Spanish retiree fights digital divide, seeks ‘human’ help


San Juan speaks with the press outside the Economy Ministry in Madrid, Spain on Feb 8, 2022. The retiree, who is campaigning to keep in-person customer services at bank branches, has handed Spanish government officials a petition with more than 610,000 signatures saying he felt ‘left out’ by the shift to online banking. — AP

MADRID: A Spanish retiree campaigning to keep in-person customer services at bank branches because he felt “left out” by the shift to online banking on Feb 8 is handing government officials a petition with more than 610,000 signatures, amid a wave of national support for his cause.

Carlos San Juan, 78, a retired doctor from Valencia in southeast Spain, travelled to Madrid and was to hand the signatures to the secretary of state for the treasury, Carlos Cuerpo, at the Economy Ministry.

His petition on change.org struck a chord with many people in Spain as banks seek to drive business online. The petition resonated beyond older people, with some people commenting on his petition website that their parents are confronted with similar difficulties.

As the campaign gathered momentum last month, he received a phone call from the governor of the Bank of Spain, the country’s central bank, and the government publicly appealed to banks to ensure they were catering for the needs of older people.

Referring to Spain’s estimated 10 million retirees, San Juan said outside the Economy Ministry that he was motivated by the “desperation of many, many people who feel excluded”.

On his petition website he complained that “nowadays almost everything is done on the Internet... and we don’t understand those machines”.

“We don’t deserve this exclusion,” he said, demanding “human attention” when he goes to a bank.

He said he had at times felt “humiliated” when asking for help from a bank employee “and they treated me as if I was an idiot because I couldn’t do it”.

His slogan on change.org is “SoyMayorNOidiota” (I’m a senior citizen, not an idiot). – AFP

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