Minnesota CU Reps Offer Input To Paraguay's CUs

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Bill Raker, chairman of the Minnesota CU Network and president of US FCU, has retuned from a week-long conference hosted by Paraguay's credit unions in Ascension. The meeting was hosted by the Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional (CENCOPAN).

MnCUN and CENCOPAN have been working together for the past two years and signed a formal World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) "Partnership Program" agreement in May of 2004.

The meeting was the second international conference that Raker and translator Victor Corro, WOCCU Program Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean, have attended in Paraguay. They also attended the conference and spoke in 2004.

"It is an honor to be able to be the symbol and the spokesperson for credit unions in Minnesota and in the U.S. as we develop and enhance this partnership that we have with Paraguay," Raker said. "The people in Paraguay, especially the credit union leaders, are very anxious to have U.S. people participate with them because it raises their visibility and allows them to learn from our experiences," said Raker.

According to the MnCUN, the partnership has made much progress over the past year, working to achieve its various goals. In May of 2004 the organizations chose three areas on which to focus the initial partnership efforts-legislation and lobbying, developing relationships with regulators, and technology. In September, a group of Paraguayans attended a Minnesota Hike the Hill visit in Washington, D.C., and in October, a technology specialist from Postal Credit Union performed a technology assessment on various credit unions in Paraguay.

Raker addressed the 400 attendees at the international conference on June 3 and outlined the findings of the technology assessment, discussed the challenges that credit unions face, and made recommendations on acquiring affordable technology and creating a network infrastructure.

"It may be easier to find reasons why [technological improvements] can't be done than it is to commit to doing what must be done, but the only eventual choice is to do it," Raker told the Paraguayan conference attendees before strongly encouraging cooperation among credit unions in the implementation of technology.

Representatives from CENCOPAN told Corro they would "seriously consider" Raker's suggestion to form a technology council. "It is a very innovative idea, especially to include credit unions of all sizes so that everyone has an equal voice," said the World Council's Victor Corro.

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