Most Venezuelan businesses are having a tough time these days, but you would think funeral homes would be booming – what with a crime wave and all. Turns out funeral homes are just like any other business, albeit slightly creepier: in a recent interview, Ricardo Guedez, member of the Venezuelan Funeral Parlors’ Association (Canadefu), spoke of the multiple problems they’re now facing.
First up, a shortage of brass is affecting coffin production and forcing funeral homes to declare a state of emergency, or even kill their operations. This caught the attention of both Reuters and the Associated Press, both of whom recently wrote obituaries for the industry.
The problem can be traced to dwindling production of brass from state-owned smelter SIDOR in Guayana, which is not sending enough raw material to casket factories, choking the industry to the point of creating a deficit of roughly 50% of demand. As SIDOR workers continue to protest (and they don’t lack reasons to do so), shortages could continue for quite a while. Cremations are now becoming the only viable option … until, that is, government mismanagement gives way to a scarcity of fire.
Speaking of cremation, funeral homes are also feeling the heat of the government thanks to the Fair Prices Law and the Funeral Services Law, which was published in February. Both pieces of legislation give the state wide control over the activities of funeral parlors and cemeteries. After more than two years of discussion, the law is finally out… and it’s a death knell for the industry. Meanwhile, Guedez mentions that high inflation is causing funeral parlor costs to skyrocket, and the combination of surging costs and price controls is driving the industry to its grave.
Funeral homes are also getting caught in the wave of violence, and they’ve been forced to reduce their working hours in order to avoid having to join their “customers” in the great beyond. Guedez puts it clear: “Before it was possible to be open until midnight. Not it’s only until ten o’clock.”
In a sense of tragic irony, the crime wave that Venezuela suffers continues to be relentless: from shootouts in party gatherings to a hit-job in a public hospital’s operating table and a robbery gone wrong that caused a bus crash, violence is going strong both in Caracas and in other cities like Ciudad Guayana. And even six months after Monica Spear’s tragic murder, the Valencia-Puerto Cabello highway continues to be a pretty unsafe place.
The culture of violent death is all around us and shows no sign of slowing down … coffins or no coffins.