Caracas, January 5th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has announced that since December 20th, over 87,000 senior citizens have registered in the state’s new social program, the “Greater Love” mission, designed to tackle extreme poverty within the nation’s older generation.
Women over the age of 55 and men over the age of 60 are eligible to register in the mission, which was announced in early December last year. The new mission seeks to expand the number of Venezuelan senior citizens who have access to a pension, currently equal to the national minimum wage of 1,548 Bolivars per month (US$360).
“This mission is a benefit for us. Here there is someone who thinks of the grandparents, because they have always been abandoned” said Maria Araque, 62.
Previously only senior citizens who had made social security contributions were eligible to receive a full pension from the IVSS, (Venezuelan Institute of Social Security), excluding those who worked outside of the official public and private sectors.
“This is the first time that senior citizens are receiving help, and in my case I need it, because I have always been self-employed and I don’t have a pension” stated Luis Araque from Caracas.
Although some senior citizens are able to claim benefits of up to 60% of the national minimum wage from the Institute of Social Services (INASS), there are currently an estimated 400,000 older citizens living in extreme poverty throughout the country.
“How many older people are there who worked their whole lives in family homes, washing and ironing, and then after turning 60 or 70, they don’t have a pension? We’re going to give them their full pension” declared Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
For her part, Commune and Social Protection Minister, Isis Ochoa, confirmed that the 203,000 senior citizens currently receiving 60% of the minimum wage from INASS will be upgraded to receive their full pension.
There are currently 163 registration points across the states of Miranda, Vargas and the Capital District, which will be extended to include 13 states across the nation as of next week. A family member or a friend may register on behalf of those citizens who are unable to leave the house for reasons of immobility or disability.
Senior Citizen Committees
According to the Venezuelan press, more than 6,600 “Senior Citizen Committees” have also been formed as part of the mission, with the intention of incorporating the nation’s older generation into the country’s educative, health and social security systems.
Made up of 104,000 senior citizen volunteers, the committees will work in conjunction with their local communities in the following areas; preventative healthcare, education for self-liberation, sustainable agriculture, communications (social networks) and politics.
“The senior citizen of today isn’t the same sad and solitary person of the past, they’re upbeat, alert and motivated to participate in the different activities” explained Dinora Jiménez, a member of one of the committees.
During his appearance on “Up Front”, a television programme on Venezuelan state television channel VTV, Manuel Gonzales, official spokesperson for the Great Patriotic Pole, also praised the government’s policies for improving the lives of the nation’s elderly, describing how older generations were no longer viewed as “scrap metal”.
Gonzales also contrasted the government’s latest mission for older people with the neo-liberal policies currently being implemented by governments in the West, which he said were restricting older citizens’ access to a pension.
“We have to remember that before the revolution, there were only 367,000 people in the country who were receiving a pension, which was only 10% of the minimum wage. Now there are 1,900,000 of us enjoying a pension equivalent to the minimum wage” he said.
Although the Chavez administration has managed to decrease extreme poverty from 29.8% in 2003 to 6.8% in 2011, the government recently set itself the task of further reducing this figure. As well as announcing the creation of the “Greater Love” mission in December of last year, the Sons and Daughters of Venezuela mission was also initiated, aimed at alleviating extreme poverty amongst children, children with disabilities and teenage mothers.