President Hugo Chávez is guiding government plans to create several brand new cities to serve as models of social and environmental harmony.
"The plans for what officials call the 'socialist cities' envisioned by Chávez are grand, evoking new cities built in such divergent countries as Brazil and the old Soviet Union. Chávez is relying on Cuban engineering companies and technical advice from Belarus, a former Soviet republic that [Ramón] Carrizales, the housing minister, said has 'much experience in agro-industrial cities.'"
" "We're looking to have a city with a different vision," Carrizales said. "A city that's self-sustainable, that respects the environment, that uses clean technologies, that is mostly for use by the people, with lots of walking paths, parks, sports areas, museums and schools within walking distance."
Government officials and engineers say the plan, at its root, is designed to help people. "This is a social housing project, for people with little money, so it's very accessible for those types of families," explained Alfredo Tirado, an engineer overseeing part of the project.
The government plans to move families from a Caracas neighborhood, Federico Quiroz, to Caribia. Federico Quiroz's cinder-block homes and narrow, winding streets are located in a steep, uneven swath of western Caracas that's prone to mudslides.
"It's a good idea because there are many people here who need a place to live," said Clemente Delgado, 40, a father of three in Federico Quiroz. "We know it's dangerous here. For me, if they make the offer, I'll accept."
Not everyone, though, is so enthused. As hilltops are cleared and trees felled to make space for Caribia, people in the nearby community of La Niebla watch with alarm. The government has said the properties there could be expropriated, though a Housing Ministry official said that is unlikely because Caribia probably won't extend so far."