Extreme Home Makeover: Chávez Edition

On a live national broadcast each week, President Hugo Chávez, who is running for re-election, presents new dwellings to down-on-their-luck Venezuelans.

Comments: 53

  1. Free homes! I'll vote for you if you give me a free home! Politics at its finest.

    Ultimately, someone is paying for this construction. Sounds a lot like the early Peron regime in Argentina. Hmmmmm....

  2. The article explains where the money is coming from: profits from the state-owned oil business. Chavez's political career has been built on the idea of taking those profits and putting them into social welfare programs, rather than putting them into the hands of a very small number of investors and managers.

  3. Dave do you seriously think Venezula is heading for a brighter future than the U.S.? An entire economy based on state-owned oil extraction and communism is nothing but a house of cards that will eventually collapse into revolutionary chaos. The U.S. economy has plenty of problems, but the very plurality of our problems highlights the fact that we have 1,000,000 times more going on in our economy than they do, and the healthy parts sustain the unhealthy parts.

  4. To Dave K:

    What profits? Over half of Venezuela's production goes to either China to pay off a $20 Billion dollar loan (with the oil priced under market value) or to Caricom countires and Cuba at preferential prices and easy "pay me in 35 years" terms. The rest gets sold to the US, the only customer that pays market price and "cash on the barrel head".

    Venezuela's foreign debt went from 26 to 107 billion USD in the 14 years of "Chavernement", despite record revenues due to Oil

    Again, what profit?

  5. So they have their version of the American Dream?

    The Venezuela Dream.

  6. What a novel idea. A government trying to help its citizens, be it imperfect in its execution or motives, to let them live with a modicum of decency and security. Maybe other governments on this planet will be able in some way to do the same for its less fortunate citizens.

    Edward Collett

  7. how is it that he only does this during election year? what about the last 6 years since 2006 when he was re-elected? what about the more than 20 billion dollars that he has given for free to other countries instead of investing it in Venezuela. Listen, the 1%, they left venezuela years ago.. the only thing the opposition wants to do is to bring back 1) democracy, 2) stability, 3) end the hatred between the people that support the govt and those who do not, 4) to finally end the monopoly that the central government has over all aspect of the economy, the states, and the people.

  8. And what does Venezuala do when the country runs out of money?

  9. Same as the US, borrow from China.

  10. 19,000 murders in Venezuela in the last 12 month. $200 salary, 27% inflation, out of control crime (kind of the old, old west), no jobs, very few private companies left.
    I rather get a salary to pay for my own stuff than having a dictator destroying a whole country and giving away all the oil to Cuba, Iran and China

  11. A few years ago, NYS Lottery had a commercial with the jingle that said the winner singing that he/she would buy a house for for family member. I thought to myself that the cost of a house in the NY metro area might only be possible if one won the lottery. Chavez's scheme is not so outlandish.

  12. It's Queen For A Day politics! - Naturally, in the States we do it up as a regular tv series with uplift & commercials.

  13. At least with Chavez, you get good, honest, out-in-public graft. Here in the US it's under the table, paid for by the faceless-but-person-able-corporations, with the blessing of the Supreme Court.

    Ah, American exceptionalism! "A city set on a hill!" You gotta love it!

  14. I'm still trying to figure out whether the funding was mainly through oil revenue or narcotrafficking.

  15. What a contrast with Europe or North America, where governments are determined to inflict pain and suffering on the poor in the name of "austerity".

  16. So rewarding 50-100 people with glamorous residences while running amuck the "welfare" policies he so cherishes makes Chavez's government more respectable? How about the other 2.8 million Venezuelans who are left out of the sweepstakes and now hang onto loose strings for miraculous help?

    This is not to say the American government fairly addresses their poor either but the vast poverty and struggle of the majority of Venezuelans cannot and should not be covered with such a superficial bandage.

  17. You must be joking. Do you know how the Venezuelan government became so rich and powerful? Expropriation by coercion. For the sake of "the revolution", Chavez will, on a whim, on television, take away private property. I don't want a government paycheck, much less a pirate's stolen treasure, gifted in an obvious publicity stunt.

  18. I wonder if Venezuela, is still providing heating oil assistance to poor areas of the United States, during the winter months?

  19. How Eva Peron of him!

  20. Because The Times is so squeamish about publishing comments critical of its position, I don't expect anything. But here goes: Those of us who go back 50 and more years as Times readers may recognize that Mr. Neuman is a worthy successor to Ruby Phillips, who reported the Cuban Revolution with absolute bias if not venom. In this article, the subtle twisting of words and parenthetical expressions should be an embarrassment to a newspaper that prides itself on objectivity. Yet Latin America has always been a tender spot for The Times.

