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 Post subject: Re: Poor get poorer
PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:37 pm 
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Entrenched poverty tough to shake in the Mississippi Delta
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
August 6, 2017

JONESTOWN, Miss. (AP) -- Poverty shapes daily existence in the Mississippi Delta, an expanse of agricultural flatland that gave birth to the blues.

Jobs are scarce. Schools struggle for funding. Tens of thousands of families receive food aid and government health insurance. Otibehia Allen is a single mother who lives with her five children in a rented mobile home where the air conditioning has been broken this summer. She works 30 hours a week as a data entry clerk and transportation dispatcher for a medical clinic, pulling in barely over minimum wage. Her children are on Medicaid, but Allen says a small pay raise meant she lost her own coverage through the federal and state health insurance program.

Allen lives in the same isolated, poor community where she grew up among the cotton and soybean fields of the Mississippi Delta. During a summer that feels like a sauna, the trailer's air conditioner has conked out. Some nights, Allen and her five children find cooler accommodations with friends and relatives. Other nights, they sleep in the trailer with box fans circulating the stuffy air.

Allen doesn't own a car, and public transportation is not widely available. To get from home in Jonestown to work or even to go grocery shopping about 13 miles (21 kilometers) away in Clarksdale, Allen often pays people for a ride — sometimes $20 a pop. "It's not easy raising five children alone," Allen said, fighting back tears. "No, you didn't ask me to have them, true. So, I chose to. So that means I'm responsible for these people."

Persistent poverty shapes daily existence in this expanse of agricultural flatland that gave birth to the blues. Jobs are scarce. Schools struggle for funding. Tens of thousands of families receive government food aid and health insurance. Fifty years ago, Democratic Sens. Robert F. Kennedy of New York and Joe Clark of Pennsylvania toured the Delta and saw ramshackle houses and starving children.

Curtis Wilkie was a young reporter covering the senators' tour for a Delta newspaper, the Clarksdale Press Register. At one stop, Wilkie recalled, "There was a little infant in a dirty diaper crawling around on the floor and eating rice — grains of rice that were on the floor that were dirty. ... Kennedy knelt by the child and didn't say a word, was stroking the little child's cheeks and his forehead."

Mississippi's congressional delegation in 1967, led by Democratic Sens. James Eastland and John Stennis and Rep. Jamie Whitten, resisted federal funding for food programs and for Head Start, a preschool program that many conservatives saw as a threat to the state's white, segregationist power structure because it educated poor black children.

Wilkie said the trip had an enormous impact on Kennedy, whose eyes welled with tears at the sight of the child: "No question that once he got back to Washington, he became a more passionate advocate for rural people." Kennedy ran for president in 1968. Moments after winning the California primary, he was assassinated.

Mississippi's second-term Republican governor, Phil Bryant, was born to a blue-collar family in the Delta in 1954. He frequently says he doesn't want people to be dependent on government. Under his tenure, Mississippi's been one of 19 states rejecting expansion of Medicaid, the federal and state health insurance program for the poor, under the health care law signed by former President Barack Obama.

Bryant, who supports President Donald Trump, says job creation is the best way to combat poverty. Since he became governor, Mississippi has offered incentives to attract two tire manufacturing plants — one is open, the other being built. Neither is in the Delta. Although opportunities have improved in the past 50 years, the Delta remains one of the most deprived regions in the U.S. The national poverty rate is about 15 percent; it's 22 percent for Mississippi. In most Delta counties, it's 30 to 40 percent.

Kennedy and Clark were accompanied to the Delta in 1967 by Marian Wright, a young civil rights lawyer working in Mississippi. In 1973, after she married and added to her name, Marian Wright Edelman. She founded Children's Defense Fund, a national group that advocates for social services for the poor. Edelman recently returned to Mississippi to examine how poverty continues shaping lives of people like Allen, the 32-year-old single mother. Both Edelman and Allen said they worry the Trump administration will cut social services that help the poor.

In Allen's two-bedroom trailer, her boys sleep in one room, her girls in another while she stays on the couch. She buys groceries in bulk because it's cheaper, and she knows how far she can stretch a family pack of chicken from the Piggly Wiggly.

