in the accountability, were two issues that I … Not only attracted me a lot, but even today are still two very important issues in my career, then there was the challenge of taking the decision if I wanted to enter the public world or not, talking with some people, seeing the conditions I, decide to contribute, is I spent less than five six months in the planning secretary, coordinating these projects when I received the president’s call to assume the ministry of housing and habitat, I had not started with the government, with the president, I did not know the president, I did not know anyone close to their environment, for me it was a tremendous surprise when he offered me the position in the sense of having to run an institution so sensitive to the reality of Paraguay, just 31 years old, it was not easy to make the decision when I consulted , because you always make these difficult decisions in life, consult them with people who are close to you.
Soledad: Bone not only with the relatives but I look for references of opinion, some journalists, some experts, mentors really a lot of people to know if I had to do it or not, incredibly no person recommended me to accept the proposal. Everyone…
Alejandro: Everyone said no
Soledad: Everyone told me no, that it was crazy, that I was very young that I had to wait longer, in addition to all the concepts that one has linked to politics, so politicians are going to use that politicians are going to want to take advantage of their work, that you will win enemies, that if you fight against corruption, you win enemies and that this was not a good thing, like a lot of excuses in that sense that were associated with the concept that we have towards public…
Alejandro: And ….. ah sorry … follow
Soledad: Not that in the depths of my being I felt it would be very incoherent to say that I did not go to myself and I saw a solitude that had been super active from civil society, which had always been critical towards the government, that always indicated how things had to be done, that was always in the bleachers, and that was for me the opportunity to enter to play the game and I asked the question will be that I will be so incoherent of simply out of fear, fear, for the unknown stay in my comfort zone choose the exit, or make the decision easier to remain a spectator, or I will have the courage to at least try, for me that was the key was to say I think it is worth it’s worth trying one can fail on the way, one can really find a bureaucracy, which is really impossible to transform, one can be confronted with the sectarian interests of the political parties, one can be seen … but for me the the risk was higher or when I analyzed the negative scenario, the positive scenario to make the decision finally said, the most negative scenario is that I really find hands tied or that someone really comes and wants to force me to do something I’m not willing, I I said resign if I do not owe anything to anyone, and I’m going to stay with the tranquility of having tried, that was my logic, the logic behind to accept this great challenge that was one of the biggest challenges in my life, and that Well, there is a whole story also in the four years that I have been running the Ministry of Housing and Habitat of Paraguay.
Alejandro: And there is an advantage in what you said that by not being in that public world or having so many relationships in that public world because it gave you the advantage of thinking as you thought it is if I do not like to resign.
Alejandro: That is not a career that has been planned since youth, that for the next fifty years I will be ministering this … It was not an opportunity that came very cool. Wow And so…
Soledad: Of course because for me Alejandro was very clear that my commitment was to the cause, that is, my commitment was not with the position, until today I have it very clear I have a cause that I pursue that is the cause to be able to really live in a better society and that means to be able to improve the conditions of the most vulnerable in society, to be able to guarantee that opportunities are available to everyone, and a series of issues more linked to social issues so for me the attractiveness was not the bone charge my aspiration was not to sit in the minister’s chair was not to have the title, to minister my career was not for power, but to understand politics in its purest essence as the pursuit of the common good that is what that many times was already lost when we discussed and talked about politics at a global level, not only at a regional level, we associate politics with other things, and in truth politics, its purest essence is the search for common good and be able to really put yourself at the service of others, at the service of the community.
Alejandro: Now as a minister who was in you are the youngest in history, I do not know how many, … I have no idea how many women have had that responsibility and now that you say, saying you arrived, first day and now you say follow a plan that someone gave you or was you started again trying to understand what it was to do, or you already had an idea because you’ve been doing that for a long time.
Soledad: Of course, I came to the Ministry of Housing and had an advantage that was the fact that I knew very well the reality of the settlements, that is, I knew where the people who needed housing were that they had to be part of the public programs of social housing, and that allowed me to make very quick decisions to be able to at least reorient policies in the short term while working on the development of a strategic plan, a national housing and habitat policy that we developed the first policy to nationally level other things and we challenged the paradigms that were installed I was the first woman to assume the ministry of housing with 31 years, breaking the traditional stereotype of minister in the Paraguayan society but that also allowed us to give a little freshness to the ministry, for me it was very important to have the center in the agenda, the transformation with a management oriented in people for inside and for outside, in which people are always in the center and that gave us a different face to the institution.
