Cardboard coffins for cash-strapped Venezuelans

Venezuela – With food and medicine short, life is hard in Venezuela – and death is hard, too. The country’s situation is so acute that families are burying their loved ones in cardboard coffins.

The more well-off ones can hire a casket for a few hours, just for the funeral. A lack of materials and soaring inflation fuelled by an economic crisis are making funerals a costly business.

“It is more expensive to die here than to stay alive,” says funeral director Ronald Martinez, in the northern city of Maracay.

Miriam Navarro had to borrow money from her neighbours after her brother died a month ago. “I felt so depressed. I didn’t have all the money the funeral parlour was asking for,” she says. “If it hadn’t been for people in my community, I would have had to bury him in the yard.”

With the help from neighbours, she bought a cheap fibreboard coffin from Martinez.

Venezuelans used to favour brass coffins as a cheaper alternative to wood. But the current crisis changed that. Two years ago the price of oil – Venezuela’s crucial export – collapsed.

Factories in the country were previously turning out hundreds of tons of brass every month. That has now fallen to as little as 60 tons, says Juan Carlos Fernandez, director of the National Chamber of Funeral Businesses.

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