The 45-story Tower of David (Torre de David), one of South America’s tallest skyscrapers, commands some of the most stunning views of Caracas. It was named after David Brillembourg, the brash financier who tried to build it. It was supposed to have been an emblem of Venezuela’s economic might. Instead, it has become a symbol of Venezuela’s decline.
Caracas was once one of Latin America’s most developed cities. But a severe recession in the early 1990s sent Venezuela’s economy into a tailspin. Now the city grapples with a severe housing shortage of some 400,000 units. In the area around the Tower of David, squatters have occupied 20 other properties.
More than 2,500 squatters call the Tower home. The uncompleted high-rise lacks most basic amenities. No elevator, no windows, no guardrails, no plumbing or running water. The smell of untreated sewage permeates the corridors. Children climb unlit stairways by the light of cellphones.
Few of the stairways have guardrails. Walls and windows are missing from many floors. Yet dozens of satellite dishes dot the balconies.
But you’ll find a bodega restaurant on nearly every occupied floor. A beauty salon operates on one floor. An unlicensed dentist practices on another. Small stores sell everything from plantains to Pepsi to cigarettes.
Currently the Tower is inhabited up to the 28th floor, though residents plan to push higher.