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Integration Paths of Barrios in Caracas, Venezuela

Timeframe and funding

2004 - 2006 supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Project team

Volker Kreibich (project leader), Alonso Ayala (principal researcher)


Background, Objectives and Approach

The valley of Caracas in Venezuela is characterised by the massive presence of informal settlements (barrios), which in certain cases have benefited from rehabilitation projects implemented by different governments on a piece-meal basis since the 1960s. It was only in 1987 that these informal settlements were legally recognised as an urban reality. In 1994, in an attempt to achieve a large scale spatial integration of the barrios, the ‘Sectoral Plan for the Incorporation of the Barrios into the Urban Structure of Caracas‘ was prepared and its implementation started. In a decentralised approach, urban design units have been established which cover barrio zones for urban rehabilitation with the participation of the inhabitants.

caracas_2The research project "Integration paths of barrios in Caracas, Venezuela" started under the assumption that urban growth in Caracas is preventing functional urban development, generating serious threats to public health and accelerating spatial segregation and social exclusion. The inhabitants of the barrio, being physically and socially excluded from the formal city,  struggle not only with the difficulties of their particular habitat, but also with insecure property rights, ambiguous citizenship and lack of participation in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

Spatial segregation and integration are highly debated issues not just in Latin America. Also in Europe recent research has indicated that there is little evidence for spatial segregation per se having a negative effect on social integration. The authors come to the conclusion that these are concepts which cannot be defined uni-dimensionally, but as a process which is related to time, cultural and social contexts, political structures, and space.

The analytical framework of the project relates the spatial dimension of social integration to the concept of modes of economic integration, assuming that each mode requires a different set of socio-spatial conditions. Three main dimensions of this geography of economic integration are distinguished. These are the market exchange, based on economic restructuring across space, redistribution, which is related to the welfare state, and reciprocity, where social networks exist in a particular socio-cultural space.

Based on this analytical framework, the main objective of the research projects was to evaluate projects aiming at the integration of the barrios into the formal structure of the city of Caracas.

By achieving this objective, the research project has contributed to building a theoretical and analytical framework to understand and assess the processes of spatial and socio-economic integration of informal settlements.


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