Squatters everywhere

Don't shoot. We're with the process.

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.

They got a court order to remove the invaders. The squatters responded with more stones. The National Guard showed up and just stood by, doing nothing.

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.

16 thoughts on “Squatters everywhere

  1. Sadly this is a common occurrence everywhere in Latin America. Here in Honduras we have much the same problem, squatters that political authorities don’t evict because it isn’t politically viable to do so. The problem is likely compounded in Venezuela with the housing crisis and a government that views squatters as potential voters even if this open support of illegal takeovers undermines governability. It’s likely that some PSF will chime in and say something about “recuperating land” or something like that. Land reform in Latin America is always done on the cheap by basically allowing people to grab whatever land they want and then looking the other way when the rightful owners complain. There’s no reasoning behind it, as long as social tensions are (slightly) defused it doesn’t matter if property rights, governability or living standards slowly erode. I realize there’s landless people and I realize that without access to land their lives are shitty at best. However, the fact that invasions and landless people are still a common occurrence I’m the 13th year of the Glorious Revolution is telling.


    • Yes and no. I have seen previously there are some Latin countries Venezuela tends to get together in 1) murder rate, 2) birth rate and 3) political chaos.
      > Honduras
      > El Salvador
      > Guatemala, Nicaragua
      We also have a little bit of Paraguay, but that is a heaven compared to Venezuela now.
      Most of those C. American countries were part of military Capitanías generales, where the military was chief of it all (but Paraguay), just like Venezuela. Coincidence? Perhaps not completely.


      • Probably true. Institutional history does tend to trickle down to the present day. Venezuela does have very ‘Central American’ problems although I would tie that in to the drug trade more than anything else. The military’s strong historical role in government is pretty much a continent-wide thing with a few notable exceptions like Costa Rica. What I am curious about (and I’m sure volumes have been written about it) is how the military came to play such a large role in present-day Venezuela despite having been nominally been placed under the authority of a civilian leadership for so long during the 4th Republic. Was that militarist urge always there or is it the present leadership’s background that brings out the worst in our hemisphere’s past?


  2. So, what should we invade first? La Chavera or Miraflores? I hear Diosdado’s house is really nice. We should invade that one too…

    And “Caracas Chronicles — Venezuela beyond the clichés”



  3. Despues de mi, el caos!

    Chavez handlers, and all the complices are prearing for their golden exiles/ golden bridges (Potentially negotiated with the opposition).
    How iwll the new goverment have the resources to investigate and prosecute ill-earned fortunes cuando el peo esta formado por doquier!…

    Think el fuego purificador de Diosdado en las torres del MTC.
    …Same principle, country wide application


  4. Chavez is encouraging invasions so the whole idea of private
    property becomes moot, if you recall in the first draft of the new
    constitution the right to own property was converted to the use of your
    property, as he wanted to have reelection he let that slide.when there
    was an out-cry, now its back, always two steps forward one back, if he
    gets reelected, he will go the Full-Monty


    • John,
      Because the opposition folks value their lives and want to stay out of jail. What judge would rule against the Chavez family in any matter including murder?

      Change is coming.


    • Probably because they’d be tossed out by the GN the very next day. It’s funny how those things work, Latin American institutions are quite effective when you know what cogs to turn and levers to pull. When it’s a matter with the Chavez family or PSUV the gov’t runs like a Swiss clock. When anyone else asks for something it runs like a Swiss car.


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