13 December 2018
Category : Entrevista
"Colombians are very open, which facilitates closeness"Image: Pepa Rubio at the AMERIPOL headquarters in Bogotá
In this interview, Pepa Rubio tells us about her life in Bogotá since she began her career as an expert in management and gender on the AMERIPOL support project, focused on strengthening the international cooperation capacities of the police forces that are part of AMERIPOL.
How long have you been in Colombia? How have you adapted to this country?
I have been in Bogotá for about 5 months, where I came to manage the EL PAcCTO: support to AMERIPOL project whose objective is to improve the cooperation of the police and judicial authorities of the partner countries in their fight against transnational crime. The project is exciting and I am also having the opportunity to go deeper into issues such as Gender Violence and Human Trafficking, which I consider crucial and which have a great impact in the region.
As for my transfer, I was accompanied by my husband and my son and at the beginning I was rather worried about what the adaptation would be like for the whole family. Luckily we have adapted quickly and well. Fortunately we have not suffered from altitude sickness. Bogotá is a great city and we like life here, although we must take certain precautions in terms of security.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
The traffic is the biggest problem I have found living here, depending on the time of day the “trancón” (traffic jam) is inevitable and it is a bit exasperating. The easiest thing is the contact with people, luckily I met lovely people right from the beginning. Colombians are very open and facilitate closeness, which I love!
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
It is not my first experience abroad. Before Bogotá I spent 3 years in China and another 3 years in Vietnam working with Spanish cooperation on issues related to gender and human trafficking. I also lived a year in Germany where I finished my university studies. It is my first long-term stay in Latin America, and because of the cultural ties that unite us with the region, I think adapting has been comparatively easier.
What is your work like and your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
I work at the AMERIPOL head office in Bogota, so my colleagues in the office are members of the Security Forces of several countries in the region, at the beginning it was unusual working surrounded by uniforms and I still have trouble remembering the ranks of all. In any case, my colleagues at AMERIPOL have received me with open arms, despite being a civilian, for which I am very grateful.
As for the management work, it is not very different from what I was doing in head office, but I do notice that, being concentrated on a single project, I find it easier to keep up with the management and contents than when I was responsible for multiple projects. Due to the nature of the project, our activities depend to a certain extent on the support of high political and police authorities, and the reality is that with 8 partner countries we continuously depend on electoral calendars, rotation of governments, ministers or police directors and we have to prevent these changes from affecting our programming (or minimise the effects), although this is difficult.
What is your relationship like with head office in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Bogota?
My relationship with head office is very good as well as constant and necessary. I have a very close contact with Irene Cara at the technical level and with Álvaro Rodríguez for economic management, both of them help me and improve the results of my work. Irene was already responsible for the backstopping of the previous phase of the project, so having her background knowledge is a good thing.
At the leadership level, both Ana Hernández and Mariano Guillen are very involved in the activities and their follow-up, this commitment is very important for the success of the activities and their visibility vis-à-vis Spanish institutions.
I also have contact with the legal department, the ICT department and with the communication partners, whom I all bother from time to time.
As for my colleagues from Bogotá, the project office is made up of Marcos Alvar, the project manager, Nadia Kahuazango, the project assistant, and myself. Marcos is in charge of the technical part and the relations with the partner countries, and each day is an opportunity to learn from his extensive experience in police cooperation. His coordination is also very horizontal, which makes it possible to add visions and inputs and achieve results that are shared by the whole team. Nadia takes care of the logistics part very diligently and is a great companion.
How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate in Bogota?
I consider myself privileged to have the opportunity to contribute my experience and energy to such an interesting and relevant project. I firmly believe in the importance of consolidating AMERIPOL as a hemispheric cooperation mechanism and the project is contributing enormously to this process.
At the level of the tasks to be carried out, I think that the fact of having worked in the FIIAPP headquarters before gives me a very complete view of the work, having been on both sides of the curtain is very useful as it helps me to empathise with and understand the positions of both the headquarters and those on the ground.
In addition, FIIAPP as an organisation is a ten out of ten, another advantage of working in an organisation at this level is that there are other projects with similar themes and activities and colleagues are always willing to share experiences and contribute to the coordination of content. It is a luxury to have so many good professionals a click or a call away.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in the country?
In the first meeting I had in Colombia, someone asked what we wanted to drink and everyone asked for a “tinto”, which in Spain is a red wine, and I remember thinking: Christ, it’s not even nine o’clock in the morning! I asked for a glass of water. Then they brought coffees for everyone and I realised that a “tinto” in Colombia is a coffee, and to think that I almost asked for a beer to help me “fit in”, I would have died of embarrassment!
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