Allen's children, 9 to 14, are covered by Medicaid. She got a raise a few months ago — 40 cents an hour, just enough to make her lose her own Medicaid coverage. Her back and arms are in constant pain, but she won't see a doctor. "I don't want to make a bill that I can't pay," Allen said.

Dr. Barbara Ricks, a 49-year-old pediatrician, grew up poor in the Delta. Her family received food stamps; she attended Head Start and paid for college with scholarships and jobs. She has practiced medicine since 1999 in Greenville, one of the larger Delta cities — population 31,500. Ricks said about 95 percent of her patients are on Medicaid, some from small, rural communities 40 or 50 miles away because there are few clinics closer to home. She said patients from financially stable households generally are in better health than those living in poverty, who often deal with stress, obesity and diabetes.

Concealing names to protect privacy, she said one of her patients is an 11-year-old boy with asthma who lives with his grandmother because his mom, single and unemployed, is overwhelmed raising his five younger siblings. He's been hospitalized because his grandmother, who also cares for an adult relative, leaves him "minimally supervised" and misses regular asthma treatments, the doctor said. Ricks said another patient is an infant whose mother is a 15-year-old student. Though the mother intends to go to college, she sometimes misses days or weeks of class to care for her baby.

"Poverty is a social problem, but it's also a medical problem," Ricks said. "These kids have so many things working against them. And, although poor outcomes are expected, we should not accept it."

Source: AP
AP via NBC

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 Post subject: Re: Poor get poorer
PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:51 pm 
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Egypt curtails access to subsidized food as part of reforms
9 August 2017

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt is curtailing access to ration cards used by three-quarters of the country's 93 million people to buy subsidized food items, the latest move in the government's ambitious economic reform plan.

A government decree going into effect on Wednesday denies access to the cards to people earning more than 1,500 Egyptian pounds (about $84) a month. It also limits beneficiaries to families of up to four members. It's unclear what happens to impoverished families with five or more members. The decree doesn't affect current card holders.

Egypt has reduced energy subsidies, introduced value added tax and floated its currency. The reforms are part of meeting International Monetary Fund conditions for a $12 billion loan. Egypt has also reduced subsidies on water and raised public transportation charges.

Source: AP

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 Post subject: Re: Poor get poorer
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 2:24 pm 
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Texas cuts aid to 'colonias' after years of offering help
By PAUL J. WEBER
August 10, 2017

ALAMO, Texas (AP) -- While the economy in Texas has boomed over the last 20 years, along the border with Mexico about a half million people live in clusters of cinderblock dwellings, home-built shacks, dilapidated trailers and small houses.

Texas has more than 2,300 of these communities known as colonias, the Spanish word for "colony." For decades, the villages have sprung up around cities as a home for poor Hispanic immigrant families. Some are shantytowns with neither drinkable water nor waste disposal, and since the 1990s, the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to improve the worst and stop new ones from forming.

But that commitment is now being questioned. In the last few months, Texas lawmakers cut university budgets that help give immunizations and health checkups to children and others in the colonias. They did not renew a key program that provides running water and sewer service. And this summer, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott abruptly shuttered the office that since 1999 has coordinated the work of various agencies in the communities.

Lawmakers who represent the border area, and groups that provide help for indigent people there, are worried that concern about the living conditions and health risks in the colonias is flagging in a state government now taking a tougher stance toward immigrants. To some, "it all feels like the colonias are no longer a problem. That's not true," said Nick Mitchell-Bennett, executive director of the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, which helps residents of the colonias obtain sturdier housing. "We're approaching going back to the '70s and '80s," when conditions were at their worst.

Since the 1950s, Mexican migrants and families priced out of cities have jerry-built houses on cheap border scrubland from Texas to California, buying illegally subdivided lots from developers beyond the reach of utilities and building codes. Some shanties are made from scraps of plywood, with old campaign yard signs for siding and truck tires used as weights to hold down tarp roofs. Other houses are more substantial and could blend into a normal suburb. Most of the residents are in the U.S. legally, but some not.

