Venezuelan Government Responds to Flood Refugees' Protests

The Venezuelan government has responded to demands from flood refugees for a quicker solution to their housing problem after recent protests by refugee groups closed key highways in the capital Caracas.

By Ewan Robertson
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Venezuelan Vice-President Elias Jaua (AVN)
Venezuelan Vice-President Elias Jaua (AVN)

Mérida, 9th January 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has responded to demands from flood refugees for a quicker solution to their housing problem after recent protests by refugee groups closed key highways in the capital Caracas. At least three separate protests have occurred in the past two weeks, the most recent being this Monday, with families of refugees complaining that they still hadn’t received new housing from the government.

“We’re tired of lies, we want our house, it’s not fair that they [the Venezuelan authorities] tell us we have to wait,” declared Ingrid Seiga at the protest on Monday, stating that she didn’t want to spend next December in a refugee shelter.

Thousands of families are currently being accommodated in government-provided refugee centres since the worst rains in 40 years left over 130,000 Venezuelans homeless in November and December 2010. The Venezuelan government has committed itself to providing all refugee families with “dignified homes,” currently being constructed as part of the government’s mass housing building program.

The program seeks to construct up to 3 million homes by 2019 in order to overcome Venezuela’s long term structural housing deficit and met 96% of its stated aim for 2011, with 150,000 houses being constructed in the past year. The government has confirmed that it is aiming to construct 200,000 houses in 2012, with many refugee families already having received their new homes.

Government Response to Protests

The Venezuelan government responded to the protests by engaging refugee groups in dialogue and announcing measures to step up governmental communication with families regarding when they will receive their new homes.

After a meeting of government ministers on Tuesday this week, Venezuelan Vice-President Elias Juau announced that a program of information will be created by the Executive Housing Commission to inform families which housing they have been designated and its expected completion date.

Juau also reiterated the government’s commitment to providing all refugees with new housing, stating, “We know it’s not easy to be in a refuge. We’ve made the greatest effort to ensure basic living and welfare conditions. We know that the families are waiting for a definitive solution, which is the granting of their homes, but we also ask for consciousness and patience”.

Minister for Justice and the Interior Tareck El Aissami also visited a group of protesting refugees on Thursday 26 January. In press comments, the minister confirmed that he had come to an agreement with the families and that they had drafted a plan to send in observation teams to ensure construction projects are finished on time, as well as looking at ways of improving services in refugee centres.

The minister confirmed that both the refugee families and the government were “celebrating” the results of the meeting.

“From here there will be dignified housing, they [the protesting refugee group] are satisfied, [and] we have made other observations to improve services [in government refuges]”.