Mérida, April 18th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Over the weekend the Venezuelan government handed out economic assistance to families still living in refuges after losing their homes in December’s record floods. Organised communities helped select those families most needing assistance.
On Saturday the government handed out around 4,000 of the economic assistance cards, and more on Sunday, as part of a total of 12,171 such cards in the first phase of the program, according to the Minister for Communication, Andrés Izarra.
The executive approved 167,130,524 bolivars (US$ 38.8 million) for such economic assistance, which comes under article 33 the new Special Law of Dignified Refuges passed in January under the enabling law that allows the President to quickly pass law-decrees in light of the flood emergency.
The assistance, according to Izarra, is to help “dignify the life conditions of these citizens”, and come in various forms, including monthly work and study scholarships of 600 bolivars (US$ 140) to 1,283 families, pensions for the elderly valued at the monthly minimum wage of 1,224 bolivars (US$ 284) and assigned to 3,857 families. 1,454 families with a member with a chronic illness or severe disability, and 5,577 single, unemployed mothers will receive the same amount
The Minister for Justice and Internal Affairs, Tareck El Aissami, said the government was “committed to continue working for the dignification” of the refuges.
According to the Minister of Communes, Isis Ochoa, the people, organised through housing committees, determined who most needed economic assistance, and are also helping with the assignation of housing.
While the government has projected the construction of two million houses over the next seven years to address the general housing crisis in the country, it also has an emergency plan in which it hopes to construct 31,000 houses quickly, for those living in refuges.
In Vargas state, at one ceremony for handing out the assistance, Jennifer Guaita, spokesperson of the Circulo Militar de Marno refuge, thanked the government for “guaranteeing the social wellbeing of all of us who are in this situation.”
“Popular power helping, being jointly responsible for, helping in the running of the refuges... is very important,” said Ochoa.
El Aissami said that under the Fourth Republic, the political period before Chavez became president, Venezuelans who lost their homes in such disasters were “forgotten, and excluded from politics.”
Meanwhile, the heavy rains in Venezuela continue, with many roads recently collapsed and routes between some major cities closed. In the Sur del Lago region in Zulia state, the situation is quite serious, with fire fighters, Civilian Protection, and police studying the area, monitoring levees, and installing pump systems in the lowest areas to try to avoid flooding.
In November and December last year Venezuela was hit by the heaviest rains in forty years, causing the death of 29 people and evacuation of over 100,000. The government declared a state of emergency in five states.