CARACAS – The severe economic and social crisis in Venezuela has changed the look of the capital, not only because of the people rummaging for food in the trash but also for the many who find shelter under the city’s bridges, some already inhabited by longtime residents.
In a trip around Caracas, EFE found some 30 people living under a bridge on the east side, almost all from the same family, and who hang around nearby traffic lights begging for food or whatever the drivers can give them.
“We’re here because we spent four years in a shelter where we were taken after a flood swept our house away... they don’t give us work, nor a home, and now not even food,” said Andy, 32, a father of three children under 4 years old, and who, together with his wife, 23, has been living under that bridge for several months.
Andy and his family live there together with brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, neighbors and others in the same condition.
“I don’t want them to give me stuff, I know how to work, I’m a construction worker,” he said.
Less than a kilometer away, beside the bridge in Los Ruices, in what should be a green zone but now serves as a city dump, are the self-styled “recyclers,” who say they have been living in the area since 2011, though at that time there weren’t so many of them.
Four were on the job when EFE visited, but they said that in all there are some 40 in the group, without counting their puppy Massacre.
The four come from Valles del Tuy, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Caracas, where there’s no work to be found, and where the youngest of the group, Jesus Mirabal, 17, said that the “boss” of the area, a criminal recently gunned down by police, had forbidden him from returning there.
At age 17 he already has a son, which is why, he said, he has to work in a place like this, where he might find “dollars, gold, necklaces, rings” and make some 400,000 bolivars a week ($120 at the official rate of exchange or $3.50 at the black market rate), much more than the monthly minimum wage recently increased by the Nicolas Maduro government to 177,507 bolivars ($53 at the official rate or just $1.50 at the black market rate).
Meanwhile, living under another bridge located in downtown Caracas is Monica Ceballos, 30, a transsexual with HIV who identifies herself as a “supporter of the government” of Nicolas Maduro, even though she criticizes him for promising aid but “nothing happens.”