December 17, 2014
Venezuela evicts squatters from the tallest slum in the world
Venezuelan soldiers and officials began moving hundreds of families today out of the "Tower of David", a half-built 45-story skyscraper that dominates the Caracas skyline and is thought to be the tallest slum in the world.
The mass eviction from the tower, originally intended to be a bank center but abandoned since 1994 and later home to some 3,000 needy Venezuelans, proceeded peacefully.
"Necessity brought me here, and the tower gave me a good home," said Yuraima Parra, 27, cradling her one-year-old daughter in a rug as soldiers helped load her possessions into a truck before dawn outside the building.
"I was here for seven years. I'm going to miss it, but it's time to move on."
The tower's inhabitants said authorities were providing new homes in the town of Cua, south of Caracas, under the government's Great Housing Mission project - a flagship policy of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
Nicknamed after its developer, the financier and horse-breeder David Brillembourg, the Tower of David was viewed by many Caracas residents as a focus for crime gangs and a symbol of property "invasions" encouraged in the Chávez era.
Residents, though, said the building became a refuge from the city's crime-ridden 'barrios' and had turned into something of a model commune.
Inside there was evidence of hyper-organization everywhere: corridors were polished daily; squatters who first arrived in tents then partitioned spaces into well-kept apartments; rules, work schedule and admonitions were posted on walls.
The tower has drawn considerable international attention with reams of articles, documentaries and analyses of its unique spatial structures. One exhibition about it won a prize at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.
Politically, the tower was a hotbed of "Chavismo," even though opponents saw it as indictment of the failures of his government to provide adequate housing for the poor.