A woman stands near the coffin that contain the remains of Venezuela's late President Jaime Lusinchi during a memorial service in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 22, 2014. The former president, who struggled to tame an economic crisis sparked by plunging oil prices in the late 1980s and then saw his reputation tarnished by allegations of corruption after leaving office, died Wednesday, May 21, 2014. He was 89. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Now even in death, Venezuelans are afflicted by shortages.
Coffin production has dropped between 20 and 30 percent this year for lack of materials, industry officials say, forcing funeral and burial delays and boosting coffin prices.
In especially short supply is the metal leaf used in coffin-building, said Pedro Navarro, former president of Venezuela's funeral parlor association, who blamed lagging production at the state-run foundry Sidor.
"Some factories are paralyzed. Others are buying thicker leaf," he said.
The country of 30 million has about 50 coffin factories. The president of one of Caracas' biggest coffin companies, Ataudes Venezuela, said glue, varnish, paint and even fabric for the interiors are scarce.
"I figure that within two or three months, if things continue on this path, it's going to get so bad that there won't be coffins to bury people," said the executive, Juan Carlos Fernandez.
He said he expects to be forced to effectively halve production next month.
Demand for coffins has grown in recent years as Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates.
Its people have been coping with shortages since 2006, long before pro-socialist President Hugo Chavez's death last year from cancer.
The situation has grown especially acute in recent months as the cash-strapped government has made less hard currency available for imports. Venezuela's central bank has not published a scarcity index since March, when it stood at 26.9 percent.
Empty shelves and long lines have become a fixture of a daily hunt for staples including milk, cooking oil and flour. Pharmaceuticals and medical supplies are also scarce. It has all contributed to a rash of anti-government street protests that began in February by an emboldened opposition.