Will Chavez's unfulfilled promises affect Sunday's election?
Worsening power outages, crumbling infrastructure, and other unfulfilled promises could impact Sunday's election to replace socialist President Hugo Chavez, who died last month.
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But there was evidence of something else that has created discontent and has made nearby resident Santiago Alvarez, a father of five, lose patience with the government.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Venezuela after Chavez
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He warned a visitor about the danger from drug dealers and crooked cops, pointing to a spot beneath the railway about a block away.
"They killed a guy there last week, under the rails, in broad daylight, about three in the afternoon," Alvarez said.
"We are in deep here," he said. "The police rob as much as the drug addicts."
Housing is a major problem, and has been a government priority.
An estimated 2 million of Venezuela's country's nearly 30 million people lack permanent homes, and one of Chavez's anti-poverty "missions" builds them.
But it's been slow going. The government says it has built 370,500 homes and apartments over the past two years, and more than 3 million people applied for them.
In the city of Guacara, a stop between Maracay and Valencia on the unfinished rail line, about 100 women invaded a fenced-in vacant lot beside a Pirelli tire factory last weekend.
Police cordoned off the lot and, two days later, weren't letting in food or water to the women, who shielded themselves from the sun under sheets strung across the limbs of bushes.
"They give houses to their families and closest friends," one woman complained about government supporters before police shooed a reporter away.
Sisters Diana, 26, and Laura Rojas, 19, had joined the squatters but gave up.
Single mothers, both yearn for their own homes. Laura lives cramped with her mother. Diana is tired of putting most of her earnings from selling bed linens on the street into a single, rented room.
"If you don't invade, you don't get your own home," said Diana, who voted for Chavez in October but wasn't sure if she would vote at all on Sunday.
Land invasions are nothing new in Venezuela. What's different now is that people are invading valuable properties in city centers.
All the squatting riles Rosa Contrera, a 57-year-old housewife who walked past the invaders, shaking her head. The day before, people from the apartment block adjacent to hers attacked the invaders with Molotov cocktails.
"This is what Chavismo has created: people who expect handouts," said Contrera, a Capriles supporter. "A country doesn't advance with that mentality."
The government says Venezuela's poverty rate dropped from more than 50 percent to 21 percent under Chavez's leadership, though there is still plenty of misery.
Lake Valencia has been rising few feet a year and swallowed Antonio Rojas' home last year.
"We filled out all the forms but in the end we didn't get a house," said the wiry 67-year-old, who works at a nursery earning the equivalent of $17 a day at the official exchange rate and $5 on the black market.
At a squatter's settlement outside Tacarigua, a town on Valencia's southern outskirts built around a sugar cane mill, Rojas and his wife share a dirt-floor, aluminum shack with their 7-year-old son, Gregorio. The boy doesn't go to school because there are none nearby.
They have neither water nor sewage service. Dirty dishes are piled on a kitchen table. Burned garbage litters the yard.
When a reporter visited, the family hadn't had power for a week. They siphon it off a nearby transformer, bare wires hanging jury-rigged on poles.
"You should see the lines throw off sparks when the poles get wet," said Rojas' wife, Carmen. She worries for the safety of Gregorio and the other children.
Despite their plight, almost everyone in the 200-family settlement is a Chavista, and plans to vote for Maduro.
Rojas said he voted for Chavez in every election but now he's disappointed — and undecided.
"What's certain is that we've been left with nothing."
Associated Press writer James Anderson in Maracay, Venezuela, contributed to this report.