Soledad: Excuse me, I’m running out … This you can then cut and edit, right?
Alejandro: Yes …
Soledad: Because I’m running out of battery.
Alejandro: You’re running out of battery, give me a second while you put this …
1:20:25 at 1:21:40 Silence.
Alejandro: Ready, I have a dog that was next to the door and …
Soledad: Sorry …
Alejandro: That I have a dog that is next to the door trying to enter …
Soledad: I also now went to connect there.
Alejandro: Ok, Well and being there was one of the projects, or one of the most important priorities when you started, and you knew you had a little time and I want to be able to execute this in the most efficient way possible.
Soledad: Well there was, from the beginning, we had the challenge of rebuilding that institution there was a particularity, that the housing ministry in public opinion associated as one of the most corrupt and inefficient institutions in the entire state apparatus, then we had to strengthen it in all aspects, in the fight against corruption was one of the priority points the strengthening processes, macro processes, with all internal transformations, logically and also deliver results, which is what people want and there again we set goals We had super ambitious, the institution had not delivered more than three thousand, three thousand five hundred homes in the previous period, we set a goal to reach more than thirty thousand families, multiply by ten.
Soledad: It was a huge challenge and at first nobody believed that it was going to be possible, but I remember the resistances we had inside the officials who believed that it was not possible to achieve that, I remember what the public opinion said, the headlines of the newspapers even some private media that said that the government was not going to be able to deliver more than five thousand homes in the whole period, the opinion that there was from outside as well, it seemed like a machine to prevent things and that is natural, this usually happens I always I make the analogy with life itself many times when one sets out to do something, those external voices start to tell you that it’s going to be difficult that you will not be able to, that I do not know what, and a lot of things, and the secret is always try to do it, be encouraged and leave behind those fears and also ignore those voices, which sometimes do not prevent the achievement of objectives, and so we went through the first year, the second year, the third year, and we got to work with more than thirty-seven thousand families left at the end of the period of government thirty thousand homes, culminated, in the phase of completion, and another seven thousand in execution, a huge universe was something that at first seemed impossible today is there and today is not only part of history but also marks a north because the successive administrations are forced to perform or have a productivity that is consistent with what was done, because society will not tolerate anything different, and so one It is forging changes and one is leaving a legacy that was very important for me and from the personal I came back to believe that things can change, based on our experience, based on my experience in particular, but I remember those first days , I started that process with a lot of skepticism, I started that process with a lot of disbelief, I did not know what I was going to find I did not know if we were going to have the capacity as a team to make the Institution works, and today I realize that yes, sometimes, the most difficult things if they can be achieved, involves a lot of work, there are many frustrations, there are also many things that I would have liked to achieve that we could not achieve, that is part of the day to day, but I summarise in two words this .. What I take this experience, I take a lot of hope looking for the future and close with a much stronger commitment to my country and the cause I pursue.
Alejandro: First of all congratulations, yes, those numbers that you are saying are impressive, the support you could bring to your people and your country, when you came in, you could choose your team or it was the one that was there, it was the one that was already in your team and from there start.
Soledad: The … the management of human talent is key for any organisation and for every institution, and with that in mind we began to work with a strategy to strengthen human resources, taking into account the officials who were and the new ones additions that we made through, or the merit contests, or service commissions from other public institutions to the housing ministry or the selection of the trust position that are minor, that is, I have the freedom based on the law to form a team, but as a small team, which as I always told all officials ten, twelve people can not transform an institution of seven hundred public officials, if here we really do not all reconnect with the mission, if we can not all get on the boat and pushing him to take it in the same direction is very difficult to achieve things, and I found a lot of old officials who barely… we have to work to reactivate that motivation and that they were essential pieces to achieve what we achieved, much a process of professionalization also, of incorporation of new talents, the first merit contests were a success from that point, and it was to combine both, the experience of the old, of the old, of what was, with that creativity and that desire to innovate of the new ones that were added to the team, and in that combination we achieved that the institution can reach the results that came challenging the paradigms that were installed in society.