Before her dad built a two-room house in an area known as Little Mexico, Eva Carranza's family lived in one half of a rundown trailer after coming across the border illegally from Reynosa. Another family lived in the trailer's other rooms. "The bathroom was outside. We had to go outside for everything because the water wasn't connected to the trailer," Carranza said. Residents work in nearby cities. Carranza makes around $350 a month babysitting and cleaning homes.

The conservative Republicans who controlled Texas government in recent decades opposed illegal immigration but launched a bevy of programs to curb the sanitation problems. Public agencies extended some water and sewer lines, paved roads and looked out for illegal septic tanks and disease-breeding stagnant water.

Abbott's office said that the state isn't pulling back. "It is widely acknowledged in border communities that no governor in recent years has traveled to the border and worked with local border officials more than Governor Abbott," spokesman John Wittman said.

Exactly how much Texas is spending on the colonias is hard to determine with so much federal and state funding filtering through different agencies and counties. But some groups working in the colonias say they feel the support waning. Doctors and medical school students at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley who provide vaccinations and free health screenings in about a dozen colonias say there will be fewer visits after losing $7 million as part of higher education budget cuts. Already, said Dr. Eron Manusov, a physician at the university's medical school and a former military doctor who has been deployed overseas, he sees more diseases than he did in the Philippines. "Overall, they're going to suffer," Manusov said of the residents. "It's going to do great harm to the colonias."

According to a 2014 Texas state count, the last available, more than 37,000 people lived in high-risk colonias without potable water or functional sewage. Another 126,000 residents lived in places posing an "intermediate" health risk. Last year, the rate of tuberculosis in Hidalgo County, where there are more than 900 colonias around McAllen and other border towns, was double the statewide average. Cynthia Alonso, 28, said she has already noticed less help coming into her colonia called South Tower. "We used to have some trailers that would come with free medical help for the people. Free checkups. That no longer happens," she said.

This year, the Legislature did not renew a cornerstone of Texas' help for the colonias, the Economically Distressed Areas Program. The last $50 million in the fund, which connects homes with clean water and replaces open septic tanks, will likely run out in the next year, said Amanda Lavin, deputy executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board.
Another $175 million effort launched in 2001 to pave flood-prone dirt roads is all but dried up. Federal dollars that go toward programs for rehabilitating and building homes has also fallen since 2010, said Mark Loeffler a spokesman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Abbott's decision in June to close the Colonias Initiative Program, the coordinating office for projects, surprised immigrant advocates and was viewed as a loss in the state's attorney general's office, which works to head off new settlements by going after illegal land developers. "It was a great resource," Audon Gutierrez, head of the colonia prevention unit, said of the eight-member staff. "They were folks on top of the local situation."

Wittman called the program redundant and said money should go directly to colonias instead of funding a "bigger government bureaucracy." Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state's office, said, officials "expect there to be no diminishment of tangible benefits to colonias residents."

Democratic state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who represents more than 250 colonias around El Paso, said the office's demise reflected a tough anti-immigrant tone of this year's legislative session, in which Abbott signed a measure that authorizes police to ask people during routine stops if they are in the country legally. "I feel there was no political loss to go through" for cutting it, she said, because "they attacked border communities all session anyway."

Source: AP

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 Post subject: Re: Poor get poorer
PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 2:28 pm 
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‘People are starving’: village life in Britain’s blighted coalfields
By Mark Townsend
27 August 2017

For years, the “numbered streets” in Horden have inspired dread among even the most hardened of local residents. Plagued by endemic crime and chronic poverty, some villagers are even afraid to venture onto them in daylight.

So, when a new community centre opened last month in the middle of the 13 numbered terraced streets, no one quite knew what to expect. Within days, a melancholy truth emerged: living conditions in Horden – a former mining village in County Durham and one of the most deprived places in Britain – were even worse than had been thought.

Paula Snowdon, who runs the Hub House, a converted end-of-terrace community centre on Seventh Street, describes malnourished families begging for food. “Most had received benefit sanctions and were basically starving when they came to us,” she said. Others turned up wanting little more than a chat. “We had individuals who hadn’t spoken to another person for days, sometimes weeks. Solitude is a major issue.”

