Request for Information Leads to ID Card, Pension

Editor's Note:In light of recent events, we have been reflecting on the depth and breadth of President Carter’s impact. This is one in a series of stories from our archives that show how his principles, expressed through Carter Center initiatives, have affected the lives of real people.

Request for Information Leads to ID Card, Pension

First published Sept. 13, 2017

For nearly three years, 83-year-old Blanca Nieves Valdés didn’t exist.

She was living in a cozy house in the small town of San José la Arada, Guatemala, doing all the things that real people do, but as far as the government of Guatemala was concerned, she was a non-person. The official record book containing her information was destroyed, so when the government changed its ID system, it didn’t issue her a new ID card.

And just like that, her identity — and the small pension she received — vanished.

Blanca Nieves suffers from dementia and can’t live on her own. Her niece and caretaker, retired schoolteacher Reyna Moscoso, had no idea how to get her aunt an ID card.

  • Blanca Nieves and her niece are just a little more secure now that she has her identity back. (All photos: The Carter Center/ L. Satterfield)

    Blanca Nieves and her niece are just a little more secure now that she has her identity back. (Photo: The Carter Center/ L. Satterfield)

Then the president of a women’s group that Reyna belongs to attended a Carter Center-sponsored session about the right of access to information.

Carter Center studies have shown that women often can’t access government information as easily as men can, so the Center’s Global Access to Information program (since renamed the Rule of Law program) works with local partners in three areas of Guatemala to make women aware of this right. It also employs liaisons who help women file information requests and track the results.

Reyna’s friend told her what she’d learned at the meeting and suggested she ask Carter Center information liaison Dina Moscoso (a distant relation) for help filing a request to find out how to get a new ID card.

It took more than a year, but Blanca Nieves' official ID finally arrived. Soon she began getting her pension again.

It’s not a lot of money — about 125 quetzales, or US$18, a month — but it helps.

“We use it mostly for her medicines,” Reyna explained.

Reyna remembers Blanca Nieves helping her mother clean and cook in her healthier days.

“Because of her memory issues, she doesn’t do much anymore,” Reyna said. “… She used to like to dance; she liked to sing. I remember Blanca Nieves always singing. She still remembers songs from when she was younger and sings them.”

Reyna is happy that this woman who has lost so much of who she is has an official identity again.

And she is grateful to Dina Moscoso, The Carter Center, and its local partners who are supporting women as they make requests for information that has the power to improve their lives.

“I was ready to give up,” she said. “Dina’s work is really important.”

2023 Update

The Rule of Law program still runs access-to-information projects for women in Guatemala, Liberia, and Bangladesh. In addition, it has created Inform Women, Transform Lives, a global initiative to promote access to information for women. It operates in 24 partner cities worldwide, with plans to expand.

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