    Ridicule Chavez, underestimate US pressure to undermine the government, what's the diff--poor people are only laughable, one more government (when the time is ripe) is ready for CIA overthrow; perhaps Mr. Chavez could be put on the president's hit list, an ideal object for targeted assassination.

    The alternative is to reject the loaded language and start treating people with dignity.

  21. I don't see how anyone could ever defeat Chavez. He owns almost all of the media and spends the people's money as part of his campaign. And there's no way to change this.
    It's basically a dictatorship with the facade of elections.

  22. Bribery works all the time, looks like Dictator chavez is a shoe in for his lifetime post.

  23. Chavez for President! Vote on November 6! Chavez for President!

    I voted for Obama, and he's no FDR! FDR would have made saving the homes of millions of Americans, defrauded by the banks, his first priority.

    Unfortunately, I'll vote for him again.... because the Republican alternative is too horrible to think of. But I'll hold my nose as I vote, and take a shower when I get home.

    Chavez for President! at least he's got some values right!

  24. Not sure if you're serious, but you are way off on what Chávez' values are. If you went to Venezuela and poked around just a little, you would see that Chávez has absolutely no consideration for the poor. His actual policies—every one of them—clearly show this.

  25. I am not a huge Chavez supporter but at least he is doing something. Would the opposition do this? Doesn't the local 1% or the 0.01% want a return to crony capitalism in Venezuela?

  26. how is it that he only does this during election year? what about the last 6 years since 2006 when he was re-elected? what about the more than 20 billion dollars that he has given for free to other countries instead of investing it in Venezuela. Listen, the 1%, they left venezuela years ago.. the only thing the opposition wants to do is to bring back 1) democracy, 2) stability, 3) end the hatred between the people that support the govt and those who do not, 4) to finally end the monopoly that the central government has over all aspect of the economy, the states, and the people.

  27. Hopefully the opposition WON'T do this, because this doesn't help anyone. There is no 1% in Venezuela. There are only a handful of government connected thieves who do nothing but spend their ill-gotten gains on travel, drugs and women. Everyone else is poor or struggling to not be.

    Giveaways are the only reason anyone supports Chávez, and he has created a huge class of poor people who are indignant about their status. Working is for the capitalist pigs! Education is for the misguided! Chávez' followers sit in the doorsteps of their expropriated run-down shacks and wait for the next hand out. The schools are a complete, mind-boggling mess (and there are no jobs anyway) and anyone who earns a decent living is fearful of having their assets stolen—by their neighbors or the government.

    Socialism indeed. Chávez is too stupid to even know what socialism is.

  28. When I flew from Boston to Miami in April, I sat next to a woman from Venezuela. She and her husband bought their apartment 30 years ago. They still live there with their two grown sons because, she said, their sons could not possibly buy an apartment now because of the high prices for real estate.

    She said that life in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez is terrible. It is extremely expensive to live there now and also dangerous because of the extreme poverty of the general population.

    She said that Venezuela is a very wealthy country because of its oil sales but the wealth does not trickle down past the elite and the upper-level politicians.

    Giving away free homes to a few of the tens of millions in dire poverty is a joke and everyone in Venezuela knows it.

  29. Chavez is a dictator, using this stunt as a way to manipulate the people. It's so transparent that I can't believe anyone comments in his favor. Helping out a handful of the poor, but leaving millions in poverty, isn't something anyone should root for. He has run his country into the ground, and Venezuelans are much worse off than before his reign.

  30. Chavez has done more for Venezuela than all of the former presidents put together. The elites have lost some of their privileges but the 90% of the people have made significant gains in health care and employment. This reporter and other NYT reporters only report on the human flaws in Venezuela that are always there no matter what government is in place. Why isn't there more critical reports on life in these United States in the 21st century?

  31. You are so unbelievably misinformed about what's going on in Venezuela. NO ONE has made gains other than the handful of Chávez' cronnies who have stolen everything they have. But I agree partially in one thing: The NYTimes, as well as all the other media outlets in the U.S., really don't represent the reality of the situation there.

  32. Hugo Chavez and Cristina Kirchnner in Argentina think they have found the magic formula to stay in power forever: distribute income and build houses for the poor with public funds. Chavez in Venezuela can afford the economic costs because of unlimited oil revenues. He'll be reelected. Cristina could not and Argentina is heading towards another major economic and financial crisis. Cristina is in serious danger of finishing her second mandate as Raul Alfonsin did in 1989, i.e., high inflation, political and economic chaos. Her dream of a possible third mandate will be terminated by the economy.

