Sen. Rolando Dietze (center), member of Paraguay's National Congress
and its Committee of Cooperative Affairs, met with Mark Cummins (left)
and Dick Nesvold.
St. Paul, MN—Officials from the
Credit Union Network (MnCUN) attended an
international seminar in Paraguay on May 21-22,
entitled "Credit Unions: Valid Alternatives for
Social and Economic Development, emphasis on
Training, Technology, Regulation, Ecology &
MnCUN Board Chairman Dick Nesvold of
Federal Credit Union and MnCUN President and CEO
Mark Cummins both attended the conference and
addressed attendees during the fifth annual
event. Approximately 400 credit union
representatives took part in the international
Credit unions of Minnesota have a special
relationship with those of Paraguay—MnCUN
and Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional
Ltda. (CENCOPAN) partnered in 2004. The two
credit union trade associations were paired
through the World Council of Credit Unions
(WOCCU) International Partnership Program.
MnCUN Board Chairman Dick Nesvold addressed more than 400 attendees at CENCOPAN's international seminar in Paraguay on May 22.
During the event, Nesvold spoke on credit
governance, and Cummins discussed politics,
government relations and its effect on credit
unions. Other conference presentations focused
on monitoring financial risk, advances in
regulation and supervision and the impact of tax
reform on credit unions.
"The conference attendees were very in-tune
what is going on in their respective credit
unions and with the cooperatives as a whole, and
it was an honor to be a part of such an event,"
Cummins said of his first partnership
visit. "You get a real sense that Paraguayan
credit union professionals and volunteers are
not just hoping to make a difference, but that
they actually expect to make a difference.
"CENCOPAN and the credit unions of Paraguay
a good foundation of political involvement, but
they are in a similar position as we are. They
are looking to transition from issue-driven
political advocacy to systemic political
advocacy," Cummins added. "We all are interested
in avoiding crisis-mode grassroots lobbying by
working with legislators on a continual basis,
and we have much to learn from each other."
After the conclusion of the international
conference, the US visitors met with Senator
Rolando Dietze, member of Paraguay’s National
Congress and its Committee of Cooperative
Affairs. Sen. Dietze discussed the country’s
economy and the impact of cooperatives with
Nesvold, Cummins and Michelle Kramer of WOCCU.
During the final two days of the trip,
representatives coordinated several tours of
credit unions, including Mercado No. 4 Ltda.,
Universitaria Ltda., Del Sur Ltda. and Colonias
Unidas Ltda. Nesvold, who previously traveled to
Paraguay in 2004 during MnCUN’s inaugural
partnership visit, was pleased to revisit the
Mercado and Universitaria credit unions and be
able to personally assess the changes.
"It was amazing to see how the credit unions
have developed over the past three years,
including membership growth and level of
savings," Nesvold said. Although Universitaria
is the largest credit union in Paraguay compared
with Mercado No. 4, which is smaller and
specializes in microfinance lending, Nesvold
said both had made tremendous advances.
"It is encouraging to see the commitment and
passion that [Paraguayan credit unions] have,
regardless of their size or limitations, and to
see the service that they provide to their
members," Nesvold said.
The MnCUN-CENCOPAN partnership has a number
initiatives on deck yet this year: the
continuation of a credit union exchange program
and an international dialogue with regulators
from Paraguay, NCUA and the Minnesota Department
"The credit unions of Paraguay are truly
driven and are focused more on helping people
than on growing and making money," Cummins
said. "They recognize that growing and having a
secure institution is the best way to serve
their members, yet they live and breathe that
member focus. This trip was an incredibly