Mariano Rámon Bareiro Soria
This profile was prepared when Mariano Rámon Bareiro Soria was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Mariano Bareiro has found success in his struggle for justice, despite the residue of official repression that lingers from Paraguay's long history of dictatorships. Beginning in Asunción, he is organizing community groups to work on neighbors's common interests and meet the urgent needs of marginal populations. He counsels the organizations so that they can remain strong in their battles with the power structure, principally municipal governments. They are thus changing the pattern of such neighborhood organizations, which were formed by a national law in 1987. In the past, they have characteristically been linked to special interests or municipalities and have had only a passive voice in the government and community development programs of the city. In order to confront the resistance of the new government to such popular participation, community organizations have set up their management completely independently, and have administered all of their own operations. Assuming a posture of autonomy has empowered these community organizations and, as an additional benefit, has opened new roads to self-management that enhance concrete programs within the neighborhoods. Through training, workshops, and his personal leadership, Mariano is helping to transform these community organizations into both a powerful forum for democracy and a proactive, autonomous voice for the future development of neighborhoods. For the first time in Paraguay indeed in the region these neighborhood commissions are being formed without political, labor, or business ties. A once-small group of 40 community groups, Mariano's associations now number more than 350 and span the greater Asunción area.