Caracas’s sky-high 'Tower of David' slum finally cleared of its 2,500 squatters

The tower is a symbol of how prosperous Venezuela once was – and of its current state of inflation and poverty

The Tower of David dominates the Caracas skyline and overlooks its slums. It is a place in which people sought refuge from the daily violence of the sprawling city.

Officially called the “Torre de David” after the financier who built it, David Brillembourg, the one-time office tower was until this week filled with more than 2,500 squatters. This refuge – known as the world’s tallest slum – will soon be empty. The Venezuelan government started the “peaceful” evacuation of thousands of squatters this week.

“This is not an eviction,” Ernesto Villegas, the minister for revolutionary transformation, told reporters. “It’s a co-ordinated operation, in harmony with the community in the tower. Today we have begun with floors seven, nine and 28,” he said, adding that those leaving were being voluntarily resettled in government housing in Ciudad Zamora, outside Caracas. “As we all know, this is a structure that does not have the minimum conditions for a life that is safe and lived with dignity.”

Residents enter the building through the car park, which allows them to access the 10th floor. From there, they must walk up stairs to get to the 28 occupied floors. The elevators never functioned.

 

When a man identified only as Hipolito moved into the tower, his apartment was just mounds of dirt, he said in a documentary about the tower. There were not even walls.

But residents organised themselves, built their homes and accessed electricity, plumbing and water – none of which is provided by the government.

A Vocativ documentary about the slum shows Hipolito sitting on a couch in front of a flat-screen television surround by red-hued walls.

Residents are transported to a new home after being evicted from the Tower of David (Reuters) Residents are transported to a new home after being evicted from the Tower of David (Reuters)
The tower, once described by a New York Times writer as “a parable of hope for some and of dread for others”, is a symbol of how prosperous Venezuela once was – and of its current state of inflation and poverty. Construction of the building was abandoned in 1993 when Mr Brillembourg died.

El Niño Daza, a Bible-toting gangster, led hundreds of civilians into the empty building in 2007 and took it over, creating his own fiefdom, according to a 2013 New Yorker story.

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