A legacy of chaos will endure
Experts believe that this Venezuelan government will be mainly remembered for its improvised public works
Governments tend to be remembered for tangible public works. In Caracas, the name Pérez Jiménez is linked to the La Guaira Highway, the Simón Bolívar Center, the Campus of the Central University of Venezuela or the Humboldt Hotel. Forty years of representative democracy have outfitted the city with all its highways, the Teresa Carreńo Theater, its largest public schools, Parque Central, the Metro subway system, Parque del Este, as well as full-fledged parishes like Caricuao, which spawned other suburbs like El Valle or Coche.
How will Chavezism be remembered in Caracas? What are its emblematic public works? Experts believe that, even though there are a few noted exceptions, its legacy can be summarized into a single word: chaos.
Guillermo Barrios, the dean of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning of the Central University of Caracas, believes that certain developments merit recognition, such as the Children's Heart Hospital in Montalbán (the only hospital inaugurated during this regime) or the Film Villa in Guarenas, yet every other one leaves much to be desired. He explained that the Inner-City Cable Cart, for example, cost USD 262 million and fails to live up to its expectations: "Take a look at the cable-cart in the city; you'll feel like you're in the desert. That location was chosen because it was downtown, and the government wanted it to be on display for all passersby, but less than 3,000 people use it per day."
The Museum of Architecture (located on Bolivar Avenue and yet to be completed) will endure as a mere footnote, an irrelevant building arbitrarily awarded for development without actual involvement of Caracas dwellers. Unless it manages to run extremely smoothly upon being launched, the BusCaracas project will be remembered as yet another haunting memory of the urban chaos created during this regime. Simón Bolívar's Mausoleum is just another inconsequential example.
He believes that nothing symbolic has been built in recent years: "The symbolic flame of this regime is the condition of the David Tower, controlled by poachers. Everything characterizing the regime is present there: bullying, expropriation, violence and arbitrariness. It is not only extraordinary but also sad, just like Sambil Candelaria, which was supposed to be a mall but is now just a large shanty area and symbolizes everything this government has failed to build."
Architect Graziano Gasparini, the country's highest authority on national landmarks, holds a similar opinion and believes that future generations will remember this government for a series of housing projects hastily built, without presenting any environmental or transport impact plans and infringing upon municipal and urban building standards. He sees Bolívar's mausoleum, for instance, as an example for architecture students of what not to do: "This project was prepared in secrecy and contravenes a basic architectural concept: coexistence between different time periods. That atrocity has little to do with the rest of Pantheon regarding volume, form or anything else."
Another architect, Marco Negrón, believes that this regime will be "sadly" remembered for structures like the aforementioned mausoleum, the missile-shaped obelisk of San Jacinto Square or the pink pyramid on the Valle-Coche Highway.
Those "appalling" structures, as well as the chaotic sequels that will be left behind by the "speedy" housing projects developed without any supporting documentation or meeting antiseismic standards or even the most basic urban planning principles, will stand out as this government's enduring legacy.
Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
José Vicente Rangel clearly said: "We are not conducting negotiations threatened with a gun in the head." He warned behind closed doors in the midst of the social upheaval occurred during the oil strike in 2002 and 2003. Dissenting Timoteo Zambrano answered back that no other option was available: "The thing is that otherwise, you do not negotiate."