Photos: Joan González

At 11 a.m. of that Thursday, there were 250 people in line at the Banco Bicentenario in downtown Anaco. Under the beating sun, their faces twisted by hunger, some anxious by the institution’s lethargy, others resigned to return home empty-handed. All queueing up, as if they were cattle, some even dragging their walkers: this is what the elderly go through when they try to collect their pension.

In Venezuela, the pension system is shot through with indifference and humiliation. In December 2011, late president Hugo Chávez created the great Misión en Amor Mayor, with the goal of providing social security to those who didn’t have any savings in the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS), established in 1944.

But far from social justice, collecting their pensions turns is agony. In an economic stage devoured by hyperinflation, money vanishes with the purchase of a few items, and the so-called pension is merely a tip: Bs. 347,914 a month. A buck fifty, at the parallel rate. 

That morning, complaining of a severe pain in her left leg, María del Carmen Jaramillo told me that she’d been coming early to the bank for eight days to stand in line for eight hours in order to collect her pension. But the amount of people is such that cash soon ran out. She already sensed it, just like in previous days.

As we talked, a younger neighbor stood in line for her. Despite the hostile environment, people were keeping order. Some had already eaten, others needed to collect the cash to eat. That morning, they were told to wait, because the bank might receive banknotes.

In Venezuela, the pension system is characterized by indifference and humiliation.

At 84, María lives alone in La Línea street, Anaco. She had no children, but she says God is with her, an expression she used with resignation in view of her reality, defined by scarcity and disease. There are days that the pain in her leg forces her to take to the street and beg for money. When she can’t find any or pain beats her, she’s forced to endure.

She sees a bleak future ahead. The pension is just enough for a couple of days and she doubts the situation will improve with this government.

In Miranda avenue, a few blocks from the bank, Alberto Pérez and Régulo Manzanares approach me, eager to be interviewed as well. Alberto tells me that he gets by selling plastic recipients outside stores. He must take care of two of his grandchildren, so he must make an effort to work at 67 years old. Some weeks, he makes enough to buy food, but there are days when he returns home empty-handed.

Meanwhile, Régulo, sitting with a kilo of pasta in one hand, says: “We have to live like beggars when we grow old.”

Mercedes Fernández, pensioner for the past six years, used to be a seamstress and she was able to provide for her family that way. Now, at 79, she remembers decades past with sorrow; she rented a place in Caracas, but when her marriage ended, she took her things and left with her children to Anaco. She’s hypertensive and diabetic. She takes potassium losartan (Bs. 285,000) and Diaformina Plus (Bs. 145,000), and whenever she gets the chance to buy several boxes, she checks how much she has.

And when her pills run out, she has to endure the pain.

The issue with banks is that, although the money is deposited, they can’t pay it in full. Pensioners have to stand in line several times, many of them in vain. And when in luck, they fill their pockets with enough cash for a baguette.

“I want to live out my days in happiness,” says Fernández, “with food and my products for personal hygiene.” A fair demand that the State chooses to ignore.

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  1. This is the kind of subjugated, dependent pueblo-people that the Castro-Chavismo Master Plan wants. Poor, and usually poorly educated, if at all, clueless, helpless, populachero, Chavistoide.. The Sinister Castro-Cuban Master Plan (SCCMP) entails a significant, palpable Envejecimiento de la Poblacion, as we saw in Cuba. After the Massive Exodus of younger people, critical, better educated, to the tune of 25% of the entire adult population or 5 Million people, what you have left is much easier to control: clueless uneducated kids, brain-washed kids, and elderly people.

    Sadly, the younger generation, the Entrepreuneurs, the skilled young professionals are mostly GONE, and the vast, vast majority will never return. So there will be a huge void of an entire generation, at least, a big hole in what Venezuela could have been. “La Generacion de Relevo” some called it: GONE.

    The SCCMP working to perfection thus far.

  2. Good grief. Ya’ wanna ask her if she got the refrigerator Chivez promised her, and you want to ask her how many times she voted for him, but the relevant question is whether she would vote for him now. And you read her story, and others, and you’re left just saying “good grief”, or the equivalent sad powerlessness. In me, I am left with a little fear, because I am not used to anything quite as cruel and cold and bloodthirsty as “socialism”. That movie, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was sci-fi, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it? Was it?

  3. Not too far away is an abjectly-poor settlement which is mostly pro-Govt., and votes so, to receive their monthly-or-so CLAP carbohydrate handout, for which they pay peanuts, and which the Govt. calls “beneficio”. They/others endure hours-long lines to buy occasional availability of price-regulated corn flour at a local grocery store, completely blocking one side of a two-way street. Not a peep is heard criticizing the Govt., though the GNB is present (+ Colectivos) to avoid rioting/sacking. The Lenin-era parable–you can pluck the chicken of all his feathers one-by-one, leaving him bloody/shaking/defenseless, but he will still follow you around for a handful of corn (flour)….

  4. The only good for old people in Venezuela is that people are instinctively solidary to them , helping them out as much as they can, there is no family that hasnt an old men or woman in their care …….elsewhere old people are a bother and are just shut out of peoples lives …….here family ties are strong and provide a safety net that doesnt exist in most other countries…

    • True, you can’t find a age group with more responsabilty and yes you have to hammer into Venezuelans head that they were acomplices to this. If somebody robs a jewlery store and gives you part of the money to start a hot dog stand and your happy about it, yeah that’s not what good person would do.

      However there are more sane people out there, you look at the 1993 election and you have 1’2 million
      votes form people that voted for freer markets and freer people. These are the people that rejected the “consensus” and “common sense” to do the best that was possible. Them and the 15-17 year olds like them that were not able to vote deserve at least as much help as people can give them. We should not forget them IMO.,_1993


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