Could you ask for a more poetic sign of the times? Simon Romero and Maria Eugenia Diaz report from Caracas, Venezuela, for the New York Times:
Architects still call the 45-story skyscraper the Tower of David, after David Brillembourg, the brash financier who built it in the 1990s. The helicopter landing pad on its roof remains intact, a reminder of the airborne limousines that were once supposed to drop bankers off for work.
The office tower, one of Latin America’s tallest skyscrapers, was meant to be an emblem of Venezuela’s entrepreneurial mettle. But that era is gone. Now, with more than 2,500 squatters making it their home, the building symbolizes something else entirely in this city’s center.
The squatters live in the uncompleted high-rise, which lacks several basic amenities like an elevator. The smell of untreated sewage permeates the corridors. Children scale unlit stairways guided by the glow of cellphones. Some recent arrivals sleep in tents and hammocks.
The skyscraper, surrounded by billboards and murals proclaiming the advance of President Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution,” is a symbol of the financial crisis that struck the country in the 1990s, the expanded state control over the economy that came after Mr. Chávez took office in 1999 and the housing shortage that has worsened since then, leading to widespread squatter takeovers in this city.
Few of the building’s terraces have guardrails. Even walls and windows are absent on many floors. Yet dozens of DirecTV satellite dishes dot the balconies. The tower commands some of the most stunning views of Caracas. It contains some of its worst squalor.
“I never let my child out of my sight,” said Yeaida Sosa, 29, who lives with her 1-year-old daughter, Dahasi, on the seventh floor overlooking a bustling artery, Avenida Andrés Bello. Ms. Sosa said residents were horrified after a young girl recently fell to her death from a high floor.
Some families have walled off their terraces with cinder blocks, blotting out the sun to avoid such tragedies. Others, aware of the risks, prefer to let in the breeze flowing off El Ávila, the emerald green mountain looming over Caracas. “God decides when we enter his kingdom,” said Enrique Zambrano, 22, an electrician who lives on the 19th floor.
Mr. Zambrano, like many of the other squatters in the skyscraper, says he is an evangelical Christian…
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