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Mayor Ferreiro of Asunción encourages young people to fight for their dreams

Representatives from Taipei’s sister cities and friendship cities were invited to the 2017 Summer Universiade. Last to arrive was Mayor Mario Aníbal Ferreiro Sanabria of Asunción, capital of Paraguay and also our sister city, who arrived in Taipei with his wife on 27 August.

The delegation first visited the athletes’ villages and Beitou Incineration Plant on 29 August. The next day, they paid an official visit to Mayor Ko Wen-Je, attended the Universiade closing ceremony and visited the control centre. Before leaving on 31, Mayor Ferreiro stopped by the Taipei Broadcasting Station to give an interview to station head Chen Ci-Ming, during which he talked about his political journey and told listeners his thoughts on Taiwan.

Mayor Ferreiro expressed his delight at being invited to the closing ceremony and praised the thoughtfulness of the Organizing Committee for providing Spanish-speaking guides during their visit to the athletes’ village.

The main reason he first ran for office was to improve people’s quality of life. The biggest problem in Asunción, a city with 480 years of history, is dealing with traffic and waste. The mayor remarked that Taipei has undergone a vast and rapid transformation over the last 20 years, and said that seeing Beitou Incineration Plant and the metro control center during this visit was a good point of reference.

Like Taipei, Asunción has a lot of traffic, and there is pressing need to upgrade the public transportation system, but building a metro system as large as Taipei’s in Asunción would be far too ambitious for the time being. The mayor thinks it best to take it one step at a time. For example, expectations are high for the new bus system that is about to be launched and which is projected to make life easier for 150,000 to 300,000 commuters. The smart city is also a recent global trend, and the mayor expressed his hope that in the future Asunción would be able to work with Taiwan in order to become a smart city.

While several mayors of Taipei City went on to become presidents of Taiwan, Mayor Ferreiro said this has not happened to date in Paraguay, but that if he had the opportunity to take on another position, he would strive to solve income inequality and reduce poverty in Paraguay.

Mr. Ferreiro worked in the media for thirty years, hosting television and radio shows; for twenty years, the people of Paraguay have been seeing and hearing him in their homes. Being in media circles meant he heard a lot about the people’s needs, and when he turned fifty, he wanted to serve the local community more directly, which is why he stepped out of his comfort zone and ran for office. After coming fourth in the 2013 presidential race, in 2015 he ran for mayor of the capital and was elected. It was like a dream come true.

Mr. Ferreiro’s career path was not that of a traditional politician. When he was nineteen, his father died. Paraguay was still under authoritarian rule, and it made him crave the social freedom of the United States. So he left for the US with a friend, and they travelled by road all the way from Washington to Los Angeles. The trip gave him the opportunity to find himself and to see and learn about American freedom. He feels he learned a lot. At university, he began by studying architecture and English literature, although he later graduated with a degree in journalism. He recalls that he was strongly influenced by American rock and roll and literature in his youth. He believes literature is a way to get to know the people. By reading the works of great Paraguayan writers, he gained a deeper understanding of the lives of farmers and city dwellers in his country.

Mr. Ferreiro was a DJ for many years, and he recommended listeners try a gently melancholic Paraguayan song called “Recuerdo de Ypacarai”, which tells of a man reliving his memories of his lover beside the Ypacarai river. This song was sung by Paraguayan singer Luis Alberto del Paraná, who was big in the 1950s and 1960s. The song was also very popular in Europe. Mayor Ferreiro’s wife Male Caballero, who was also a media worker, sang a couple of lines during the show.

The interview closed with Ms. Chen inviting Mayor Ferreiro to say a few words to the young people of Taipei. Now 58 years old and recently a grandfather for the fourth time, Mr. Ferreiro said he is always surrounded by young people and that they should “fight for your dreams. Never give up. The future is yours—every day will be better than the last.”

Taipei and Asunción became sister cities on 9 March 1987 with an agreement signed by former mayor Xu Shui-De and General Perera in Asunción. With this, his first visit to Taiwan, Mayor Ferreiro said he was delighted to come to Taipei and feel first-hand the sister-city connection between Taipei and Asunción. He said he made a lot of friends, and he hopes to get a chance to visit Taiwan again.

Mayor Ferreiro and his delegation arrived on the evening of 27; visited Yilan on 28; visited Linkou athletes’ village and Beitou Incineration Plant on 29; paid an official visit to Mayor Ko and visited MRT Control Center on the 30; and did an interview at the Taipei Broadcasting Station, visited the Universiade press center and Songshan cultural and creative park on 31, before flying home in the evening.

The interview aired between 14:00 and 15:00 on 3 September on the show “Taipei talking to the world”. It will be available online for 60 days and can be accessed here: http://www.radio.gov.taipei/ct.asp?xItem=33252172&CtNode=56716&mp=112011