Some asked only to sit on the Hub’s sofa; private landlords lease homes without furniture in the numbered streets, forcing many tenants to live without the luxury of settees. Some arrived seeking refuge from the network of drug dealers that has infested the village: one resident on Eleventh Street counts six dealers among its 54 red-bricked properties. Yet what astonished Snowdon most was the prevalence of mental illness. “The actual way of life around here causes problems. I would say that 85% have a mental health illness such as anxiety and depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Children are born into deprivation and high unemployment: people feel forgotten about.”

The Hub was created by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT), an agency tasked with improving the quality of life in former mining areas. Although largely neglected by contemporary Whitehall policy, Britain’s former coal regions have 5.5 million people living in them, one in 12 of Britain’s population. Collectively, the communities in 16 former coalfields are statistically distinct from the rest of the UK, with significantly higher levels of deprivation, illness and unemployment. In these former mining regions, 7.9% of the population – nearly 440,000 people – claim disability benefits, compared with 5.6% nationally and 4.3% in the south-east.

Employment opportunities have yet to fully replace the jobs lost in the collieries, with 14% of adults in the coalfields out of work and on benefits, 40% higher than the national average. Horden’s pit closed in 1987.

Across the coalfields, there are 50 jobs for every 100 residents of working age compared with 80 in the south-east. Life expectancy in coalfield areas is around a year less than the national average. Horden is, even by these standards, an acute case. Data collated three months ago found that 4,985 of its 7,585 population were categorised as being among the most deprived 20% of England.

Other indices underline the sense of a community in need. Four in 10 Hordenites have zero qualifications compared with 22% across England, while the proportion living in poverty is 39%, double the rate across England. Such figures, alongside the sense that conditions are deteriorating, have compelled the CRT to create a blueprint which it believes can reverse the fortunes of Britain’s coalfields.

Next month, a delegation from the trust will meet the minister responsible for the “northern powerhouse”, Jake Berry, to discuss a proposition to build industrial and commercial space that will allow small businesses to flourish. Officials believe that £30m of state funding over four years will bring in three times that amount in direct investment, along with a sustainable income of £2m each year that will be invested to deliver bespoke projects like the Hub House. Andy Lock, the CRT’s head of operations in England, said: “We know communities like Horden are not feeling the benefit of the investment in our major towns and cities, but our offer will address this. We just need government support to help it become a reality.”

Last Wednesday, Theresa May visited Teesside, some 12 miles south along the coast, to re-emphasise her support for the northern powerhouse, but few in Horden expect to feel much benefit. Similarly, the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership, created to boost regional economic growth, appears to have delivered scant benefit to the numbered streets; a third of the housing stock lies boarded up on Twelfth Street or has been converted into drug dens. Two years ago, a local housing association offered to sell 130 Horden homes to Durham council for £1 each. The council turned the offer down.

During May’s trip to the north-east, much was made of the need to improve the north’s transport infrastructure, with the prime minister admitting “further progress must be made” on links between its big cities. But it is evident that isolated communities like Horden are not a priority.

Close to the sea – Second Street lies 450 yards from Durham’s Heritage Coast – Horden has no rail station. To reach Sunderland, seven miles north, one must take a circuitous sequence of buses that turns what should be a straightforward trip into an odyssey. “If you work there it becomes impossible,” said Alan Bennett, a Hub volunteer.

Despite the neglect, the coalfield areas have become a relatively happy hunting ground for the Conservatives. All but one of the local authority districts within coalfield areas voted for Brexit, and despite a disappointing result nationally May still won a handful of seats in previously hostile former mining areas. Lock points out the Tory vote in many coalfield constituencies actually increased and says the CRT’s proposition offers the government a way of showing they care for previously abandoned areas. “The Tories should be asking ‘how can we further change the perception of as a party in these Labour heartlands.”

Already the Hub House stands as a testament to the possibility of change. The centre has been inundated with volunteers and more than 200 locals have so far passed through its door. Snowdon says that attacks by vandals – inflamed by rumours that it was a police “grass house” – have ceased and an embryonic sense of civic pride is detectable. One surefire hit has been the enthusiastic uptake of free dog-poo bags to tackle the fouling of pavements. “The Hub House is already making a huge difference to people who face some very difficult challenges, and demonstrates the impact you can have tackling mental health, debt, housing issues and employability with a relatively modest investment,” says Lock.

