People's Organizing for Housing in Venezuela

Like many major cities in what North Americans and Europeans like to
call the 'Third World', the streets in Caracas, Venezuela are busy and
crowded people. However, Venezuela isn't your typical 'Third World'
nation. There is a revolution going on and you can see it and feel it
when you are there.

By Hassan Reyes - Basics

Venezuela_Mural.jpg

A political mural in Caracas that reads " Work amongst the people must be the first principle of any revolutionary".
A political mural in Caracas that reads " Work amongst the people must be the first principle of any revolutionary".
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BASICS Community Newsletter and the
Toronto-based Latino radio program Barrio Nuevo sent us to find out
what’s really happening in Venezuela and link up with the movements and
people that are advancing a people's program.

The corporate
media in North America portrays the Venezuelan revolution as
'authoritarian' and 'violent', and it portrays the
democratically-elected leader of the movement President Hugo Rafael
Chavez as a 'dictator'. It’s not hard to understand why rich Americans
and Canadians feel so threatened by what’s happening in Venezuela, with
the nationalization of the oil sector and the support that the peoples’
movement is obtaining from its allies in government. Venezuelans have
resurrected two words that the rich people of the world hoped they
would never hear again - Revolution and Socialism.

On the
streets the idea of revolution has become a tangible thing, with
incredible murals and graffiti everywhere, everyone announcing support
for Chavez, and actively organizing themselves at the local level.

We
come to a building with a considerable amount of this sort of graffiti
- the headquarters of the National Committee of the Homeless (Sin
Techos). I walk in and ask for Layo Gascuez, a local leader who agreed
to give BASICS an interview and tell us about their work. Layo takes us
to the second floor of a 5-storey building being occupied by the
movement. Once occupied, the residents (mostly single mothers, seniors
and youth) are organized into committees to carry out the every aspect
of living collectively, including communications and renovations. On
this same floor, the movement is renovating a space that will be used
as a free day care centre for the single mothers in the buildings.

"Currently,
we have 75 occupied buildings in Caracas and 165 nationally" says
Gascuez, pointing to other adjacent buildings also run through the
collectives.

"The Sin Techos movement began 2003 when we in
Venezuela really began to take on the oligarchy, who live off the
misery of the people" explained Gascuez of how the movement started.
"In our Bolivarian constitution, Article 103 prohibits all types of
monopolies and so we started doing occupations of buildings to break that monopoly."

So
united and strong are the peoples’ collectives within the Sin Techos
movement that Layo proudly brings us to another occupied 7 storey
building - which has a McDonalds as the main tenant on the street
level. "Whenever we need something done to the
building we go to their management and demand that they pay for it. They don't dare say no."

The
Sin Techos form part of the Manifesto for People's Liberation (MLP)
that brings together over 8000 collectives and mass organizations
together in Venezuela and other parts of Latin American.

Layo also brings us to other collectives under the banner of the MLP - the Workers of Art Centre, and Soberana TV.

The
Workers of Art also function within an occupied storefront that hadn't
been in operation for years. The Centre offers quality space for poor
artists to do
their trade (painting, sculptures etc.) that they can
then sell in order to survive. The artists offer free classes to youth
and people in the community.

Soberana TV is a media centre,
where the Sin Techos produce a local newsletter and TV-quality media
reports to offer to other local TV stations.

"Ultimately, the
work we do stems from a necessity. There are families who are living on
the streets. Just as our President Chavez has said we can’t keep on
allowing a monopoly over land and to permit a situation where the most
vulnerable and poor in our society are trampled on."