Death is easy to find. Coffins? Not so much

950x530Most 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.

13 thoughts on “Death is easy to find. Coffins? Not so much

  1. A visit to a Venezuelan cemetery is an eye opener. In many areas of the world, it is a place where people can pay respects to their parents and grandparents. In Venezuela, it is a place busy with people grieving the loss of young people. If you look at the graves, many of which have relatively recent photographs, you see rows and rows of what can be none other than violent deaths. If you leave some flowers in a modest vase, both will get taken. It really is the end in every sense of the word.

    Maybe the price controls and shortages of burial services reflects a policy to ensure that the historical memory of this period does not extend beyond the life-span of a parent.


  2. The avalanche of shortages and total breakdown in the flow of services and goods resulting from govt mismanagement of the economy and the failures of its state bureaucracy now reach deep to every minute aspect of the countrys life . Our life is now in a state of indefinitite suspension , running totally ouside its normal grooves and there is no one but the govt to blame for this sorry state of affairs . The whole economic war farce is not credible to anyone with the least sense of reality . The gap between things as they evidently reveal themselves in daily experience and the govts attempt at creating a fantasy explanation and justification has never been wider and more ostensible . People who dont realize this are fringe lunaticized by their fanaticism.or down right idiots . The govt message has become both crazy and unbelievable !! Time is ripe for the oppo to put its act together and find ways of getting thru the message that they can do it better without taking anything away from those who have come to depend on the govt for their survival .!!


  3. I find myself deeply concerned about this issue.
    My 90 year old grandma is really bad, might not celebrate this christmas with her around and well, this might just make me get into a very big argument with my large chavista family. Don’t want to think about it but can’t help it.


  4. “Cremations are now becoming the only viable option … until, that is, government mismanagement gives way to a scarcity of fire.”

    What’s that joke about socialism in the desert?


  5. Apparently there is a shortage of everything but bullets and stupid communists in Venezuela. Can Oliver Stone save the day with his ridiculous propaganda movies? Marxists have always been destructive idiots lost in a utopian fantasy with no grip on reality.


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