Communities in Venezuela Receive Cash for Urban Regeneration Projects

At a recent event, President Chavez distributed $36 million for community-led urban renewal projects. The money goes to urban land committees, which have shot up throughout the country with the purpose of acquiring land titles to their self-built homes.

Caracas, Venezuela, October 6, 2005—At a large rally in Caracas on Tuesday, Hugo Chavez distributed $36 million for 95 urban regeneration projects created and run by community groups. President Chavez said, "We must move forward rapidly and make a great effort with the Governors and the Mayors to speed up the distribution of the resources to the people."

The event was attended by 1,200 representatives from the Urban Land Committees (Comités de Tierras Urbanas – CTUs). These CTUs, came into following a 1999 Presidential decree. This decree allowed Venezuelans living in self-built homes on occupied land to claim ownership of them. It is estimated that more than 50% of Venezuelans live in this way and there has been a huge response from the people of the Barrios to this project. Thousands of CTUs have emerged, each one representing between 100 and 200 families. Each CTU elects about 7 representatives. To these representatives Hugo Chavez said, "To all Venezuelans in the barrios and the slums, and in the rest of the country; organize, increase your pace, because we want to finish off placing these resources."

The President also announced that a total up to $142.5 million is now available for the CTUs and their sister organizations the Technical Water and Energy Committees. To get the government money the CTUs must first present projects with budgets and definite aims. The process for giving money is transparent and open for the public to view. The government wants the pace of social organization and the improvement in living standard to advance more rapidly. It hopes that the quickest and most equal way to do this will be by distributing the money among the CTUs. On Tuesday Chavez said, "In the 20th century there was enough money for everyone, only there was no government with the will and capacity to distribute it equally."

Despite their name, the CTUs deal with much more than just land ownership. The committees discuss all aspects of urban life and welfare in open, participatory meetings. So far, many peoples’ living standards and self-respect have improved because of these communities organizing themselves around these issues. It is hoped that with greater resources a lot more will be done.

On the point of resources, Chavez sent a message to, "our brothers in the East," in reference to the wealthy areas in Caracas where the majority of the nation’s rich live. He asked them not to hate the poor and to come and observe what the other parts of the city do with some money; "These people have not had resources for 200 years. Alongside you our brothers we want equality, to live with dignity. We don’t want people living in mansions and others in slums on the edge of an abyss."

See also: Venezuela’s Quiet Housing Revolution: Urban Land Reform