(posted June 25, 4:30 p.m.)- The National Union of Senior Citizens (UNAM) and the Sandinista government today reached another tenuous agreement to provide limited social and economic aid to the elderly in exchange for an end to the protests staged last week in front of the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Service (INSS).
In the six-point agreement signed this afternoon, the government agreed to provide the non-pensioned senior citizens with eye exams, new mechanisms to facilitate the monthly distribution of their “solidarity bonus,” and home visits by “solidarity promoters” (which appears to be members of the Sandinista Youth, who were written into the agreement as some sort of quasi government actor).
The agreement also calls for weekly meetings between leaders of the senior citizens’ group and INSS.
The government did not, however, agree to the senior citizens’ principal demand for a reduced pension, insisting INSS doesn’t have the money to pay. Instead, INSS said it will continue to pay a group of 8,000 senior citizens so-called “solidarity bonuses” in lieu of a proper pension.
Though UNAM claims to represent 15,000 members—7,000 more than those recognized by the government as eligible for solidarity bonuses—neither side has been able to explain the discrepancy in the statistics, or what that will mean for the viability of today’s agreement.
In 2011, the Sandinistas and UNAM arrived at a similar agreement, whereby the government agreed to provide monthly bonuses and food baskets in exchange for political support. But the pension protests were rekindled last week by senior citizens who claim the government started to wiggle out of its end of the deal after the elections. The senior citizens’ battle cry became: “we want pensions, not charity.”
In the end, however, charity is all the government was willing to offer. It remains to be seen whether the new arrangement will be any more sustainable than the previous one.
In the meantime, Porfirio García, president of the UNAM, said he is pleased that last week’s demonstrations forced the government back to the negotiating table. He said his group would cease to protest as long as that dialogue continues.