By Irene Revilla.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho in Caracas.
Ten families with 18 children, including a five-month-old baby, have been living for four months in an abandoned construction, where a night club used to operate. The place is located a few meters from one of the largest oil refining complexes on the planet and the hometown of rebellious 1970s folk singer Ali Primera.
“How sad the rain sounds when it falls on cardboard roofs. How sad my people live, in cardboard houses,” goes one of Primera’s better-known songs. He was born in Punto Fijo, not far from where the needed people are living now.
The group is made of people who, until recently, were able to rent a room to live in: a female doctor, a nurse, and a worker of the Mayor Office of Carirubana, but now they cannot get the $30 a month for the rent. They are decent people, some even with decent jobs but, after seven years of the most severe economic crisis Venezuela has ever seen, with the GDP contracting by more than 80%, they have nowhere else to go. More than half of the Venezuelan labor force makes just $2 a month.
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And now their community is threatened. On Monday, February 8, a representative of the Mayor’s Office of Carirubana and the Municipal Protection Council visited them to alert them that they must leave the place before Saturday, February 13. Otherwise, they would be evicted.
Four months ago, they moved into a building being remodeled, the site of a nightclub, and distributed the floorplan in separate spaces for each family; however, they are forced to share the bathrooms. Moving in was work in itself: the surroundings were full of overgrown bush and the insides strewn with garbage.
They also asked for support from the neighbors of the zone. They approved the invasion and even helped them to get material to the roof of the unfinished rooms.
None of the ten families have a refrigerator. There is no running water in the place either, so they carry water in jerry cans from a clandestine outlet tapping into the main pipeline that carries water to the Paraguana refineries. They do not have cooking gas either.
Currently, they take turns cooking on electric stoves and firewood. They have electricity, but it is spotty.
A single mother with three children
“This was full of debris. It was a den for thugs. Searching through the garbage and with donations, we put doors, a roof, and we moved in. We have nowhere to go, I was renting with my three children, but I can no longer afford it”, said Jisaileth Lopez.
She does not have a steady job. She survives with the bonuses granted by the Maduro government and the little help of some relatives.