Alejandro: What obstacle is there normally for this type of department? Paraguay does not matter in any country, any person who has that type of charge usually what you think contributes to many times that is not efficient or can not reach the numbers, because what numbers you said and what the country was already adjusted to soon be able to run that type of department, they are like day and night.
Alejandro: Then how was it like it is for someone in the future or stop people listening and are interested in this world like other countries have a lot of problems with that and others do more with that, and others do better than others, what you find talked about corruption, there are about a million factors, or there are usually two or three things that if they are not there, they can not serve.
Soledad: There are many things I believe that particularly in Latin America the fight against corruption has to be frontal from the public sector, and it has to be zero tolerance, that for us was clear, we dismantled, two corrupt structures that were installed in the institution for more than twenty, twenty-five years.
Soledad: We came to make hidden cameras, dismissed officials, opened investigations, made complaints to the prosecution that meant, a lot of things, threats of fear, threats come and go, but the satisfaction of doing the right thing is priceless is actually doing what one has to do from the place where it is, and that helped to strengthen the trust with the different actors that were involved with public policy not only with the media or the construction companies and the unions, but also with the communities local governments and see little by little an institution that is striving to fulfill the mission it has, and that for me, is in line with the actions that one dye to take is to be clear about the raison d’être of the institution, that is because we are there, that we We had this in mind every day and we repeated it every morning when we started and each team had it stuck in their offices. When reconnecting the public official, with the mission and why it is there, it was important to have the strength that one needs to achieve the objectives that are proposed, overcome the bureaucracy and overcome the inertia is not easy public sector, is usually recognized as a hostile environment for innovation, for creativity, but that does not mean it is impossible perhaps the rhythms are different to the private sector , they are different from the civil society sector, but one can also generate internal projects that generate disruption and help accelerate the processes in order to have an institution which will provide more answers to people from the public and I would tell all public administrators, all public servants, policy makers who are jumping from other sectors, that we must find a way to overcome this resistance barrier or that barrier of frustration, which one can feel when he begins to work in the public sector where it would seem at times that everything is against you, you have that feeling in a moment, but you have to keep the focus, know why one is in the place where it is and with that firm view to go ahead and no, not to falter in the process, to stay firm and never give to twist the principles, never give to twist those ideals that one can have them very clear.
Alejandro: And you finished this position and now you immediately went to Oxford to study Master of Public Policy, so you imagine that being and being able to do so much you could do a lot of things and affect a lot of people positively and now go back to school I’ll tell you that I know I’m going back to school and I still imagine myself learning more about this world.
Soledad: Well as many of the decisions of my life I took it very quickly and following my heart and what I felt was what I had to do at that moment, I wanted to continue growing academically to improve or have more tools to be able to serve better to my country, to be able to better serve society, my training was always merely technical, engineering, Project Management, very executing to be in front of the battle to run from one place to another, to be very active in that sense, and the social sciences always attracted me in some way general culture one always has on these issues depends on whether one reads, that one is informed, but philosophy, or political science, or economics, one can learn great traits but It is different to be in the university and be able to expand the knowledge one has and the world view from another perspective and that was mainly what motivated me to return to the university, although it had in the professional job offers, had a lot of incentive not to do it but …
Alejandro: It seems you always follow what they say no.
