Dead also not spared in­dig­ni­ties

Kuwait Times - - Analysis -

Wences­lao Al­varez’s body lay rot­ting in his house in Mara­caibo un­til the stench spread up the street. His shamed fam­ily had no money to bury him. Just days be­fore, an­other fam­ily buried En­der Bra­cho in his own back pa­tio, cov­er­ing him with a few shov­el­fuls of earth un­til the lo­cal state au­thor­i­ties fi­nally stepped in with a cof­fin and a grave. In Fe­bru­ary, the corpse of street ven­dor Fran­cisco Rol­los was laid out in front of the city hall in the north­west­ern city of Turen - a silent but force­ful plea for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to take on his burial.

For Venezuela’s poor, the liv­ing night­mare cre­ated by the coun­try’s eco­nomic cri­sis - which has forced mil­lions to flee - is lin­ger­ing be­yond the grave. A year be­fore his death, an em­bolism had left the 78year-old Al­varez in­ca­pac­i­tated. Chicken pox only made the sit­u­a­tion worse, and went un­treated be­cause of a chronic short­age of medicines. His agony ended on Oct 4 in a poor neigh­bor­hood in the port city of Mara­caibo. His daugh­ter Lisan­dra asked for help from lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to bury him, but no help came.

“The body was in a state of de­com­po­si­tion and the house was stink­ing. I couldn’t find a way to clean it,” said the 43-year-old laun­dry worker. Three days later, a neigh­bor­ing mu­nic­i­pal­ity do­nated a cof­fin and a grave. By that time, the stench com­ing from the house in­fil­trated the homes all along the street. “We threw three bags of lime in the cof­fin and one more on top to con­tain the smell,” said Lisan­dra. A year ago, she had to sell the fam­ily re­frig­er­a­tor in or­der to bury her mother. Lisan­dra has had more than her share of woe; in 2014, her po­lice of­fi­cer son was shot dead.

Home burial

Days be­fore Al­varez died, Bra­cho’s fam­ily dug a hole in his back­yard and slipped his body in­side. He had suc­cumbed the pre­vi­ous day to blood poi­son­ing - a fate which his rel­a­tives said could have been avoided with an­tibi­otics. Even in life, the 39-yearold ma­son - with his pro­trud­ing ribs and gaunt fa­cial fea­tures - was al­ready look­ing like a corpse. “Where is the govern­ment to help the poor? What they are do­ing is de­stroy­ing us!” said Bra­cho’s niece, Mi­la­gros. “Look at the state the coun­try is in. We can get noth­ing.”

Wrapped in a blan­ket, Bra­cho’s body was low­ered into the back­yard pit. His mother Gla­dys helped cover his re­mains with some earth. Neigh­bors ob­jected, fear­ing disease could spread if his tem­po­rary grave were to end up be­ing his fi­nal rest­ing place. Sev­eral hours passed be­fore work­ers from the Zu­lia state govern­ment showed up with a cas­ket and di­rec­tions to a gravesite.

The eco­nomic cri­sis, cou­pled with state re­pres­sion, is hit­ting or­di­nary Venezue­lans hard, with chronic short­ages of ba­sic goods and in­fla­tion fore­cast to top 1.3 mil­lion per­cent this year, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund. “Ninety per­cent of the peo­ple who come to me look for the cheap­est ser­vice they can get,” says fu­neral par­lor owner Luis Mora. “When they come, they have al­ready spent what lit­tle re­sources they have on care and treat­ments,” he told AFP. Mora, who owns two Cara­cas fu­neral homes, says costs vary from 8,000 to 25,000 bo­li­vars ($130 - $400), set against a min­i­mum monthly salary of $29. — AFP

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