Venezuela Torn in Two After Chavez Urges Squatting

Some claim 'squatters' are actually gangs
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2011 2:21 PM CDT
Alexander Rome, center, watches television beside his sick grandfather, Jose Candelario Parra, 94, right, in their squatter neighborhood Las Mayas in Caracas, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007.   (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
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(Newser) – Venezuela’s squatters have a friend in Hugo Chavez. Chavez has long encouraged poor Venezuelans to take over unused buildings and farms, but in January he made it official, issuing a decree authorizing those made homeless by floods to take over buildings and land. The results: a country polarized between those benefiting from the policy and those who believe in private property, the LA Times reports.

“It’s sad but it’s necessary,” says one squatter in Caracas. “There is a shortage of decent housing in the city.” But many property owners say they’ve lost hard-earned land to thugs. “My apartment was taken over by a band of criminals that now charges squatters a monthly fee so they can stay,” says one woman. Another man says squatters on his property have fired a shotgun at him and broken his car windows. “Most of my neighbors are afraid to confront them, but I’m not,” he says. “If it comes to a gunfight, so be it.”

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