Venezuela: Coca-Cola plant replaced with “socialist commune”

On March 18, the mayor of the municipality of Libertador in Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez, from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), signed an agreement with Coca-Cola to take over its land located in the low-income suburb of Catia, and use it for public housing.

After ten days of negotiations with the mayoralty of Libertador, Coca-Cola agreed to relocate a distribution centre which is next to the Nucleus of Endogenous Development Fabricio Ojeda (NUDEFO), one of many new types of “socialist” community development enterprises that the government in supporting.

Coca-Cola will hand over the 1 hectare piece of land to the mayoralty of Libertador, which will use the land to construct 450 housing units “in order to solve the housing problem and the high risk [of mud slides] suffered by those living nearby,” Rodriguez said, adding that other land further away had already been acquired to construct refuges for disaster victims.

The project is part of the “Socialist Caracas” plan which is being propelled by the local government in coordination with the national government and will benefit 40,000 local families. The plan includes the NUDEFO, an area of worker run collectives, a subsidized food market known as Mercal , an 85% subsidized medicine pharmacy, sports courts, communal councils, land and water committees, cultural workshops and social missions.

In the second stage of the plan, the government will construct a Bolivarian school, a childcare centre, an integral rehabilitation centre, a communal dining area, a gymnasium, a public library, a cooperative school, and an audiovisual production center.

Rodriguez said his administration is planning a profound change. “We hope that Catia becomes an example of the new socialist communities and the establishment of communes,” he said.

“The city of Caracas deserves to be planned for the greatest enjoyment of the people who live here, it’s a city that deserves urbanism in keeping with the times and above all in keeping with the principles that we have established in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to reduce the huge gaps in the country, reduce social injustice, and plant, quickly, equality and happiness,” said Rodriguez.

The mayor stressed that Caracas had been a victim of a lack of planning and of urban control that wasn’t adjusted to the new times and highlighted the contradiction of so many people living in high risk areas while other land is basically unused, or functions as “bus and old car cemeteries and abandoned factories.”

The Coca-Cola distribution centre, which supplies Western Caracas, has been running since 1992, and employs 300 workers. According to the agreement, it will have three, possibly extended to four, months to find land of the same size in order to continue operating. The mayoralty will assist with the necessary procedures for buying that land and constructing the storehouses.

On March 9, President Hugo Chavez announced that the company had two weeks to vacate the land during his weekly “Hello, President” television talk show. One caller to the show, from the NUDEFO, said all the participants in the nucleus had been developing activities to achieve Coca-Cola’s vacation of the land. Chavez stressed the importance of recovering such spaces and putting them at the service of the community. (VenezuelAnalysis, March 31 via The SocialistWebZine)

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