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Chavez seizes land to house flood victims

by Staff Writers
Caracas (AFP) Dec 5, 2010
President Hugo Chavez said Sunday his government will seize private land and re-zone a national park to build new housing for the thousands of people made homeless by the worst floods in 40 years.

"Today, we'll seize a huge piece of land from the Maiquetia airport -- in other words, belonging to the people -- that has been bought up by private individuals," Chavez told flood victims in Vargas state, north of Caracas.

"We're talking about 36 hectares (222 acres)... a huge, flat piece of land to build houses on," Chavez said.

"There are hundreds of other vacant lots in Caracas, Vargas and other cities around the country that we're going to recover, and I'll be spearheading the effort," he added.

"Anybody who knows where there is flat land suitable for housing, come forth and report it, because we'll take it over," Chavez told the people of Vargas.

Chavez also announced plans to "lift elevation restrictions for housing construction" in the Waraira Repano national park, in the mountains that rise up between the capital and the coast.

"We're going to raise the upper limit between 80 and 100 meters (260-330 feet), so that, without affecting the park in any way, it will allow us to take over many hills that are now above current ceiling limit and build housing for the people."

He said the park's natural habitat would be unaffected by the construction project.

Chavez, who came to power in 1999 with a strong socialist agenda, already announced similar measures on Friday during a visit to Falcon state, where he said he would "speed up the seizure of idle land... to hand it over to the farmers."

On Thursday, he authorized funding to build more than 9,000 new housing units in Caracas for flood victims.

Torrential rains have killed at least 34 people in recent days in Venezuela. The worst flooding in 40 years has also made thousands homeless and impacted more than 73,000 people across the country.

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