Chavez Vows to Lead Effort to Replace Homes Lost to Venezuela's Flooding

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he would personally take charge of making sure Venezuelans who have been made homeless by torrential rains would receive a proper home.

“You can call this Plan Chavez,” he said in comments carried on state television as he visited an emergency shelter set up for displaced people in Caracas’s military fort. “I am putting my name and life on this plan.”

Chavez today received 60 people whose homes were destroyed by landslides and invited them to stay in the Miraflores presidential palace for a year as they await homes.

The self-declared socialist revolutionary called for other public buildings to be used to shelter families from the rains that have left 25 people dead and 5,600 displaced. A further 56,000 people have suffered losses, and harvests have been damaged across the country.

“These people shouldn’t leave here until they have their own apartment,” Chavez said on state television today. “You won’t leave here for another year.”

Chavez said he had ordered an adjacent palace, the vice presidential offices and state television headquarters to receive more families for a few days.

Venezuela has been battered by weather this year after a severe drought led to electricity rationing as water levels in reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams dropped. The country is now in the grip of a La Nina weather cycle, which brings heavy rains to northeastern South America.

Chavez has declared a state of emergency in the capital Caracas, and the states of Miranda, Falcon and Vargas. He also closed schools in half of the country until Dec. 6.

Vegetable Crops

Rains have destroyed vegetable crops in the South American nation and the government may import food from Colombia to supply the market through the holiday season, Vice President Elias Jaua said today on state television.

Corn, rice and coffee harvests were unaffected by the storms, he said. The Agriculture Ministry continues to evaluate damage to cacao and plantain farms in Miranda state, according to Jaua.

Venezuela, which has the highest inflation rate of 78 countries tracked by Bloomberg, may see consumer prices surge as damaged crops affect food supplies, Alejandro Grisanti, an economist at Barclays Capital in New York said in a phone interview.

“There should be an inflationary impact from the rains as shortages push up prices in the short term,” Grisanti said. “We’ll have to wait to evaluate the overall damage and see if there will be any effect on growth.”

Rationing

The electricity rationing earlier this year hurt manufacturing and output at the country’s largest steel mill, deepening the country’s recession that has seen gross domestic product contract for six consecutive quarters.

Petroleos de Venezuela SA repaired units at the 310,000- barrel-a-day Cardon refinery at the Paraguana complex and is beginning to restart operations after an electrical storm halted refining on Nov. 29, the company said today in a statement on its website.

The refinery won’t return to full service until as late as Dec. 9, PDVSA said on Nov. 29.

While Caracas’s international airport remains open, the country’s largest port in Puerto Cabello is running at reduced capacity and highway transport to distribute imported goods is delayed because of blocked roads, Emilia Peraza, a director at the Consecomercio trade chamber, said.

Mudslides north of Caracas killed hundreds of people in December 1999 after torrential rains caused rivers to overflow their banks and swept communities in Vargas state into the Caribbean Sea.

“It would be nice for people to share some of their yearend bonuses as a donation and to do volunteer work,” Chavez said, in reference to aid efforts. “We need to pull out all of the love for our people who have been abandoned by capitalism during 100 years.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Charlie Devereux in Caracas at cdevereux3@bloomberg.net; Daniel Cancel in Caracas at dcancel@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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