    Dilma Rousseff is quite the opposite of Chavez and Cristina. Her administration --following the same policies of her predecessor Lula da Silva of PT -- has been successful in combining sound macroeconomic policy with income distribution and housing affordability for the poor and middle class. As far as concrete and favorable results for the majority of the population, Brazil is the NEW socio-economic model in Latin America. Mexico's newly elected President Pena Nieto has expressed preference to follow Brazil's best practices when he takes power in December.

    Among the group of so-called leftists, anti-gringo presidents in Latin America i.e., Chavez, Cristina, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega, only Chavez has a chance to stay in power as long as Fidel Castro in Cuba because of oil revenues. The remaining members will be defeated sooner or later by the economy.

  33. Exactly. Lula and Dilma have shown that the real way you lift people out of poverty is not building Potemkin villages for a token few (all of whom are required to be party militants). Rather you build a stable economy, work to provide electricity and security in your poor villages and urban shantytowns, and improve schools and children's diet through free supplementation at a critical age.

    Chavez is just like Eva Peron who liked "giving away" free radios and bicycles to poor people for the cameras. She built a Potemkin model orphans' village that was so nice no actual children were ever allowed to use it.

  34. But Lula just endorsed Chavez for President and is a huge fan of Chavez and has undoubtedly absorbed what you apparently missed which is that Chavez did NOT make a few meaningless, token gestures but led a MASSIVE improvement in conditions for poor, for women, for indigenous peoples, and vastly improved literacy, housing and the environment in his country, according to independent and well-documented sources, including the OAS.

  35. Dictators are no good for any country. Chavez is no exception. I feel for the Venezuelans who cannot escape, whose property has been seized, who have minimal security, who are forced to watch a political charade of a lottery instead of being able to obtain homes of their own. Venezuela is just another miserable petrostate where the money never seems to make it down to the rightful owners -- the citizenry.

  36. Hello? Chavez is currently running in a tough election. You clearly don't like him but the term dictator just doesn't apply.

  37. Time to invite the TV crews to Mayor Bloomberg's new 200 to 300 sq ft homes for New York's most disadvantaged, perhaps?
    It's easy for us to criticize El Jefé Chavez for many things, but his attempts to provide a buttress to the social support system of the country and provide more for the common good go way beyond what us Gringos are doing.
    Michael in Vermont rags on the disparity of wealth and the oilgarchs who control it in Venezuela - he's correct - like here in this country. But Chavez's efforts of more equitable distribution of wealth will always hit roadblocks as long as the Western supported elites (remember who it was who tried to overthrow Chavez a few years ago?) control the wealth of the country, the radio stations and most means of production. We should remember, however, that those who live in glass houses ought not to chuck stones.
    What infuriates the elites of Venezuela and here is that someone is challenging their authority and power, and trying to break up their monoploy of the economy. We could take a few lessons from Mr. Chavez.

  38. What they fail to mention in the Article is that the properties have not been built by the Government of Venezuela, instead, the Government steals from people or Corporations who have built a house, apartment building, farm land... (in the name of the revolution) and assigns those properties to whomever they feel deserve them.

    We must remind readers that the Government of Venezuela owns all the Oil and thus the per capita income of Venezuela is about U$15,000 per Citizen, however, the Government charges income tax and also steals at will.

    If you visit Venezuela you will not find any improvement made by the Government, however, if you visit Cuba, Bolivia, Central America, Haiti... you will find schools, neighborhoods, hospitals built by Chavez.

    The Venezuelan school system is useless, Hospital system is collapsed (even though is socialized medicine) and the Healthcare people receive in the Public Hospitals (by Cuban Physicians and so-called Integral Medical 2 year degrees) is sub-standard. Luckily, there are private Hospitals where Venezuelan Physicians educated in Real Universities with Real Degrees work and the standard is equal the US Healthcare.

    So if anyone thinks that Chavez is a Great President and Leader, they must also think that North Korea, Cuba and Somalia are also great places to live.

  39. I am a Venezuelan, U.S. citizen who travels to Caracas fairly often (particularly the last four years). I cannot speak for the down-and-out poor, but can for the middle class--not the rich. I'm taking about taxi drivers on up---everyone at that station in life hates him! As some of the previous commentators noted, he's arbitrary, impulsive, wasteful, and outright crazy. There's nothing wrong with helping the poor, but there's no systematic program for improvement. Everything is done on the basis of charisma, ad hominem decision making, and emotionalism.

