Closing of NGO Liaison Department elicits mixed response
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
More than 130 nonprofit organizations are registered with the municipal government in San Miguel. Following the incoming mayor’s announcement that the NGO Liaison Department will be disbanded during his administration, several responses have emerged. Some members of organizations have even started circulating an electronic letter in support of retaining that department, which according to its director, Irma Rosado, “has surpassed its goals.”
NGO Liaison Department
The NGO Liaison Department was created at the beginning of Luz María Núñez’s administration in October 2009. It was set up “because it is a citizens’ government, and one of its main goals was the construction of citizenship through work with nonprofit organizations, which take care of those most in need,” commented Rosado. She also said that “for the first time, a local government had the vision of working with the NGOs in order to cause a greater impact within the society.” Rosado said that the benefit was not for the government or for the organizations, but for the citizens. The director also made it clear that she is not directing the department because she is the mayor’s friend, but because of her experience. “I have been working 35 years as an advisor on social development. I launched social programs targeted to women and children in the streets in several countries. I have worked for the Royal Tropic Institute, The Pan-American Association of Health and also for the World Health Organization. I pioneered HIV programs in Mexico and was the first to initiate a program to assist infected people,” she said.
Closing of the department
On August 29, Mauricio Trejo, San Miguel’s incoming mayor, announced that his administration will work to fill in gaps and improve upon work done well so far relative to liaison with NGOs. Concerning the retention of the NGO Liaison Department, he said that during his political campaign he talked with members of nonprofit organizations and what they asked for was a direct line of communication. For that reason, he said, the secretary of the city council will be responsible for assisting members of the civic organizations. “The secretary of the city council is not an intermediary,” he said. “He can make decisions that will guarantee closeness with the organizations.” Concerning the recently created Consultative Council of NGOs, Trejo said, “Its suppression does not depend on me, but on their results.”
Mayor Núñez and Rosado defend work done
Mayor Núñez, who heads the nonprofit organization Proyección Cultural Sanmiguelense, said, “We made a citizens’ project; nonetheless, any mayor has enough authority to make decisions. It would be very sad if the department closes, but I do not believe that the decision depends only on him, but also on the members of the NGOs, who now know what it is like to work with a public administration. They will not allow the department to close.” However, she noted that “the mayor has the final decision.” Mayor Núñez highlighted some of the work done by the department: obtaining financial resources from INDESOL for organizations, creating the TOSMA (Farmers’ Market), launching the Capillas de Indios tour and cooperative programs and working to establish the Europe House in San Miguel.
Rosado said that the department has done good work, enough to surpass its goals. She said that they provided constant training for organizations on topics such as professionalization, strategic planning, operation and development of indicators for measuring results as well as training for developing projects. Rosado also commented that besides the construction of the Roza Kent Community Center, they also created the Mobile Culture program, a museum in a trailer that visits rural communities and urban areas. The department has promoted the work of the NGOs among the population in order to let them know where and who to go to if they need a service. She added that they launched rural sewing and embroidery cooperatives and also obtained more than five million pesos that were distributed to several organizations.
After Trejo’s announcement, several opinions emerged, some in favor and others against the closing of the department. Fernando León, who has worked for many years helping nonprofit organizations, said that he got more than 800,000 pesos from the state government to buy vehicles for Feed the Hungry. León said that Rosado wanted to take part in the process, but just hindered it. “There were some irregularities, thanks to her, and I had to fix them,” he said. He commented that if the department is closed it will not affect the organizations, but on the contrary it will represent some savings for the local government. León said that he is involved in several organizations, and some members said that what they want is direct contact with federal, state and local government, because if there are intermediaries then irregularities emerge.
Other members of NGOs, who preferred their names and those of their organizations not be mentioned, made similar comments. “It will not affect us if the department disappears; they never got financial resources for us. Rosado never had contact with our organization, and when I contacted her she said that she would call me to make agreements and never did. I wouldn’t say that the department worked. We knew how to get resources from the government, and for big associations like ours, with a good structure like ours, the department is not useful. If the local department exists, that is good, but if it does not, that is good, too. We do not need it; we know how and where to go.”
Conversely, some organizations are in favor of retaining the department. In a letter that currently is been disseminated online, the author urges Trejo to keep the department during his administration, and signatures are being collected from members of NGOs in support. The board of Casita Linda told Atención, “Casita Linda believes that it is important that civic organizations have a platform that facilitates information and connections not only with municipal but also state, federal and international agencies that support our work.” But they made it clear that “if the existing department, which functions as a liaison of non-governmental organizations with city hall, ceases to exist, NGOs will continue to work as a team, as they have been doing through the help of this department.”
Jesús Naranjo, director of the Fundación de Apoyo Infantil (FAI), commented that the department is important because through its work a gathering of the highest number of organizations in the city was possible for the first time. “Many years ago, some people tried to bring the organizations together and they did not achieve it. We need a network, and if the department closes, the work we have achieved will also disappear.” Members of another organization commented that through that department they got their CLUNI and CLIE keys, which are important to get financial resources from federal or state government. Laura Rodríguez, a member of Amigos del Parque, said that through the department they obtained municipal and federal resources for the park’s restoration.
Rosado said that once her work is concluded at the end of this administration’s term she will keep working with organizations. She said that she is not interested in keeping her position in the next administration.