How bad is it in Venezuela? People renting coffins for duration of funeral
Things are bad in Venezuela. Inflation is running close to 700% this year, the workforce is on a three-day workweek because there's a shortage of electricity, and you can't buy stuff like milk, flour, and cooking oil because store shelves are empty.
But leave it to socialism to make the worst out of an already rotten situation.
Socialism creates scarcity, so it's not surprising that people who suffer the loss of a loved one can't find – or afford – a decent coffin. So families are now given the option of burying their loved ones in a cardboard box or renting a regular coffin for the duration of the funeral.
“It is more expensive to die here than to stay alive,” funeral director Ronald Martínez, from the northern city of Maracay, told Agence France-Presse.
The coffin crisis has become so acute that many families have been forced to bring their loved ones to crematoriums in bags.
“I felt so depressed. I didn't have all the money the funeral parlor was asking for,” Miriam Navarro, who had to borrow money from neighbors to bury her brother, told AFP. “If it hadn't been for people in my community, I would have had to bury him in the yard.”
While many Venezuelans used to favor brass coffins instead of wooden ones because they were cheaper, the collapse of the price of oil has greatly diminished the amount of the metal that's produced.
Adding to the scarcity of coffins is the massive rise of inflation in Venezuela, which has driven the price of a funeral up by about 600 percent in the last two years to around 280,000 bolívars, about $425 by the official exchange rate, but much higher in secondary or black-market rates. Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro blame his government’s economic mismanagement for the current financial quagmire, while the socialist leader claims it is a plot of the U.S. and other capitalist nations to destabilize the country.
The minimum wage in Venezuela is 33,000 bolívars, about $50 U.S. dollars, and a coffin used to cost only about 720 bolívars. Today, that is the cost of a loaf of bread.
Grieving Venezuelans can now either buy a fiberboard coffin for around 55,000 bolívars, or rent one for 25,000.
“That kind is cheaper and no one notices that it is not made of wood or is second-hand,” Martinez said. “I change the interior, and sometimes I repaint it.”
Another alternative, touted as both economical and environmentally-friendly, is the "bio-urn," which are manufactured from reinforced cardboard made out of 70 percent recycled material. While the coffins were originally intended for families who choose cremation – a technique that has gained popularity among mourners who can’t afford a burial plot – makers say that they are stronger than fiberboard coffins and can be used to bury a body as well.
As to what is causing this there’s a very funny (for those with a deeply dark sense of humour like my own) piece in The Nation trying to explain that. The amusement comes from the way the writer actually tells us what went wrong but then hares off after some other reason. For he really just doesn’t want to admit that this free market thing really does indeed work and systems which do not use markets do not work. The reason being, of course, that over at The Nation they’re all a little maiden auntish about markets. But surely everything would work better if we clever people just told everyone else what to do?
It's probably not a good idea to make fun of other people's misery. But to my mind, the people of Venezuela brought this on themselves by voting in both Chávez and Maduro, who took one of the most prosperous developing countries in the world and ran it into the ground.