Puebla, Mexico, April 15, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Thousands of Venezuelans protested Thursday against proposed legislation that critics say would decimate the country's public housing sector, while President Nicolas Maduro said he himself hopes to move into a public housing unit.
Protesters flooded central Caracas, demanding the National Assembly (AN) back down on plans to reform the popular public housing program, the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission (GMVV).
The protest was called by Maduro, who has accused the AN of seeking to privatise the GMVV.
The AN is controlled by the right-wing political coalition, the MUD.
Under the proposed reforms, GMVV housing residents would be granted title deeds to their properties, allowing them to freely sell their homes.
Currently, the government permanently leases GMVV homes to residents. Under this system, the residents effectively own the home to permanently live in, but are barred from freely selling their units.
The GMVV was one of the flagship social programs of Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez. While the initiative began as a disaster relief program for Venezuelans displaced by floods, today the GMVV is a central pillar of the Maduro administration's efforts to alleviate the country's decades old housing crisis.
MUD legislator Julio Borges has argued the AN's proposed reforms would “democratise” the GMVV, and promote housing construction.
Speaking at Thursday's rally, Housing Minister Manuel Quevedo urged Maduro's supporters to be sceptical of the MUD's claims.
“Behind this property law are the financiers who want to get their hands on more than a million homes, ” he said.
Critics of the proposal have warned the move could lead to spiralling property prices, and fuel inflation.
Addressing protesters in Caracas, Maduro said the proposed legislation would impact the roughly 15 percent of Venezuelans already living in GMVV homes.
“After 17 years, we have constructed 1.58 million homes for the people – more than what was constructed between 1988 and 1998,” Maduro said.
The president praised the quality of the homes, stating he hopes to move into one “soon”.
Maduro joked he has been trying to convince his wife Celia Flores to move for “two years”.
“Celia and I are making plans to move into a GMVV home very soon,” he said.