Chávez Strikes Back at the Local Level
By Ron Ridenour for Axis of Logic.com
Jan. 28, 2008
Today in La Victoria, Venezuela, the Ministry of Housing and Habitat (MHH) graduated 25 [Venezuelan] women from the “Popular Construction Schools”, created as a grass roots quality control system for new housing construction.
"Before our revolution began, only men knew about engineering and constructing houses. Today, you are the first women in the state of Aragua, who have learned the knowledge of construction, and will soon learn the sense of ownership,” Zunilde Jugardo said at the graduation ceremony.
These young and middle-aged women, nearly all mothers, have just completed a 16-week course to learn about the quality construction of homes.
They will watch the construction of their own residences, and those of 146 other families in this city in the state of Aragua one hour west of Caracas. Their task is to assure that the proper quantity of materials is used and that a high quality of work is performed.
The Ministry of Housing and Habitat (MHH) is responsible for these “Popular Construction Schools”, created as a grass roots quality control system. The Ministry finances the housing projects, Mission Villanueva, for those who are most needy. They also hire the construction builders.
Given a long history of poor quality of construction, in many cases, and of skimming materials—resulting in pre-mature deterioration of buildings—the grass roots Urban Land Committees (CTU-Comites de Tierra Urbana) are learning how to be qualified “vigilantes”.
The CTC decides who has first priority for housing, and through the CTC some future homeowners decide to take the quality control courses. The MHH pays these students 300 Bolivars ($140) a month for the 16-week course.
Today, Calixto A.U. Tovar, national coordinator of the Popular Construction Schools, came from Caracas to assist in presenting the diplomas to the proud women, dressed in revolutionary red blouses and caps.
(photo by Ministry of Housing and Habitat)
Several hundred thousands of new houses have been built or are in the process in various parts of Venezuela. The prices are reasonable with low-interest credit. The first five years are free of payment for many. A census of how many houses have been built and should be built by the end of the year is to be announced next month, Tovar told Axis of Logic.
Zunilde is the woman who proposed “India Urquía” as the name for these new houses. Urquía was the wife of an Indian fighter against the invading Spanish colonialists. Zunilde proposed this idea to President Hugo Chavez as a symbol of unity of all the bloods of Venezuela, all of which run through the veins of Chavez and Zunilde.
The 171 houses are expected to be finished this November when city and state elections will be held.
This housing program is one example of the response by central government to forestall the undermining of popular support by the counter-revolutionaries. The outcome of the November, 2008 mayoral and state governor elections will determine the direction of the revolution.
Many people, including those who have supported President Chavez in the past, have been disappointed by the lack of progress made in maintaining local infrastructure, disruption of food distribution, and corruption at the local level. Here in La Victoria, Mayor Rosa Leon, an aspirant of the new party, PSUV (Popular Socialist Unity of Venezuela) is up for re-election. The PSUV will have its founding congress in two months. There are nearly six million aspirants nationwide. The governor of the state of Aragua, Didalco Bolivar, a member of Podemos, which broke with the Chavez referendum process last December, is also up for reelection.