Hundreds of Argentines have donated the equivalent of 32.000 US dollar to a taxi driver who found a bag with 32.500 US dollars in cash in his vehicle and returned it to its owners.
It was a gesture which became instant headline in a country where corruption is considered a national plague.
Two public relations young fellows set up a website in his honour calling for gestures of gratitude for what is seen as an extraordinary act of honesty. Last weekend the sum was reached according to the site.
Santiago Gori, a taxi driver from the city of La Plata, 60 kilometres south of Buenos Aires found the money after driving an elderly couple. They only went a short distance but when he dropped them off, they left a bag in the back of his taxi.
A few days later he managed to locate his passengers again and he returned the bag. For Argentines used to corruption at all levels of society, this was an extraordinary story.
It is estimated 55.000 people visited the site and left hundreds of rewards and messages for Gori.
“We knew the idea would seduce because it would allow people to express their feelings”, said Nicolas Diaco who together with Ezequiel De Luca set up the site,…”but we never imagined such a massive reply”.
As happened a month ago when 100.000 people spontaneously took to the streets for the final farewell to former President Raul Alfonsin, the architect of the transition to democracy, “the Argentines again came out in mass to honour an honest man”, said Gori.
“Maybe it’s a new message for the political establishment when we are a month away from mid term elections”, added the publicist.
“If our politicians had 10% of Gori’s honesty, what a great country we could be”, said one of the contributors who invited the taxi driver out for lunch.
One visitor offered to produce in his studio a song chosen by Gori to kick-start a potential artistic career. Another offered a snow-boarding lesson in Argentina's ski resort of Bariloche, while an Argentine abroad promised to bring back a second-hand GPS satellite receiver for his taxi on his return.
Others invited him to visit Sao Paulo, Miami. Thank you, say many of the messages and one said it all: I wish more people were like you.
For his part, Mr Gori seemed a bit bemused. He said he only did what had to be done, and that he does not quite know what to do with all the things he has been offered.
Last Sunday Gori invited the two publicists to his house to share a barbecue and thank them for the initiative.
“They brought me a file with the names and phones of all who sent me gifts and good wishes. I’m going to contact each of them”, promised Gori.
Argentina rates 109 in the International Transparency 2008 list, while its neighbours Chile and Uruguay are placed in position 23, the least corrupt countries of Latinamerica.
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Too bad it does not make up for all the pirate taxis where you end up making a tour of ATM's, while riding in the trunk.May 20th, 2009 - 04:29 pm 0
Great story with a nice happy ending. We could do with honesty like this in my country, Great Britain, after all the problems we have with corrupt politicians.May 23rd, 2009 - 11:05 pm 0
Sounds like you been to Manchester UK, fella !!May 23rd, 2009 - 11:07 pm 0