The reality that Venezuela is an urban country has begun to hit the Government, but so far it is not clear to me that they are getting the message. As agricultural land has been intervened by the Government people have also begun invading private lands and buildings, looking for what thy really need: a home. The crisis is particularly severe in Carabobo state, where the Governor has been quite lax in allowing people to take over land and buildings, more so after saying that he would not throw the police at the people. But as this article in today’s El Universal tell us; only in one municipality in Carabobo, twenty plots of lands have been invaded, including land owned by an orphanage, a plot of land in a middle class neighborhood and the La Guacamaya area where the Government ahs now provided trailers to live in.
The real problem is not only that people live in the cities, but that there has been very little housing built in the last six years. The number of new housing units built in Venezuela in the last 30 years has always been less than needed, but the Chávez Government has been particularly ineffective at this. During the first two or three years of his Government Chavez had the right people in the institutions in charge of urban planning and housing. People who had devoted all their lives to studying the problem carefully and finally had gotten to a position of power. But slowly the Government got rid of them, for reasons that I don’t know in detail.
This group of people had a study that included costs and estimates of how long it would take to reduce housing shortages in Venezuela by devoting huge government resources to the problem, using construction to jump start the economy. If I recall the numbers correctly, they were talking about US$ 60 billion and ten years to carry out the project. Instead in the first two years of Chavez’ Government, a few housing projects were built in what was said disorganized manner. I showed a graph in March of last year which shows how dramatic has been the drop in new housing units being built in the last few years.
Besides Carabobo, the other region being hit by invasions is the so called “Altos Mirandinos” area. This is a region right outside Caracas to the South West along the Pan-American Highway, where a bunch of “dormitory” cities have sprung up. There are three municipalities there in the hands of both anti-Chávez and pro-Chávez Mayors. But they are all acting in very similar fashion, as it has become a security problem for all of them, as people feel threatened by the invaders in their communities.
That this is the problem is nothing new, in 1968 Rafael Caldera promised he would build 100,000 housing units a year. (He was close one year). De Soto has studied this problem well, together with that of not having title to land and homes. This is where I think the Government should concentrate. In fact, I think this is something the opposition should pick up on and run with it, as I have said before. Tell the Government to start delaying and give away all Government lands before June, tell the Government to give title to all municipal lands by June. Tell the Government to propose a housing program or grab the existing ones and ask the Government get going as soon as possible. Put a deadline. This is a real issue, not Chavez’ dream of what Barinas was like in the 60’s. Do it, because soon the Chavez Government might pick up on it and do it themselves! Knowing both of them, maybe neither will notice it!
(Posted lots of pictures in the orchids section today, enjoy and relax!)