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World's tallest slum being evacuated by government, occupants relocated

On Tuesday, some 3,000 people were moved out of one of the largest buildings in Venezuela as part of the country’s Great Housing Mission project. The unfinished building, originally called the Centro Financiero Confianzas when construction began in 1994, today has become known as the Torre de David or Tower of David, named after one of the building’s biggest investors.

A view next to the Tower of David in Caracas, Venezuela.
Flickr Creative Commons, Saúl Briceño

The building took on yet another nickname, “The World’s Tallest Slum,” when squatters began taking up residence on the building’s 45 floors in 1994 after construction completely stopped at the hands of the Venezuelan banking crisis.

Evacuation of the structure began on Tuesday with police in riot gear guiding families out of the building that had no water, no elevator and was beyond maximum capacity into new apartments provided by the government.

Caracas has recently committed itself to redeveloping the city. The man in charge, Ernesto Villegas, had said that squatters shouldn’t be allowed to live in the tower any longer for their own safety. He noted the lack of plumbing, the deaths of several children who have fallen and the lack of structural integrity of the building.

The building has been thought to harbor criminals alongside working families and has been a location to search when a kidnapping occurs.

However, the occupants, who were encouraged by president Hugo Chavez to take back unoccupied spaces, do have fond memories of their self-made home. Between the residents, they divided up patrol duties, cleaning duties and arranged for community activities. Residents called it a model commune and stated it was actually a refuge from the barrios.

Moving so far out of the city does bring worry to some families, who may not be able to have the same access to food and jobs in their new government-provided houses 23 miles outside of the city.

Once the occupants have been completely removed, there are no plans just yet for the building, but The Wire reports that Chinese bankers may be interested in rehabbing the tower and occupying it.

An AP report noted that many occupants opened up their own shops and stores in these spaces. Would it have been a better idea for the country to have temporarily relocated these families, rehabbed the tower to be a residential/retail building and then invited the families back to continue running local businesses?