Soledad: Always, it is more in the first class of economics where we discuss rational choice, rational decisions that one takes in life, I could catalog the four most important decisions in my life today that take all four have a common denominator in the four moments the voices I had from the outside, people told me that I do not do what I end up doing, in all cases it seemed that it was not the best for my professional career, and in all four cases I felt very difficult to explain put it into words but it is what finally moves you, what you … The impulse that leads one to make decisions I felt inside me that was what I needed to do and when I tell this is not that, I always say no is that I want to make an apology to be rebellious or nothing to not listen to what others tell you but also to do a little case to what your heart dictates from within, and today being here and having finished the After a period of about five months of returning to Paraguay, I feel that it was the right decision. Today I learned a lot, I think I grew academically in many ways, we had good classes, the master’s degree in politics is unique, it covers a very broad spectrum, a content not only economics, political philosophy, science, politics, laws, law, evidence, but it also gives you the opportunity to connect with a lot of people who are doing fabulous things in their countries and one learns the experience, learns the process, connects with others and also ends up being a moment of personal reflection, after that madness to be in the public eye, from a position as important as the one I had, one feels that, one can come to feel that one is leaving as a little bit, because it is difficult, it is not easy to be in a position like that where one feels that it is under scrutiny all the time that is also never enough what one does we got to work with thirty-seven thousand families but there are more than a hundred thousand, more than two hundred thousand that need a house, that sens I am glad to be working for yesterday, it is very heavy, and one sleeps a little, one suffers a lot and I do not complain because I believe that … and I always knew that it came with the charge that was part of a small sacrifice when one believes in something, I do not say complaining simply by telling part of the reality, what it implies and how difficult it is to be taking a position with that then, I think this period also from the personal to me helped me to recharge my energies, to reconnect with myself to perhaps heal all those little hurts, that one can leave after a battle like being in the public sector in that way ..
Alejandro: I imagine.
Soledad: And take more strength but … being also a better person in the sense of acquiring more and better tools to put them at the service of associate and one can study thousands of things, and it is true that the study is not everything, we can fill us with titles and hang all the titles on the wall, but we can misuse that knowledge we are acquiring, and for me the question is always, well, what am I studying for? Because I’m studying? What do I want to do next with this? and all those questions I think that in an environment like this one goes … it is responding more clearly and at the same time allows all this that I told about my previous career, in the civil society sector, in the company private, in the university, that the concepts are molded a little or reinforcing, in the sense of having more clarity and … gaining that strength for what comes later.
Alejandro: And what comes next?
Soledad: That’s the million-dollar question, I do not have a definite path of what I’m going to do when I return to Paraguay. I have many ideas, many things I want to do as Alejandro told you at the beginning, for sure where I’m going to be linked to the cause that moves me, that excites me, that motivates me trying to remain linked to the public sector, if not with a position, not with a position necessarily, one can collaborate from the creation of thought centers, the university, the private sector, what … if I am clear that I would not like to be a citizen who disconnects from the public because we all need to contribute if we want things to change, we live in societies that have ways of self-governing and governments , today they have an enormous weight in defining the future of society, if we disengage from the government we finally leave the field free so that many of the positions and posts, or decisions are taken by who maybe They have other interests that are not those of the common good, so that for me is very clear I do not want to be a citizen disconnected from that, and now the concrete thing that is what I am going to be doing I am going to define it in the next months I have until August , that I return to Paraguay to have clearer that panorama but with much desire to come back, I am enjoying this moment to the fullest, but I am looking forward to the moment of being in …..
Alejandro: Return home.
Soledad: Return to the battlefield for my serious.
Alejandro: Wow, great, spectacular, because I want to thank you with all my heart for really being able to give the time, to be able to tell your life stories, the decisions you have made and where they have taken you, and there is something more than anything you want to share that does not ask you, what would you like to say, if it does not matter, just in case …
Soledad: No, no … maybe just encourage those who listen to the interview to take action on our reality to be able to transform it, do not stay still waiting for that future to come, that miracle that will change everything at night to the morning and that we do not expect that in this process, to get involved, to work together, we all think the same, I believe that the great challenge that we have today in humanity is to learn to understand our differences, to be able to forge a better future, and that implies not only a self-knowledge, to recognize which are our own … [inaudible 1:44:53], what are our own prejudices our own biases that we have, but also to be able to be empathic to understand where the other is talking to us and that we focus on that shared thing, in the same way that we have to be able to improve, I think there is a commitment that we have from generation to generation that is being able to leave the world a little better than what We find, I think that at least that is one of the feelings of life, and to do that in order to forge a better future to be able to leave something better, to our children, to those who come behind we have to be able to navigate our differences and I think that is, in a world as polarized as today, I think it is a huge challenge that we have as humanity.
Alejandro: 100% agree, spectacular, it is always inspiring to be able to talk to someone like you who is thinking in that way, and is thinking like that and sharing those kinds of thoughts, which help others to be able to ask themselves in their future and in how they They want to contribute within their communities and it all starts in the questions, and in the ways that one looks at things, then very nice to be able to have the chance to talk to you, and I thank you for everything for the time.