Invasions and Expropriations – the Surreal Becomes Even More Strange

In a previous post (Peeling More of the Onion – 7-20-2010), I described an urban invasion I saw in an abandoned under-construction high-rise in Caracas. Above are some recent photos that show squatters living in the building (upper right photo and bottom row). This is across the way from the Sambil La Candelaria shopping center, which was under construction when President Chavez delivered a speech there, and gave the surprise announcement he was expropriating it for unspecified social use.

Other photos show another invasion.

This year, urban expropriations are four times greater than 2007. The government says it needs to do this to meet its Mision Vivienda housing program goal of building 2 million housing units by 2017. The opposition says this is silly – there are plenty of urban lands owned by the government which can be used for housing. They say expropriations are being used as a way to win votes before the 2012 elections, as a threat to property owners that “the government can roll over you and take your land whenever we want” (Roberto Ortiz; Urban Housing Association) and as a way to reduce private property ownership as much as possible.

Urban invaders apparently figure if the President says it’s OK to take over a vacant property, they risk little by doing so. No matter how egregious their actions (theft, damaging the house etc.), the law makes it very difficult to throw a squatter out. If urban invasions become widespread enough, the city moves in the direction of mob rule.

Something else has also changed since last year. Bad flooding created a brand new homeless population of around 130,000. In a political stunt, Chavez announced they would be put up in hotels, abandoned, and expropriated buildings. Victims from nearby Miranda state were brought to Caracas. The Sambil shopping center, after months standing empty following the expropriation, and still without utilities, was pressed into service as one emergency shelter for the homeless.

Some homeless were even brought into the Miraflores presidential palace for a while.

Urban invaders are becoming more and more of a permanent fixture in this strange landscape.

For a great look at the “world’s largest squat”, the unfinished Torre Confinanzas building in Caracas, the below link takes you to an exhibit by two Venezuelan artists, Ángela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría, “La Torre por dentro y por fuera” – the tower inside and out:

http://www.domusweb.it/en/architecture/the-tower-of-david/

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2 responses to “Invasions and Expropriations – the Surreal Becomes Even More Strange

  1. Sambil La Candelaria, centro comercial expropiado en un principio para supuestamente darle un uso social, y luego de meses de abandono y no hacerse nada, termino siendo refugio de dannificados de las lluvias de diciembre 2010. Condiciones infrahumanas. Que comodidades puede tener un centro comercial vacio? Tengo entendido que estan alojados en los estacionamientos, aunque no estoy segura. Realmente pobre gente.

  2. OK bien, voy a poner clarificacion, gracias

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