    Beyond the the extreme level dangerousness--19,000 murders for population of 3.5 million Caracans doesn't scratch the surface. He has impounded property, offices, homes, left to rot a multi-billion dollar train projection now in its 14th year of construction with nothing to show for it, and vast housing projects unrealized or shoddily made. No one knows if Chavez will live another year or whether his cancer is a fake to acquire sympathy from the poor.

    Yes, he panders to the underclass and I would see things their way having no other alternative. However, all of the expertise from doctors to engineers, to savy business people have left or about to. Who will run the country then? How will it avoid being another Cuba with all of its misery? That fate will not occur because of any embargo. As best I can make-out he's a manic-depressive with no capacity for seeing the overall needs of the country.

  40. It is hard to distinguish between Chavez's Democratic-Socialism, and a dictatorship, that wishes to be seen as "socio-benevolent". If it were benevolent, all that, oil wealth, largely stolen (nationalized) by Chavez, would be truly, and evenly spread to the underprivileged masses.

    However, in Chavez’s version, so much is siphoned off to serve his purposes, not to mention the purposes his administration's, secretly oppressive elite, that there is barely enough $$ left to give away a few apartments. The truth is the whole country is strangling with corruption abject poverty, and violent crime, and the poor are living in fetid squalor.

    The miracle = Chavez is able to make it look as if everyone is getting a new home, without working for it, or even being able to pay the power bill, all, through the magic of a media, totally subjugated to his bidding. What puzzles me most, is that those poor guys living on $2 a day, don’t even ask where is my new apartment? . . . I guess they like the Koolaid, and figure their new apartment will be coming along soon!

    There are striking similarities here to the way Obama is able to portray the millions of new jobs he is creating from his Pandora's box of economic "stimulation" . . . , and all that, through the magic of a media, which for the most part, has become emotionally entangled with the charisma of the man and are attempting to enshrine him, right next to Jesus Christ.

  41. I wish I knew what it was really like there. I'm inclined to like Hugo. And he does push money downstream. I like Julius Caesar and Huey Long too. But, as always seems to be case -- likewise when I read about Fidel and Cuba -- I read, and feel afterward like I still don't know what it's really like.

  42. What it´s really like is you can be kidnapped pretty easily (a situation that´s been steadily worsening). My wife and I live in a semi-rural area on the edge of Caracas, and there have been 24 kidnappings last I knew around here in the last three months. When my wife was dizzy and frightened recently at 2:00 a.m., we decided that I´d take her into the city to an emergency room. When the receiving nurse heard where we´d started from she said we´d made the wrong decision, that the risk we´d taken with our health from kidnapping was greater than the risk posed by my wife´s particular symptoms. Kidnappers, once paid off, have been continuing to extort money from the released victims and their families threatening more snatchings or worse. I just heard about a man who said no; he was murdered. The only escape is emigration. My wife and I will get out as early as possible. This from a 22-year ex-pat in the country.

  43. Congratulations for printing somthing positive about
    chavez. He is building 400.000 dwelling units per year for the very poor, he ran a registry request to locate the whereabouts of the displacled and roofless so he knows how many units will be needed in the short and mid term and he is addressing the issue thoroughly. He has also created a social security registry whereby everybody 65 years plus will be entitled to a pension equal to minimum wage revised every year, May 1st, to be increased as per existing inflation. Any one can pursue a University degree free of charge , any one can have medical attention free of charge. No wonderland implied but the right steps are being taken. People first, economiy later, growth first, austerity later. President Groover Cleveland said : ": I see no problem with capitalism, the problem is with capitalists, they are too greedy.""

  44. Gee, and the money is coming from a bankrupt middle and upper class who no longer have jobs nor money due to seizure of their assets and businesses. Sounds like very sound economics.

  45. I feel sorry for his people, but glad that Mr. Chavez is at at least experiencing some of the trouble he deserves.

  46. One thing about Chavez is that he is giving the country a crash course in urbanization. That is, by maintaining low food prices to please the urban electorate he is driving farmers out of business, creating rural unemployment and migration to the cities where the new underclass votes for him as its savior!

    The up side is that a large urban underclass is the ticket to industrialization as yet another cheap-labor source.

  47. All the American leftists saying it would be great if we had a Chavez here: I can only assume you have never been to Venezuela in the 13 years since Hugo Chavez Frias came to power.
    In that time more than 180,000 Venezuelans have been murdered. The murder rate is now about four times what it was pre-Chavez. Caracas has become the most dangerous city in the world, along with Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.
    The biggest criminal of all is the Venezuelan state and military, which under Chavez have merged into one together with his party the PSUV. This group coordinates the distribution of cocaine to Europe via West Africa. It uses planes as big as 727s to fly cocaine to its African drug-trafficking colony of Guinea-Bissau.
    Chavez jails critics, opposition politicians, journalists, judges and lawyers, and anyone else he feels like, for as long as he feels like.
    The tokens he distributes, including these homes, were stolen from the Venezuelan people, and then after skimming off about half, they are “gifted” back to the same Venezuelan people, who are not only supposed to be grateful to Chavez personally, but expected to become foot-soldiers in his political army of termites eating the country.

