Caracas, June 22, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan grassroots collectives held a large-scale march on Tuesday to defend housing rights.
The mobilization was driven by the Pobladores platform, which brings together tenants, janitors, building occupiers, pioneer encampments and a number of other grassroots groups that organize around the self-managed construction of housing.
A number of allied Chavista movements, in communications, human rights, feminism and other areas likewise joined the march that began in Parque Carabobo in central Caracas and ended at Miraflores Presidential Palace.
“This is an autonomous march to take back the initiative, to re-establish dialogue with the government,” Juan Carlos Rodríguez, Pobladores spokesman, told Venezuelanalysis. The rally gathered some 500 activists in the Venezuelan capital, including several from the western state of Lara.
The march and a preceding campaign on social media had as its slogan #NadieNosQuitaLoLuchado (“what we achieved in struggle shall not be taken away”). Rodríguez stressed that it was first and foremost “a message for the bourgeoisie.” Housing collectives have pointed the finger at real estate “mafias” that look to reverse progressive legislation. There has also been a spate of evictions despite the existence of legal instruments protecting tenants.
“We mean to show that Chavismo is alive and kicking, and we will not take this bourgeois offensive sitting down,” the activist went on to say. He stressed that the campaign was “open-source” and that the struggle also extended to other sectors that are also facing challenges to their rights such as workers and campesinos.
Rodríguez highlighted that the #NadieNosQuitaLoLuchado campaign was a result of popular consensus in assemblies and had been embraced by a number of grassroots collectives.
Mario Martínez, from the AVV Housing Assembly (“Asociación Viviendo Venezolano”) La Esperanza del Bloque in Antímano, southern Caracas, explained to Venezuelanalysis that over 200 families have been struggling since 2017 to build their own houses.
“The land is ready, the studies have been made, but we have yet to receive support from the state to build our houses,” he said. The AVVs occupy idle land plots before coordinating with state institutions to receive building materials.
Venezuela’s Great Housing Mission (GMVV), founded by former President Hugo Chávez in 2011, has built a reported four million homes supplied at next-to-no cost to low-income families. Popular movements stress that self-managed construction has made up a significant part of the homes built by the GMVV and have repeatedly demanded greater responsibility and resources to secure new houses and communities from the ground up.
Chavista organizations have likewise drawn attention to growing efforts by private actors, in collusion with judicial institutions, to criminalize grassroots struggles.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro later received a portion of the mobilization in a televised broadcast on Tuesday afternoon.
The Venezuelan leader praised social movements for taking to the streets and assured them he was “carefully studying” a number of complaints and proposals.
The meeting saw popular movement spokespeople raise alarm bells over proposals to reform a number of landmark laws approved under Chávez, including legislation protecting building janitors and tenants from unjustified evictions. “We are loyal to the government, but that loyalty must go both ways,” stressed Pobladores’ Iraida Morocoima.
Housing Minister Ildemaro Villarroel was the target of criticism over alleged delays in assigning land titles to social organizations in idle public lands. Another key demand was the approval of a legislative proposal that will formalize collective property over urban land and boost self-managed housing construction.
Maduro welcomed the proposals and criticism, pledged that landmark legislation would not be rolled back, and ordered Vice President Delcy Rodríguez to organize a meeting with other ministers and grassroots representatives to address the housing issues brought up.