June 13, 2020 / 2:50 PM / 22 days ago

Mud-hut homes near Venezuela's capital signal growing desperation

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan families on the outskirts of Caracas are expanding a settlement of mud-and-bamboo homes lacking running water, power and sewer services, in another sign of declining living standards amid a six-year economic crisis.

Sixteen families in the community known as “Los Trailers” have already built such huts, and another group of families is building 14 more. They say they cannot build brick homes, because bricks are too expensive.

“For an oil-producing country in the 21st century to experience this kind of situation ... is deplorable, degrading,” said the opposition lawmaker Omar Avila, who led a visit to the area on Friday.

The families get water from a nearby well or fill a 150-liter (39.6 gallon) cistern for $1.

Without toilets, they relieve themselves in plastic bags that they throw into nearby weeds. Many cook with makeshift stoves, using paper or plastic to light damp firewood.

Venezuela’s economy has collapsed under a hyperinflationary crisis. The United Nations says Venezuela in 2019 suffered the fourth most severe food crises in the world, with 9.3 million people suffering hunger or inadequate nutrition.

President Nicolas Maduro blames U.S. sanctions meant to oust him.

Solnelis Cedeno, 33, a mother of five, built her mud hut because she could no longer afford the $10 in monthly rent for a small room in a house near Los Trailers.

“Since we couldn’t build with blocks, we had to cut bamboo and mud,” said Cedeno.

The dwellings have sloping walls, low ceilings and sparse furniture.

“Everything is difficult right now because of the prices,” said Jorge Luis Hernandez, 30, who has planted cassava, plantain and beans behind his home. “We have a sad shack (... but) what can we do? Keep going.”

Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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