Barrio Nuevo will demolish slum in Caracas

Dear Friends,

The article below describes the plans to demolish the slums that surround Caracas. It will be the site of new housing which will be a commune incorporated into the Habitat Mission, a housing program "which aims to transform the whole system of life, habitat and shelter for the greater Venezuelan family," However, the rightwing forces, have their own profit making plans which are being challenged by the Chavez government as illegal.
Venezuela: Chavez Launches New Housing Program
by Kiraz Janicke

Caracas, August 10th 2009 - With the demolition of 138 shanty homes facing imminent risk of collapse in the Turmerito sector of Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched a new housing program called "Barrio Nuevo" or New Neighbourhood during his weekly television program Hello President (Alo Presidente) on Sunday.

Accompanied by Vice President Ramon Carrizalez and Housing and Public Works Minister Diosdado Cabello, Chavez explained that the 138 families (450 people) will be temporarily resettled in apartments in the Fort Tiuna military base while their new houses are built.
The sprawling, chaotic slums that have grown up to surround the Venezuelan capital are "the result of a century of misery and abandonment [by previous governments]," Chavez said.

In the surroundings of Turmerito, "many rich people seized land to build factories, parking lots... they can go elsewhere," said Chavez. "We are going to build housing for the people." The new houses will be painted blue, red and yellow in honour of the Venezuelan flag.

The new program will be incorporated into the Habitat Mission, a housing program "which aims to transform the whole system of life, habitat and shelter for the greater Venezuelan family," Chavez stated. "The Bolivarian Revolution has this commitment: to give the best quality of life to all Venezuelans," he said.

"We must not stop until there is not a single slum left in the country," the president declared.

However, Chavez argued that in addition to housing, it is also necessary to provide productive work. Thus, "A new commune, the Turmerito commune, a socialist commune, is being born," he declared minutes before climbing onto a bulldozer to begin the demolition of the shacks on Sunday.

Earlier this year, Chavez created the Ministry of Communes to promote the formation of "socialist communes" in specific geographical areas together with organized communities. On July 11th, he explained in one of a series of special episodes of Hello President devoted to the theory of social change, "The ownership of the means of production is in the hands of the commune."

In addition to the 320 new apartments under construction in the Turmerito neighbourhood, the land currently being used for parking lots will be converted into agricultural areas and small industrial zones for processing iron and wood under the control of the commune, Minister Cabello reported. A school, as well as transportation, security and health services will also be part of the new development plan in Turmerito, Chavez said.

Chavez also stressed the importance of taking into account environmental factors when building new housing developments. In this respect, he ordered Carrizalez and Cabello to investigate a report published in the Venezuelan daily Ultimas Noticias titled, "Caracas is growing out of control," which detailed the illegal construction of a number of urban developments in the opposition-controlled El Hatillo municipality in southeast Caracas.

"More than 80 urban developments are being built in El Hatillo without viability plans or guarantees for roads or services and it is feared the southeast will collapse when the 100 thousand new residents are incorporated," the article stated.

"This must stop," Chavez said, "because we cannot allow the destruction of protected zones and the violation of city laws."

"It is necessary to review this, even when the mayor is from the opposition and the governor as well; there is a national government here and no mayor can come and say 'I command here,' no. They have powers, but it is the Constitution that rules, it is the people and there are laws," he told Cabello and Carrizalez.

Such works are the product of the capitalist greed that destroys rivers, streams and damages protected areas in order to construct large buildings and sell them off at very high prices to the middle class, Chavez sustained. "It's necessary to protect the middle-class from capitalist greed...they are also Venezuelans and this government is for everyone," he insisted.

A common clause in housing contracts for many low- to middle-income homebuyers in Venezuela is to pay cash at the start of construction, then make additional adjusted payments for inflation between purchase and move-in. The clause is designed to offset rising material and labor costs.

However, in July, Minister Cabello accused the construction industry of abusing the practice and ordered construction companies to repay the inflation charges. The Ministry had received more than 1700 complaints from homebuyers.

In 2008, some 90,000 new homes were built in Venezuela, half by the government and half by the private construction industry. Despite numerous programs to address the problem, it is estimated that Venezuela continues to face a shortfall of some 1.8 million houses.

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