Jim McIlroy & Coral Wynter, Caracas
More than 10,000 people marched in support of the homeless and those lacking housing security on June 4, in a mobilisation sponsored by the National Foundation of Those Without Roofs. The march commenced in Catia, a poor suburb in the west of the city, and crossed the metropolitan area to the Pantheon, a major monument where the 19th century founder of Venezuela, Simon Bolivar, is buried.
The lively march featured many banners and national flags, with chants supporting President Hugo Chavez and proclaiming, "The people united, will never be defeated!" At the Pantheon, queues were formed for people to register their names on a list for housing, to be presented to the responsible national and local authorities.
This was the second march of Those Without Roofs in two weeks. On May 21, an even larger crowd demonstrated to demand greater access to proper housing. "The intention is to pressure the government to appropriate for us some land that was expropriated in [the suburbs of] La Vega and Antimano to construct houses", explained Wilma Alejo, according to the May 22 Ultimo Noticias newspaper.
Maximo Fernandez, leader of the Sin Techo committee, said that in the coming weeks they will have four meetings with the housing minister to discuss plans for a more equitable process for the homeless to access accommodation. Also present were families that rent houses and support the programs of expropriation, whereby rental tenants who have paid in rent the market value of their property can become owners via government expropriation. These families are asking the government to buy housing in buildings that are very old. Many of these people have occupied apartments for more than 30 years, but the owners won't put the properties on the market because they have enriched themselves through longstanding high rents.
Blanca Lopez, a community activist in Catia, told Green Left Weekly that the government had offered housing loans of up to 50 million bolivares to people at low-interest rates, but they were asking for an increase in the maximum, to 70 million bolivares, because of the high cost of housing in the capital.
From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
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