In Venezuela, looters are stripping the dead in cemeteries

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve felt compelled to begin a column with the question, “how bad have things gotten in Venezuela?” But every time I think we’ve seen the conditions in that failed state hit rock bottom, Venezuela comes back and says, hold my beer. We already knew about the power outages, the lack of potable water, food and medical supplies. There’s been some looting during the protests here and there. But now, as the title of this piece indicates, things have hit a new low, both figuratively and literally. Looters are digging up graves in cemeteries where successful families bury their dead and stripping them of any jewelry or other valuables interred with the deceased. (Associated Press)

Even the dead aren’t safe in Maracaibo, a sweltering, suffering city in Venezuela.

Thieves have broken into some of the vaults and coffins in El Cuadrado cemetery since late last year, stealing ornaments and sometimes items from corpses as the country sinks to new depths of deprivation…

Much of Venezuela is in a state of decay and abandonment, brought on by shortages of things that people need the most: cash, food, water, medicine, power, gasoline.

The AP has a quote from José Antonio Ferrer, the caretaker of a cemetery in Maracaibo. He claims that thieves have been digging up the graves of prominent citizens, going to far as to pull the gold teeth out of the mouths of the corpses. That’s something beyond mere desperation.

Many of the residents of that city have reportedly fled across the border to Colombia if they have the means to do so. Unfortunately, many don’t wind up in much better shape even if they make it there alive. The number of Venezuelan refugees fleeing the country is now past four million and the camps over the border in Colombia are overcrowded with not enough resources to go around. Food, medicine and shelter are all in short supply, though international relief groups are doing the best they can with the resources they have available.

And all the while, Nicolas Maduro continues to hole up in the presidential palace, looking for all the world as if he isn’t missing any meals. He keeps sending out proclamations on Twitter saying that everything is under control and the only problems his people have are being caused by American interlopers. But it’s the endless corruption the country witnessed under both Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, that brought Venezuela to its knees. His socialist paradise made him a very wealthy man, but his citizens are the ones paying the price for it.

Now, the daily lives of Venezuela’s people are an endless misery. And as we saw in this report, not even the dead are allowed to rest in peace.