By Liz Gascon in Lara.
During October, more than 30 apartments of the Ali Primera housing projects in Barquisimeto, Lara state, have been cleared by members of Chavista organizations called Unit Battles Chavez-Bolívar, guarded by officials of the Special Action Forces (Faes). They argued that the apartments got abandoned.
The unit battles were created as the street-fighting arm of the PSUV, the party founded by Hugo Chávez. However, they rarely venture by themselves. FAES and other law enforcement and military units are close to its actions.
Among those affected, there is a paraplegic man who was out of town for several months because he was undergoing medical treatment in another state when the government decreed the quarantine for the COVID-19 pandemic. When he returned to Barquisimeto, he found his home occupied by an alleged official with the Governor Office of Lara.
“He is a man in a wheelchair. His apartment was assigned to him in a political act by the Vice Minister of Housing Ildemaro Villarroel,” said attorney Nathalie Crespo. She is among those affected and took on the defense of the case.
My things were kidnapped
The residence of Crespo got taken over by members of the Ali Primera battle unit working together with FAES officials, on October 9, at 4:00 pm, even though forced evictions are prohibited until December by order of the National Executive.
Crespo, a mother of two children, has been living in the Ali Primera projects since 2014. For the last weeks, she has been sleeping in the home of a relative.
“I am living in the house of a relative who provided me with a small bed. I have my older son doing chores at my mother’s house, and the younger one is with me. My things were kidnapping inside the apartment,” Crespo told El Pitazo.
At the same time, she said that the raids and evictions that have been going on for a week at the Ali Primera housing development are not legal.
“They broke locks, welded doors shut, while they keep us outside with our children. We are legitimate owners. There is no administrative procedure,” she said.
No due diligence
According to local government officials, the Ministry of Housing and Habitat in Caracas ordered a process of regularization of unoccupied apartments. Some of the affected say they have difficulty moving to their jobs due to the lack of transportation between Ali Primera and the center of Barquisimeto proper.
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So, they decided to spend weekdays with relatives and acquaintances in the city and sleep only on weekends in their apartments.
The affected say the National Bank of Housing and Habitat (Banavih in Spanish) in Barquisimeto assured them that they did not back those procedures.
The presence of armed police, especially those accused of crimes against humanity such as FAES, undermines the case for the evictions, lawyer Crespo said.
“The act is null and void, and there is a vice when the (eviction) team is accompanied by the FAES, a law enforcement agency that is not following the supposed civil and peaceful activity they were carrying out. If they were only going to deliver citations, why do they arrive with the armed FAES as if they were going to deal with criminals?” Crespo added.
The legal consultant from the Banavih regional office resigned because he disagreed with the evictions, explained attorney Zuly Alvarez from the Lara State Human Rights Network.
During the last days, the families evicted have been protesting at the Government Office of Lara state to reject the evictions. This Monday, October 19, will initiate legal actions to demand the restitution of their homes.