tower of david
Slum. Shantytown. Gang haven. Shelter for squatters. Whatever you want to call it, the Tower of David in Caracas, Venezuela, will no longer offer a roof to the poor families that currently call it home. On June 22, Venezuelan soldiers, officials and authorities began removing families from a 45-story building notorious for offering shelter to poverty-stricken families and gang members.

The Tower of David got its name from the original owner and investor of the building, David Brillembourg. The building is currently the third highest skyscraper in the country and was initially designed to be a banking center that would signify the new and prosperous future for Venezuela.

However, the building stopped construction in 1993 after Brillembourg’s death and was quickly abandoned. It wasn’t until a housing crisis in 2007 that homeless people and gangs moved in, which quickly led to the building gaining a reputation as the world’s tallest slum. But this new effort from the Venezuelan government looks to change that.

This recent move is designed to give those who live in the building better accommodations and to help clear the longtime symbol of poverty and lack of law. Those who currently live in the building, numbering around 3,000 residents, are being given new homes in the town of Cua, south of the capital city of Caracas. More than 100 families have already been relocated, and it is estimated that more than 1,150 families will leave the tower by the end of the process. As of this writing, there is no timetable for removing all of the residents from the tower.

Ernesto Villegas, the minister for the revolutionary transformation, made it clear during an official statement that this move is “…a coordinated operation, in harmony with the community in the tower.” This attitude is reflected by many of those who were relocated, who recognized that as residents of the building, which had erratic water and power supplies and was a consistent target of police raids, they needed a more stable and all-around better living environment. Hopefully this symbolic act of clearing the Tower of David will help spark further reforms to help increase the standard of living for many Venezuelans who find themselves in poverty.

– Andre Gobbo

Sources: BBC, Al Jazeera, The Atlantic
Photo: National Post