Venezuelans are being forced to use cardboard coffins as inflation and poverty rates increase. While life for Venezuelans is a struggle, death is a challenge as well, at least for the loved ones left behind. There are extreme shortages of food and medicine, and people are hurting. Murder rates are rising, Venezuelans are losing hope, and supplies for the basic needs of living are inaccessible. Some of the more financially fortunate ones are able to actually rent coffins for a few hours, long enough for the funeral. Then, the body of their loved ones are transferred back to cardboard boxes for burial.
A severe economic crisis has hit Venezuela, causing a lack of building materials and supplies, says a report from IOL News. Two years ago the price of oil, Venezuela’s top export, collapsed. Many Venezuelans are blaming their president, Nicolas Maduro, for his mismanagement of the country’s finances. Maduro, however, a socialist, blames the trouble on a plot from the U.S. government and other capitalist nations to cripple Venezuela’s economy.
The minimum wage in Venezuela is 33,000 bolivars, about $50 dollars in U.S. currency. A coffin used to only cost about 720 bolivars. In Venezuela today, however, 720 bolivars will only buy you a loaf of bread. To get a cardboard coffin, they will pay around 55,000 bolivars, or they can rent coffins for 25,000 each. Venezuelans are suffering enough as it is. According to a report from Fox News Latino, they’re already forced to stand in long lines just to get the food or medicine they need. Already in survival mode, they’re now forced to carry the bodies of their deceased loved ones in plastic bags to the crematorium, a situation that is both traumatic and humiliating.
Miriam Navarro, a 66-year-old housewife, lost her brother a month ago. She lives in a half-built home in the city of Maracay. She didn’t have the money to pay the funeral parlor, and had to borrow money from her neighbors.
“I felt so depressed. I didn’t have all the money the funeral parlor was asking for. If it hadn’t been for people in my community, I would have had to bury him in the yard.”
She sobbed while she described facing the same issue when one of her sons was shot to death six years ago.
“I couldn’t afford to bury him either. Even if the funeral home trusts you, you have to have the cash ready to pay straight away or they’ll take the body out and keep the box.”
Navarro, with the help of neighbors, was able to buy a cardboard box at a reasonable rate from funeral director Ronald Martinez, who says it is “more expensive to die here than to stay alive.” Venezuelans used to bury their loved ones in brass coffins because they were cheaper than wood. Factories in the nation were once able to produce hundreds of tons of brass every month. They’re now only able to produce as little as 60 tons, according to Juan Carlos Fernandez, director of the National Chamber of Funeral Businesses. He believes cardboard is an acceptable solution.
“We have had to resort to secondary markets and that drives up costs. This kind is cheaper and no one notices that it is not made of wood or is second-hand. I change the interior and sometimes I repaint it.”
A seemingly practical and economically feasible solution is the use of “bio-urns,” made of corrugated cardboard. They’re made of a stronger cardboard and comprised of 70 percent recycled materials. Elio Angulo manufactures them as a workable alternative. He says renting out coffins violates hygiene regulations. The biodegradable bio-urns can hold a body or ashes for families who are forced to choose cremation when they can’t afford a burial plot. His cardboard coffins cost 50,000 bolivars each and he claims they can hold up to 125 kg and are stronger than the medium-density fiberboard that others are using for cheap coffins. Angulo says it serves dual purposes.
“It is meant for cremation but can also be used for burials. It offers a solution for a country in crisis. It is economical and accessible to Venezuelans who do not have enough money to get by. Nowadays, dying is making a lot of people poor.”
The challenges facing Venezuelans are seemingly endless, but being forced to use cardboard coffins as inflation and poverty rates increase is adding to the hardship.
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