Campos say she and others have sought clarification from the government as to what the mall's ultimate use will be. The unspoken fear is that the mall will become a permanent refugee center, taking in the country's homeless during Venezuela's annual rainy season.
"They have changed their minds so many times and have proposed so many things, including locating the state morgue in the building." She laughs nervously. "We ask them and they won't tell us. We have no input; we have no say. There is no coordination, no plan."
La Candelaria neighborhood has become a battleground between the haves and have-nots. Within a 1 square-kilometer zone of the neighborhood, 24 buildings have been expropriated by the government or invaded by the country's homeless.
Among the latter is Edificio Confinanzas, or as it is better known, Torre de David -- David's Tower.
The 45-story skyscraper, which is a stone's throw from the headquarters of two of Venezuela's largest banks, Banco Mercantil and Banco Provincial, was originally supposed to house offices, shops, and commercial space. But the owner -- David Brillembourg -- died in 1993 before the building was completed, and it passed to his banks. One year later, the government seized the tower when the banks went bust in a financial crisis. It was invaded by 200 families in October 2007 when it was 60 percent complete. Today, it's home to nearly 3,000 people living in makeshift housing on the first 27 floors.
The tower, from a distance, cuts the sky with its sharp lines -- in bold contrast with the squat profiles of its neighboring skyscrapers, which date from the 1970s. Up close, a different picture emerges. Many of the tower's bottom floors have been closed in with brick-red cinder blocks as residents have sought to carve out makeshift homes, while protecting their children from falling to their deaths. TV satellite dishes stud the walls, giving the building a surreal appearance.
They may have cable, but basic services, such as elevators, are lacking. Neighbors say the building houses drug dealers and prostitutes. Thugs take shelter there after committing crimes, and the police refuse to follow them. Security is provided by the residents themselves, who man the doors. I entered the building but was immediately asked to leave by one guard.
"You just can't walk in here like that. This is private property," he said, ignoring the irony in his statement.
The government has said little about the building and whether it will seek to evict the squatters. While they dither, neighbors fear that the situation will only worsen and that the "vertical slum" -- as they call it -- will become permanent.
Chávez, who is running for reelection next year, has always made solving the country's housing shortage a priority, Genatios says. But decisions are taken haphazardly, and government inefficiency and corruption take a toll.
Caracas is particularly rife with problems due to its topography.
The city, which is built along a narrow valley, has little space for new housing, leading the poor to construct their makeshift homes on the slopes of the hills. When heavy rains occur, mudslides invariably happen. In 1999, thousands were killed when heavy rains ripped through the capital and surrounding region.
Some government decisions actually exacerbate the crisis, Genatios admitted. He gave the example of the government decision (greater Caracas is controlled by a governor appointed by Chávez) to expropriate a parking lot next to a long-standing restaurant. The lot was expropriated to provide a site for an apartment building for 40 people. The restaurant, which employed 60, was forced to close as a result, ultimately hurting more people than it helped. The apartment building has yet to be built.
"You can't make housing decisions based on political considerations," says Genatios. "You have to take into account other factors such as the services and the overall community picture." The government has also refused to allow municipalities to participate in the planning, especially when they are controlled by members of the opposition.