Mérida, May 6th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday used his standing legislative authority to enact three new laws designed, he said, “to dignify” the living conditions of Venezuela’s urban residents. Each law sets out to address the issues relating to forced evictions, ‘residential workers’ (concierges), and the management of urban property rights.
The Law against Eviction and Arbitrary Removal
The first of three pieces of legislation signed into law on Thursday – The Law against Eviction and Arbitrary Removal – describes its purpose within a context of “the housing crisis caused by capitalism and the neoliberal housing policies of the fourth republic [1958-1998] resulting in people…accepting overpriced leases…occupying empty buildings and terrains…accepting exploitative working conditions in the case of concierges…[and] accessing speculative financial credit policies.”
In response to said “crisis,” the law sets out to “protect” the rights of tenants, occupiers, and all types of temporary residents “against administrative and judicial measures which seek to interrupt or end the legitimate possession [of said properties].”
“In this law property is guaranteed,” explained Chávez. “What is regulated here is the way in which evictions play out. Regrettably, in the 21st century, we have seen a tribunal arrive with the police, remove things through the windows, in front of the children, and that is what this law is about,” he said.
The law suspends all evictions currently in the courts, provides renters the right to legal counsel, establishes numerous legal steps and possible court hearings at which to seek mutually beneficial resolutions to “housing disputes,” and stipulates that, if an eviction is absolutely necessary, the authorities must respect the “human rights…[and] dignity of those affected, as well as their families.”
If all legal remedies are exhausted, for example, the minimum amount of notice a resident must receive before being evicted is 90 days, and evictions can not be carried out during the early morning or evening hours, nor can they be implemented on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays.
Dignification of ‘Residential Workers’, formerly Concierges
The second of three laws enacted by Chávez on Thursday, titled the Special Law for the Dignification of Residential Workers, is specifically intended to address the longstanding demands of Venezuela’s concierges – live-in employees found in most Venezuelan apartment complexes who are responsible for the collection of utility fees, the management of maintenance and cleaning services, as well as other miscellaneous tasks.
The law reclassifies concierges as ‘residential workers,’ guaranteeing them the same civil, political, and workplace rights enjoyed by all Venezuelan citizens (right to organize, right to minimum wage, food ticket and retirement benefits, etc.). The law also stipulates that ‘residential workers’ be guaranteed dignified living conditions – including all of the same rights and responsibilities enjoyed by other residents in their building – and classifies them as a ‘vulnerable group’ which must be taken into special consideration by the national government when developing and implementing public policies.
“Us concierges have been enslaved for over 50 years, and today we thank Chávez for taking our union into consideration,” said Maribel Márquez, general secretary of Venezuela’s National Concierges Union.
“On behalf of all the concierges across the country, we thank the president for having brought us justice,” she concluded.
Special Law to Integrally Regulate Land Tenure in Urban and Suburban Settlements
Established to facilitate the community-based management of urban and suburban properties, the third of Thursday’s laws – the Special Law to Integrally Regulate Land Tenure in Urban and Suburban Settlements – sets out the legal framework for Urban Land Committees to organize on behalf of resident families’ needs.
Once established in a given neighborhood, Urban Land Committees are to intervene in the land tenure struggles underway in any given urban (or suburban) community. Interventions range from the registration of residents and their properties, the registration of each resident-family’s housing needs, the promotion and implementation of the collective decisions of residents as they relate to unused properties, the facilitation of communication between resident-families and the National Housing Institute, among other rights and responsibilities.
Also on Thursday, the Chávez government initiated the purchase of some 99 apartment complexes within the city limits of Caracas. The apartments within each of these buildings – currently occupied by renters – are to be sold to their current residents with the support of low-interest loans made available by the national government.
In addition, responding to pressure from organized residents of Campo Rico – one of many neighborhoods within the highly populated Caracas neighborhood of Petare – the Chávez government expropriated a two hectare plot of land (20,000 square meters) on which 350 housing units are to be built.
Venezuela’s Minister for Justice and Internal Affairs, Tareck El Aissami, was on site for Thursday’s announcement.
“Today, in justice, our government, the revolution, the commander president Hugo Chávez – committed to the cause of the people in most need – has dictated the expropriation [of the these two hectares], and from this moment on this terrain is now ‘multifamily property’”
The texts of all three laws are available, in Spanish, at Radio Mundial YVKE.