Grassroots organizations rallied in Caracas on Tuesday to demand action from judicial authorities in the struggle for urban housing.
The protest called by the Pobladores Movement gathered around 250 activists outside the attorney general’s office in the Venezuelan capital.
“We are demonstrating here today against evictions and increased efforts to criminalize popular struggles,” Dilsia Arévalo, spokeswoman from the Tenants’ Movement, one of the organizations in the Pobladores umbrella, told Venezuelanalysis.
Focusing on the housing sector, Arévalo urged Attorney General Tarek William Saab to set sights on recurring attacks and attempts to evict families in order to drive up rent prices.
“We need a thorough investigation into all eviction cases going on in the country, even more so amidst the (Covid-19) pandemic,” she stated, adding that homeowners use tactics such as turning off the water supply or outright violence to coerce tenants into leaving. “We are witnessing property rights and speculation trample peoples’ right to housing.”
Arévalo explained that her collective is managing more than 10 evictions a day in the Greater Caracas area alone and that the number keeps growing, with single-mother families amongst the most vulnerable. The Tenants’ Movement has taken to social media to denounce the unlawful practices and in some cases has managed to get families reinstated with the help of local authorities.
The tenant spokeswoman likewise drew attention to efforts to “discredit and criminalize” grassroots struggles with complicity from judicial institutions as well as private media outlets.
Saab was not in his office at the time of the protest but did meet via videoconference with Pobladores spokespeople Iraida Morocoima and Rigel Sergent, who is a National Assembly deputy as well. The Tenants’ Movement submitted a letter to the country’s top prosecutor that was backed by allied organizations.
“The ongoing harassment and tenant evictions violate laws and the Venezuelan Constitution,” the text reads. The grassroots collectives listed a series of complaints and demands from Saab’s office, including the creation of a special prosecution unit to focus on housing rights and unjustified evictions.
“We call your attention to unscrupulous sectors looking to use the Attorney General’s office to open judicial processes against grassroots leaders via false accusations in order to discredit popular struggles,” the letter goes on to say.
Pobladores activists held similar actions and delivered the letter to local prosecutor’s offices in Anzoátegui, Aragua and Lara states.
While there was no official statement from the attorney general’s office, Sergent confirmed to Venezuelanalysis that Saab had agreed to investigate all the eviction complaints brought forward by the social movements.
The longtime Tenants’ Movement activist added that a workgroup coordinated by the vice-president’s office would also meet this week to address the social organizations’ concerns.
The Pobladores Movement is additionally pushing legislation at the National Assembly to boost self-management and popular participation in the state’s Great Housing Mission (GMVV), which has built a reported 3.9 million homes since 2011 mostly for low-income families.
The organization warns against a growing influence of real estate guilds and argues that the state would better address housing rights by directing more resources towards popular self-construction.
While the legislative proposal was included in the parliament’s agenda for the current year, its preliminary discussion session has not been scheduled yet.
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