If you search the web for Petare, Caracas, Venezuela, you will be confronted with a lot of negative labels: ” biggest slum in Latin America”; “highest crime rate in the world “. Unfortunately the few available statistics support this assesment. Petare streches about 40 square kilometres along the eastern part of Caracas with an estimated population of 500.000. This picture above was taken from the south on the bottom of the Avila-mountain, which is a residential area. Petare lies to the northeast, across the river Guaire, which runs through Caracas and divides the city geographically. After numerous revisions of administrative borders Petare today belongs to the Municipality of Sucre in the State of Miranda (parts of Caracas belong to this state). Petare is divided in more than 50 so -called “barrios” (neighbourhoods), which create their own cosmos. Petare as been growing extensively in the last decade under the Chavez-Government. Most of the settlements are illegal and are home of the poorest in the capital city. If we talk about Caracas having the highest homicide rate in the world (estimated 24.000 in 2015) then a high percentage is contributed to the violence in Petare, originating especially in violence of rivaling gangs. 94% of the homicides never make it into police files. It is a law-free zone and a no go area.
So, how did I dare to come here ? We had a very knowledgeable guide who took us with his car on Good Friday at 6.00 am to a brief tour up and down Petare. The assumption was that everybody was sleeping and it would be the safest time to enter the barrios. He was right and we were out again at 7.00 am, when Petare slowly awakened.
These pictures illustrate how Petare as grown organically in occupying all available space. The blue plastic barrels are water tanks, also because of water shortage right now. Water pipes and electric wires are installed unsystematically, Petare has a huge garbage problem.
I talked to the Mayor of Sucre the other day, who has been very active in trying to reduce the crime rate i.a. by providing sport facilities to the young in order to get them “off the streets”. The picture above illustrates how the Maduro Government sees itself connected to the heroes of the history of Venezuela.
Leaving the main road, one would get lost in the narrow and chaotic stairways leading up and down. Chavez is present everywhere, also Che Guevara.
On top of the hill a view towards Palo Verde, a former middle class area with high rise buildings, now surrounded by various barrios of Petare.
This barrio is named after the Guaciaipuro, a indigenous leader (1530-1568) who fought against the conquerers of Venezuela.
Looking to the other side , south the Avila mountain range with the weather slightly clearing up. Caracas is mostly cloudy these days, due to “calina” (a meterological phenomena in Caracas).
On the way out of the barrio…
signed by the colectivo “Los Combatientes”. Colectivos are groups who support the Chavez-movement and are partially armed. They are considered a risk-factor in the ongoing power struggle between Government and new elected Parliament.
But Petare, founded in 1621, has also a historical center, one of the few places in Caracas where one imagine the colonial period.
We did not stay for the Easter procession.
On leaving Petare the first merchants set up their stands, the police was on guard and President Maduro waving good bye.