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Poverty and death in Venezuela

In Venezuela, even dying is too expensive for most people. AP photographer Rodrigo Abd has documented difficult fates - some families rent a coffin for funerals.

The political situation in Venezuela is stuck. President Maduro remains in power with the help of the military. The opposition politician Guaidó cannot prevail. Meanwhile, poverty and inflation continue to increase. For many Venezuelans, even the last rest has become an unaffordable challenge - many cannot afford a funeral. There is no support from the Venezuelan state. Many families feel compelled to let their deceased relatives rot at home because there is simply no money for a worthy funeral.

Transportation, coffin and tomb cost Hundreds of dollars. With an average minimum wage of three dollars per month, such costs exceed the possibilities of many Venezuelans. Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd has documented the history of Venezuela's second largest city, Maracaibo, in the northwest of the country. The families he met there are fighting hunger on the one hand; on the other hand, they complain about the loss of their relatives. For example, the family man Roberto Parra and his wife Alejandra have lost their only 19-day-old son, who was born with a lung disease. Activist Carolina Leal, who cares for the community, says, "This slum has become a living hell."

The photographer Rodrigo Abd has documented another development. The people of Maracaibo told him that in times of need, Venezuelans often no longer buy a coffin but rent one. Others, who cannot bear this financial burden, build their own coffin in need.

Rodrigo Abd works at AP and lives in Lima, Peru. In 2012 he won the renowned Pulitzer Prize.

Miguel Blanco, 28 Jahre alt, ist mit einem Wasserkopf (Hydrocephalus) geboren. Er lebt bei seiner arbeitslosen Mutter, die sich für ihn nur eine Mahlzeit am Tag leisten kann. Sein Bruder zeigt ein Foto, auf dem Miguel noch ein Kind war.
Miguel Blanco, 28 years old, was born with hydrocephalus. He lives with his unemployed mother, who can only afford one meal a day for him. His brother shows a photo in which Miguel was still a child.

Sergio Morales and Joelvis Cantillo build a simple coffin in their furniture workshop in Maracaibo, Venezuela. The demand for cheaper coffins increased enormously. That is why the two carpenters started building coffins for less than $ 100 two years ago.

A rusty coffin lies next to a grave that was looted by thieves in a cemetery in Maracaibo. Thieves often loot the graves in hopes of finding valuables in them.

Roberto Parra carries a small coffin with the remains of his 19 day old son. The little boy died in a public hospital because of lung problems. Even though his wife gave birth to the boy with breathing difficulties, they were told to take him home as the hospital could further deteriorate his health if they stayed there.

A picture of the Virgin Mary hangs on a brick wall next to the room where a body is being prepared for burial. The cost of transporting the body, coffin, and funeral can cost hundreds of dollars. With an average minimum wage of three dollars a month, this is priceless.

Catholic women during a procession ceremony in Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Cemetery employee Denny Peryra shovels graves for children in the area of community graves in the municipal cemetery in Maracaibo.

Children sleep on the street near their mother's food stall where they sell groceries.

Cemetery workers prepare a body for cremation.

Carmen García and her boyfriend Juan Carlos Pirela paddle on the raft on Lake Maracaibo in Cabimas. They are preparing to eject their fishing nets, hoping for a meal. Venezuela's economic crash has hit many people in Maracaibo particularly hard in the past five years. It was once a center of the country's oil wealth.

Crosses mark the overgrown graves of the Corazón de Jesús cemetery.

Frankfurter Allgemeine
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