On Thursday evening, residents crowded into the Hub for a screening of I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s critique of the benefits system in nearby Newcastle – a film that had resonance for many of those present. A computer literacy course has been arranged to help Hordenites navigate the online benefits system without risking sanctions. Snowdon said: “People want to aspire to do better. You just need to give them hope.”

Source: The Observer UK

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 Post subject: Re: Poor get poorer
PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 3:22 pm 
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'Wall of shame' provides ongoing symbol of inequality in Peru
By Rosmery Cueva Saenz
28 August 2017

image

Lima (dpa) – There has been much discussion in the Americas about Donald Trump's proposed wall to separate the US and Mexico. But while that debate rages on, one wall that has already been built continues to provide a stark symbol of the social inequalities in the region.

Winding across a hill in southern Lima, Peru, this wall is made of concrete and barbed wire. It is 10 kilometres long, three metres high, and separates an exclusive district from the nearby Pamplona slum, populated by urban settlers. Residents call it "the wall of shame."

"It is the wall of shame because the rich people, on the other side, are ashamed of us, the poor. They see us as something strange, they cover us up because we are an embarrassment," says Ofelia Moreno, 51, who runs a small eatery in the slum.

The view from the other side is quite different. In a recent documentary film about the wall, a young man from the upscale Casuarinas compound told the cameras: "If that wall did not exist, I think there would be more conflicts because these are two areas in which life is totally different. Integrating these two groups and succeeding in making them live together amicably would be pretty complicated."

From the top of the hill, those social differences can be seen very clearly. On one side of the wall, the buildings are painted white, there are large houses with swimming pools, dozens of parks and even tennis courts. On the other side, the view is of small, precarious shacks, piles of rubbish, desperately thin dogs and cats, dirt paths and a football field covered in mud.

Construction of the "wall of shame" began in the 1980s when a private school in the Santiago de Surco district, to which Casuarinas belongs, decided it was necessary to protect both students and teachers from the guerrilla war raging in Peru at the time.

Bit by bit, Surco residents continued to extend the wall with permission from the local government, using the argument that they needed to protect their homes from people who were settling on the hill, since they were stealing land. "Those people come down from the mountains [the Andes] thinking that there are development possibilities in Lima," says the head the Casuarinas Association, Julio Yturry. "But once they get here they realize that there is nowhere to live because they came with the hope that somebody would give them a place to live for free or on an easy deal."

By the time the wall was completed in 2014, Moreno and another 300 families had already settled on the other side of the hill, which is part of the San Juan de Miraflores working class district. They constructed small homes using wood and plastic, since they had no money to build on plots of land in urbanized areas.

"Before, [Pamplona] was a rubbish dump where women were raped and criminals took drugs. It was a dark and desolate spot. Now, it is different. It's pretty and there is a stairway on the hill. Major progress has been made with the help of non-profit organizations and the San Juan de Miraflores municipality," Moreno adds. "We never did anything wrong. All we wanted was a bit of land to live on. We look at the wall now and we don't know what to think. Is it security or is it discrimination?", says another woman.

Life in Pamplona is tough. There is no running water, so each family has to spend about eight dollars a day to fill a cistern containing about 500 litres of water. "The water tankers are not even adequately treated to bring us clean water. The drivers say 'If you want it buy it, if you don't, don't.' They [the company that provides the water] don't care if our babies get ill," says another woman.

In addition to the lack of water, Pamplona is also a breeding ground for disease. The lack of a sewage system forces people to dig holes in the highest parts of the hill and use them as makeshift latrines, often completely exposed to the elements. When the latrines are on the verge of overflowing, the residents cover them with waste and dirt.

Peruvian official statistics show that the Latin American country has a population of 31 million. Of those, 6.5 million are poor and 1.2 million live in extreme poverty.

Moreno, who prepares breakfast and lunch for about 125 people every day on a budget of $45, says that what causes most anger in Pamplona residents is that the wall blocks their way to work in the mornings, forcing them to take a much longer route into Casuarinas. "There are many people here who work as domestic employees and cooks or in construction on the other side. Before the wall, we could cross over and arrive in an hour. Now we have to go all the way around and it takes up to three hours," she says.

