Now even in death, Venezuelans are afflicted by shortages. Coffin production has dropped between 20% and 30% 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, says 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 says.
The country of 30 million has about 50 coffin factories. The president of one of Caracas' biggest coffin companies, Ataudes Venezuela, says 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," says the executive, who adds that 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.