When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Venezuela

Hugo Chávez Promises Two Million Homes For Venezuela's Poor: Real Hope Or Just Hot Air?

The Venezuelan government is on a “mission” to set millions of poor Venezuelans up with public housing. The plan is kindling hope among some Caracas slum dwellers. Critics, however, say Chávez’ housing scheme is more than a little far-fetched.

Haphazard residential construction outside of Caracas, Venezuela
Haphazard residential construction outside of Caracas, Venezuela
Maria Delcas

CARACAS - While health questions continue to hound Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, his government continues to push ahead with the so-called Bolivarian Revolution. At its center is a massive public housing scheme, dubbed the Gran Mision Vivienda, or Great Housing Mission, in which the Chávez government promises to build 2 million subsidized residences by 2017.

Critics of the government say the plan is little more than an inflated campaign promise. Chávez officials, however, insist the Housing Mission is already well underway. Energy and Mines Minister Rafael Ramirez recently claimed that 16,694 apartments were built during the first half of this year. The government expects to complete a total of 153,000 accommodations by the end of the year, plus an additional 200,000 in 2012.

Elections are scheduled for late 2012. Chávez – who came to power a dozen years ago – will look to stay on as president, health permitting. The fiery leftist revealed last month that he is receiving treatment for cancer.

That comandante

In Caracas, children play football in the basement of a concrete and brick building. The structure, called the Sambil Candelaria, was to become one of those huge shopping centers Venezuelans are crazy about. However, at the end of 2008, President Chávez expropriated the private facility just as it was about to open, turning it over to victims of last year's heavy floods. Some 2,300 disaster victims currently live there.

"We will leave soon," says Isaura Sanchez, a mother of four. "My comandanteChávez is going to give houses to everybody. We've seen them on TV. They are almost ready." Approximately 100,000 families, victims of the heavy rains, are waiting to be the first ones to be re-housed. This Great Housing Mission is generating hope, real hope.

Makeshift slums are everywhere around the capital city Caracas. Constructed from cinderblocks and sheet metal, the impoverished quarters are a tangle of narrow alleys and steep staircases. In this respect, Venezuelans are no better off than many of their Latin American neighbors. Housing shortages is a region-wide problem.

"The estimates today are that we need about 3 million accommodations, which means that we should build 300,000 houses a year," says Rafael Uzcategui from a human rights group called PROVEA. "However, since Chávez was elected, the annual average is 30,000 houses." Uzcategui adds that Romulo Betancourt, who was president back in the early 1960s, was the only one with a more dismal record on the housing front.

In Betancourt's time, Venezuela had a population of approximately 7 million people. Today there are four times than many people. What efforts the Chávez government has made to solve the housing crisis have been compromised by the constant turnover of personnel within the Ministry of Civil Engineering and Housing. Since 2005, the Ministry has had 11 different heads.

City-planners estimate that more than 40% of Caracas has emerged without planning or regulation. Residents built surrounding slums – known as barrios – themselves. "The Chávez government wanted to boost people's initiatives. A lot of money was given to local councils and to neighborhood associations. But because of a lack of expertise and technical advice, the money wasn't well spent," says Uzcategui.

Along an avenue called Las Acacias, tucked between a posh building and a 25-story tower, a huge sign marks the spot of what will soon be a 146-unit public housing project. Bulldozers are already on the move. Three streets away, the same sign indicates more public accommodations. There, however, work has yet to begin.

Another Caracas

To justify his urban policy, Chavez told television viewers: "We could fit another Caracas into the current Caracas." But will the city's public services follow? In Caracas, traffic jams are never-ending, public transportation is overcrowded and power cuts, already a problem in the rest of the country, are becoming more frequent.

"We have no choice but to applaud the government's decision to make the housing issue its top priority," says Uzcategui. "But being determined is not enough. It doesn't make sense to announce that 2 million accommodations are going to be built if you don't take into account public facilities, sewers, transportation, schools, football stadiums, electric communication, etc."

Building supplies are another problem. "Cement supplies are very irregular and we haven't seen an iron rod in four months now. We only find those on the black market, where they cost twice as much," says José Carquez, who manages a building materials shop.

For Carquez, the government housing plan is simply unrealistic. "Building two million houses for families of three or four people means the government expects to re-house 6 to 8 million people between now and 2017. That's impossible," he says.

Read the original article in French

Photo - DamienHR

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Is Turning Into A "New Israel" — Where Everyone Is A Soldier

From businessmen to farmers, Ukrainian society has been militarizing for the past six months to defend its sovereignty. In the future it may find itself like Israel, permanently armed to protect its sovereignty.

Ukrainian civilians learn how to shoot and other military skills at a shooting range in Lviv on July 30, 2022.

Guillaume Ptak

KYIV — The war in Ukraine has reached a turning point. Vladimir Putin's army has suffered its worst setback since the beginning of the invasion. The Russian army has experienced a counter-offensive that many experts consider masterful, so it must retreat and cede vast territories to its opponent.

The lightning victory that the head of the Kremlin had dreamed of never took place. The losses are considerable — Ukrainian troops on the battlefield now outnumber the Russians.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

On April 5, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted that at the end of the conflict, Ukraine would become a "big Israel". In an interview with Ukrainian media, he said then, "In all the institutions, supermarkets, cinemas, there will be people with weapons."

The problem of national security will be the country's most important one in the next decade. An "absolutely liberal, and European" society would therefore no longer be on the agenda, according to the Ukrainian president.

Having long since swapped his suit and tie for a jacket or a khaki T-shirt during his public appearances, Zelensky has undeniably become one of the symbols of this growing militarization of Ukrainian society. However, the president claimed that Ukraine would not become an "authoritarian" regime: "An authoritarian state would lose to Russia. Ukrainians know what they are fighting for."

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