Children in Pamplona say they miss being able to see the ocean and the lights in downtown Lima from the top of the hill. Sometimes, they lean a ladder against the wall, climb up to the top and peek over to look at the other side and ask themselves: "Why can't we live over there?"

Source: dpa

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 Post subject: Re: Poor get poorer
PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:32 pm 
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Poverty-stricken Venezuelans scour river and bins to stay alive
By J M Lopez
22 November 2017

Caracas (dpa) – Augusto Rengil is standing knee-deep in the filthy, stinking water of the Guaire River. Plastic bags and other debris drift past on the surface of the putrid water.

The river is a sewage outlet for Venezuela's capital, Caracas. But that doesn't stop scores of men like Rengil, 21, from wading into it every day, combing the filthy water in search of silver and gold. Today, about 20 men can be seen in a 100-metre stretch. "You would be amazed if you knew how much jewellery goes out with domestic waste and ends up in sewers," says Rengil, who is here to provide for his wife and son.

The unofficial miners collect waste from the river, use the current to wash out most of the muck, and examine the rest for gold or silver chains or earrings, which they extract with knives. Garbage – both in the river and on land - has become a vital source of life for a growing number of people in the capital of Venezuela, which is buckling under falling oil prices, soaring inflation and food shortages.

Critics accuse President Nicolas Maduro of having erected a dictatorship on the ruins of his destitute country, where more than 120 people have been killed in anti-government protests since April.

"A gram of gold sells for 180,000 bolivars [18 dollars]. It takes us five to six hours to earn that," Rengil explains. That is more than half the official minimum salary of 250,000 bolivars a month. A kilogram of beef costs a third of the minimum salary, while a loaf of bread sells for about 10,000 bolivars.

"With the money I earn here, I and my family make a living," says Vladimir Perez, 25. One of the more experienced miners, he has been coming to the river for years. But, he adds, he would much rather do something else. "The smell is unbearable and it never leaves you. Skin diseases are common, as are stomach problems." What most worries Perez, however, are rains that make the water level rise: "You can be swept away and drown."

"We chose this part of the river because it is easy to access and there is not so much water," explains Tomas Melo, 23. "We usually work in a group [...] and share whatever we get between all of us." While Melo and his companions are sifting through waste in the Guaire, other Caracas residents do the same on land.

On one street corner, Adriana is pulling chicken and fruit leftovers from a discarded plastic bag, while a friend holds her one-year-old daughter. The child is covered with scabs caused by poor hygiene and malnourishment. "I assess the quality of the food based on its colour and smell," Adriana says. Another young man is scraping the remains of a chocolate cake from the inside of its discarded wrapper. "Anything can be found in garbage. Garbage gives it all," he says.

Many of the foragers come out in the evening, when the supermarkets and restaurants shed their leftovers. "Everything we get comes from garbage," says German, one of a group of six homeless people who are cooking rice and meat on an improvised bonfire underneath a motorway bridge, on the banks of the river.

Cars rumble overhead, while a smell of smoke hangs in the air. To access the outdoor home they have created for themselves, the men need to climb down from the bridge, hanging onto its pillars. "I'm living on the streets, but I go regularly to see my family," says a man known as El Blanquito who sometimes spends time under the bridge. "I left because I did not want to become a burden to them," adds the 23-year-old, who does not want to give his real name. "Three years ago, everything was cheaper, there was more work and good salaries. Today [...] life has become impossible," El Blanquito sighs.

Maduro's socialist policies have been unable to stem the rising tide of poverty in the country, where committees tasked with distributing food and other basic goods are said to be riddled with corruption, hospitals lack vital medicines and hundreds of thousands of people have fled across the border.

Poverty is also making crime levels soar, with no less than 5,741 killings recorded last year. That was the highest number in a decade. German and his pals don't let any strangers come near them for fear of being attacked. "We protect each other," he says, while observing that El Blanquito has not shown up that day. "It seems he stabbed someone yesterday, and the police may be looking for him." The bodies of many victims of such attacks, the locals say, are thrown into the dark waters of the river.

Source: dpa

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