Caracas is evidence of a political will. The barrios or shantytowns have a dominant presence on the hilltops and it is impossible to avoid seeing them on the way into or around the city. The economic and social borders between classes manifest themselves in the city's housing, real estate politics and the way people live and move in the city. In Caracas, the neighborhoods constitute recognizable spatial configurations defined by social difference. Rich and poor often are located side-by-side.
For the very wealthy, the city exists as a more interesting place to make a profit than as a place to live. It is a machine that brings profit to the wealthy and encourages them to identify with cities other than their own. Crime is so bad that the middle and upper classes have lost their right to walk freely on the street. Carefully selected social groups entertain themselves in isolation.
Conservative governments in the first world try to make the poverty problem invisible. However, in Caracas, the wealthy have had to become invisible themselves. They have stopped driving expensive sport utility vehicles, BMWs and Volvos and have taken to more humble and often armored, always mirror-glazed, Toyotas and Fords. Individual houses and buildings are heavily armed against rebels, robbers and strangers. These precautions give way to a fragile confidence and security is guaranteed by private police forces and 24 hour video surveillance. Each house has its own security service, walls and high-voltage fences, and surveillance. A medievalization of the formal city is in process. It is clearly expressed by the fortification of its buildings against any possible invader and the relative anarchy of the periphery and the countryside.
They say that architecture is frozen music, but in Caracas it is more accurate to say that it is frozen politics. It is necessary for Venezuelan architects to try to actively bring about social change. Each section of this fragmented society has its own set of values which are reflected in the disparate morphologies of the city. The Venezuelan government as a whole does not have a clear identity and has not forged a clear sense of direction. The conclusions arrived at by the last survey of data analysis for the city of Caracas (2001) are alarming. If it is true that 3% of the population takes in most of the national income, and that 84% of the country's population is below the poverty line, then we are facing the largest problem ever confronted by Venezuelan civil society. Additionally, if it is true that 34% of Caracas' population (of 5 million) lives in subhuman conditions in the barrios, this accounts for the five murders which occur daily and we believe that this fire will soon turn into a blaze unless something is done.