  48. I actually went to Venezuela to see for myself--two visits, each about a month. I interviewed all kinds of people and visited clinics, radio stations, markets, etc. I have closely followed events via, reading a range of opinion and sources. I am dismayed by the consistent bias of the Times, but not surprised given the record of our media in promoting the our government's point of view-Iraq, Iran, Libya, etc., a shameful record!

    The country is obviously divided along lines of class, with the upper classes (and those who serve and/or identify with them, like some taxi drivers) tending to despise Chavez. Venezuelans on airplanes or visiting Miami are seldom Chavez fans. But I also talked to enough other people to find it entirely plausible that the polls are correct about the majority supporting him.

    The misconceptions promoted by our media, however, are shocking. The idea that the media are dominated by Chavez would be laughable to anyone actually watching TV there, or reading the major newspapers. Poverty persists (as it does here) but I saw plenty of evidence of overall improvement, not just from giveaways but from an improvement in economic activity based on people having money to spend. The notion that elections are not fair has been contradicted by the Carter Institute, the EU, the OAS, and other independent observers.

    Our media are softening us up for another adventure in "regime change," since our collapsing system can't abide news of an alternative.

  49. Having forced better terms on the foreign oil companies, he is
    using the money for social purposes, including providing
    low income north east US residents with aid in heating oil.
    If you like this, patronize Citgo, V's state oil company. You won't be aiding terrorism in the MidEast via Saudi Arabia...
    Under our crony capitalism, recipients of government welfare
    lobby and bribe for the tax subsidy, contract, or regulation relief and then use Caymen Islands to avoid corporate and individual responsbility. No photo op here; rather secrecy.
    When Wall Street greed and secrecy and Clinton/Bush/Fed negligence crashed our economy, the banks who caused it got
    bailed out. No direct aid to homeowners here.
    When US elites secured the Citizens United ruling, the floods of their anonymous weasley money began swamping our democracy. Further, Republican efforts in red states are restricting voting amongst citizens likely to support Democrats.
    Is a vote in the highly politicized Venezuela worth more or less than one in our country?
    Before making judgments, we need to do some information-gathering and some soul-searching.

  50. We sailed from 2000-2007 & lived in Venezuela during hurricane season from 2001-2007. During each succeeding year, we witnessed first hand the decline of Venezuela. We were there during the strike in 2002.

    As for DRjerrywarren comment about Chavez helping the poor & the rich only hurting a little- Sir you have NO idea what you are talking about. You are correct that he has helped the poor but at the expense of the economy. He has nationalized grocery stores, banks, and other industries. But the middle & upper middle classes are all leaving if they can.

    The health care system for the poor is deplorable as we witnessed first hand.

    Yes the poor vote for him because they are uneducated & believe what he is saying. However, even those we knew who were ardent supporters are realizing things aren't too rosy. Venezuela is declining at a rapid rate.

    Sailors who used to go there in droves are now bypassing due to crime on the high seas & robberies. There have been a number of sailors killed & thefts to boaters has been rapidly increasing. We no longer feel Venezuela is safe for sailors.

    Food & goods are in short supply and inflation one of the highest in the world.

    Corruption is rampant.

    Chavez fired many of the oil workers during the strike in 2002 & the oil company has seriously declined since than.

    We loved the Venezuela people but fear for them. How long will it be until a revolution starts there?

  51. By all means, let's see what can be done about undermining Chavez and his circle and getting a dictator who will do as we say, followed by economic disciples of the Chicago School barging in and taking over the oil operations and possibly some utilities and show the folks how to enjoy the freedom to fend for themselves in all circumstances of adversity lest they be labelled as "losers dependent on the government." Copies of Klein's best seller and widely translated "Shock Doctrine" anyone?

  52. What's wrong with building homes for the poor? I lived in Venezuela for thirteen years during the democracy years and poor people, mocked by the rich and middle class as The Roofless, had to run for their lives with their belongings on their heads everytime there was a storm or a mudslide. There also were guerrillas and rampant crime and the poor were always poor. Former presidents whether from the AD or the COPEY party did nothing to improve their lot. I am not a fan of Hugo Chavez but I think The New York Times should give praise when praise is due.

  53. So where's Ty Pennington?