No one could accuse Hugo Chávez of not putting everyone else’s money where his mouth is. Recently, the Venezuelan socialist president “shared the wealth” and invited 25 families who lost their homes to temporarily move into Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.
Chávez’s sleepover guests are the victims of Venezuela’s worst weather catastrophe in 50 years, which brought with it severe flooding, mudslides and death to untold numbers of people.
In addition to putting up cots in the palace, Venezuela’s Sugar Daddy is exploiting the opportunity to further indebt the indigent by providing housing to thousands of government-reliant citizens whose coveted cardboard and tin huts were washed away in the floods.
According to Chávez-issued Presidential Decree 1,666, the one chance a person has to ever own property on the side of a mudslide-prone hill in Venezuela is to prove the home was built by its occupant. Renowned for “radical disrespect for the sanctity of private property” and determined to prevent property ownership, Hugo Chávez invested “284 million bolivars ($66 million USD) in the purchase of the new homes,” funded, built and owned by the government and paid for “based on economic ability.”
We know that there are people who can pay more, others who can pay less, and others who can’t pay anything… The necessity for housing is large… I assure you that [President] Chávez has ordered the housing projects to be accelerated… This housing complex has 1,138 homes … fully equipped with furniture and domestic appliances including refrigerators, stoves, and washing machines.
Thus far, Chávez has been consistently lackadaisical about the deplorable living conditions the Venezuelan people endure and has done little to provide adequate housing for the majority who dwell in barrios riddled with abject poverty, violence and despair.
Ramshackle homes are crammed on top of one another, and crime is rampant on the narrow, garbage-strewn streets and stairways. In many places, they are vulnerable to collapse in the mudslides often triggered by frequent downpours. Some lack sufficient electricity supply and telephone access, and their water is delivered by trucks two or three days a week.
Chávez, doing what all good socialist dictators do, in a familiar defensive diatribe “blames the [housing] problem on his free-market predecessor.” Now, after eleven years of neglect, Hugo has suddenly decided to share his “piece of the pie” with a small band of dispossessed houseguests whose lean-tos were washed away in a muddy avalanche.
Twenty-five nomadic “rains chaos” victims will trek, muddy shoes and all, to downtown Caracas, where they will bunk in a “spacious, whitewashed palace.” A communal spirit of camaraderie is sure to fill the palace along with the wafting aroma of peasant-prepared Pabellón Criollo, cooked in the security personnel-provided “huge kitchen …20 families can use.
“¡Viva Chávez” supporters exalt Hugo as the first leader in the history of Venezuela to make a personal sacrifice on behalf of the poor. Others say Chávez is a savvy “populist seeking votes with gimmicky measures that fail to address the South American country’s underlying problems,” first and foremost of which is inadequate housing for millions.
Nevertheless, if setting up a campground inside the presidential palace is all it takes for Chávez to gain the support of those who directly suffer from his socialistic policies, maybe in the run up to 2012 Barack Obama can follow a revered mentor and open the White House to those who’ve lost homes to foreclosure.