Eastern Barquismeto is tense. Days ago, some folks squatted on lands set aside for a new housing development.
The legitimate owners tried to defend what belongs to them. They got insults and rocks in response.
Meanwhile, tensions are also rising in the Quíbor Valley. On February 10th, the INTI (the government Land Institute, which “regulates” land tenancy in the country), was ordered to “rescue” 3,811 hectares there. Onion and other vegetable producers are worried and warn of plunging production if the land grab is consumated.
Squatting is also making its way into Barquisimeto itself. For months, an organized group known as FRIO (Frente Revolucionario de Inquilinos y Ocupantes, or Revolutionary Front of Renters and Occupiers) has been taking over houses and buildings in downtown Barquisimeto, fighting Lara State Police.Their leaders were arrested and released almost immediately. They’re behind many of the invasions in Lara since 2009.
Take a look around the area, and anyone can see abandoned places with signs indicating they’re being “guarded” or “protected” by committees or communal councils. Governor Henri Falcon is in a difficult position. Police are over-streched, and the nine hardcore Chavista mayors (are there any other kind?) are looking the other way.
The situation in Lara is not isolated from what’s happening in the rest of Venezuela. Invasions are becoming an everyday occurrence. What started in the rural areas is now being seen inside the cities. The number and magnitude of these acts has grown, and squatters are well organized. The Supreme Court has validated these actions.
Meanwhile at “La Pastoreña”, the squatters are still there and the owners are holding their own vigil. There’s no solution in sight. This is just one tiny conflict in one tiny corner of one big country, a story repeated hundreds of times nationwide.