MONTEVIDEO – An online petition campaign is under way to persuade the Uruguayan government to approve a pension for 111-year-old Jacinta Silva, the country’s oldest woman.
Silva represents many elderly people who have toiled in a variety of rural trades without holding formal employment, Edgardo Mier, a lawmaker from the opposition National Party, told EFE.
The initiative came from Mier and his brother Sergio, also a lawmaker, but from the governing leftist Broad Front.
In May, Congress formally asked the executive branch to consider Silva’s predicament.
Despite a lifetime of work, Silva is not entitled to retirement benefits because she didn’t contribute to the social security system.
Silva’s application for an old-age pension was denied because the son who now supports her makes too much money – 14,000 pesos ($470) a month – to qualify for public assistance, Edgardo Mier said.
The Mier brothers have a “sentimental connection” with Silva, who worked for years as a cook at a rural school where their mother was the principal.
The executive branch has not responded to the congressional resolution, but Sergio Mier told EFE that he and his brother heard through “informal” channels that the special pension would not be approved.
Faced with this possibility, a private citizen introduced on the Web site Change.Org an initiative to collect signatures and in a few hours gathered the support of more than 4,200 people.
A special pension is contemplated in the Uruguayan Constitution as a way to aid prominent individuals faced with difficult economic circumstances, and such pensions have been awarded, for example, to the members of the 1950 World Cup-winning national soccer team and other champion athletes, Edgardo Mier said.
The lawmaker acknowledged the signature-gathering effort is “a bit of harebrained idea” in Silva’s case, but he added that the situation of “one of the world’s 350 oldest people” embodies the reality of many other senior citizens in Uruguay.
Flora Gonzalez, Silva’s daughter, told EFE that she “has done everything possible” to secure an income for her mother who, she said, “is fine.”
Jacinta Silva lives with one of her sons in a town north of Montevideo, where she spends time sipping yerba mate tea, watching television and entertaining visiting grandchildren and great-grandchildren.