Sunday, June 11, 2006

207,149 NUMBERS (Venezuela)

207,149 NUMBERS
June 07 2006
This morning when I stopped at the newsstand to buy the daily newspaper, I realized immediately that it was much heavier than usual. Opening to an insert, I saw ninety-five pages filled in relatively small print with numbers--only numbers! They started with 1,104 and ended with 3,320,938.

I was ready to ask the owner of the newsstand to throw the section away so I wouldn't have to carry it home. But then I saw the front page of the section and decided to study it further.

I discovered that tomorrow another similar section will be printed, with more numbers. Totally, there will be 207,146 of them.

And what do these numbers mean? They are the Venezuelan identity card numbers of people who are entitled to social security benefits, some of whom have been waiting since 1971 to receive them. Most are retired individuals, but about 30,000 are survivors and another 20,000 handicapped or invalids. Over $200,400,000 will be distributed to pay off half of what the government owes them. The other half will be paid in November.

I can only imagine what these people feel when they see their identity card number in print.

Some will say that it is a political ploy since presidential elections are coming in December. But why haven't other governments used the same tactic during the past thirty-five years? There was a lot of oil money during those years that was distributed also--to other people instead of those entitled to it.

Critics complain that this is a "populist" government. If populist means giving people that to which they are justly entitled, I like populist governments. And I think the millions of people in the U.S. without decent social security benefits would like a populist government also.