EspañolImagine that you are enjoying your brand new home; not only is it the best one you have ever had, it came free, a gift from the revolution. You are relaxing, thinking about how good living in socialism can be, when suddenly someone breaks into your home and forces you to leave, claiming that your house is now his house.
Welcome to Venezuela’s socialism, where private property remains an old memory, and the failure of institutions and the weakening of the rule of law has taken over a country where the law of the strong prevails.
Venezuela is no stranger to housing shortages. Even before 2011, when Hugo Chávez created the welfare program Misión Vivienda — free houses to those in need — the situation was already critical. With more than two million people living in overcrowded shanty houses, it was no surprise when the state couldn’t fulfill their housing demands.
However, after years of no solution to their problems, many of these people decided to wait no longer, and grab with their own hands what the state had failed to provide. In this manner, invasions of private property have became more and more common in Venezuela.
In March, the government was about to finish the second stage of construction for a housing complex called “Ciudad Betania,” located in Ocumare del Tuy. This area in Miranda state is characterized by extreme poverty and high crime rates, and the central government was set to assign remaining apartments to police officials and members of the military (those not already slated for eligible recipients). Adjoining communities started to protest and demand new houses for themselves, claiming they were also a priority. Given the absence of a state response, many of them decided to make these new shiny apartments their new homes. Without even caring if these buildings didn’t have stairs yet, much less an elevator, they climbed up the walls and grabbed the first ones they could.
Last month Aporrea, a website where Chavismo supporters post articles praising the revolution but also denouncing its internal “irregularities,” released an open letter by workers from Mercal — the state food program. According to the letter, these workers were the beneficiaries for the first stage of this housing complex, and police officers and members of the military were supposed to move in during the second stage. However, one day, while they were enjoying the marvels of socialism in their free, new houses, they were suddenly kicked out of their apartments by groups who entered illegally and claimed that “they were first” in the long waiting list to receive a free state house.
Officials from the National Guard and the police showed up to ease the situation and control the rebel groups, but with no apparent success. The guards withdrew from the area, and left the legal inhabitants to deal with their new unfriendly neighbors. Hours later, the owners of the apartments left their homes, scared of being harmed by the invaders.
“We reject acts of vandalism.… that aim to take control of places built by the revolution to dignify the Venezuelan people, and that are based on anarchy and criminal activities,” the letter says.
However, it’s interesting to recall that when Chávez confiscated lands, factories, and buildings that were owned by hard-working individuals who earned what they had through their work, it was “justice.” The notion of private property was buried under Chavez’s new concept of “social redistribution.” But when it’s the same Chavismo supporters who are deprived from their property, by sadly, the same ones who were deceived by populist promises, it’s a “criminal activity.”
When invaders relax in their new brand apartments, they might also think it is good to live in this socialist paradise. I guess that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.