In Venezuela's funeral industry, a shortage of coffins

Mon Jun 16, 2014 9:37am EDT
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By Girish Gupta

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan funeral homes are struggling to find coffins, with production crimped by a shortage of brass, varnish and satin, complicating the process of burying the dead in one of the world's most murderous countries.

Undertakers are borrowing coffins from each other or traveling to Colombia to get hold of them.

Some are encouraging customers to have cremations so that coffins, used only for the wake, can be "recycled."

President Nicolas Maduro describes the scarcity, which has affected a gamut of products from toilet paper to church wine, as the result of an "economic war" waged by opposition saboteurs seeking to force him out of office.

Critics blame the shortages on a dysfunctional economy centered on price and currency controls enacted more than a decade ago.

The undertakers' business is buttressed by spiraling violent crimes that killed at least 11,000 people last year.

"If you're an undertaker you have to guarantee funerals happen, even if that means going wherever you have to go to borrow a coffin," said Miriam Castro, administrator at a Caracas funeral home in the El Paraiso (Paradise) district.

She and other undertakers in the neighborhood are trading coffins between themselves to meet demand, Castro said.   Continued...

Workers carry a coffin in a caskets factory in Caracas November 29, 2012.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins