The morgue conundrum

WARNING: Some of the links contain very strong images.

The latest report by the Caracas Metropolitan Council (Cabildo Metropolitano) confirms that Caracas is also the murder capital of Venezuela: 18% of all homicides happened under the gaze of Waraira Repano. One grim consequence of all the bloodletting has been to push the only morgue in town well beyond its breaking point.

For years, the Bello Monte Morgue has been left to its own devices to deal with the fast growth in violent deaths. When El Nacional, a major national newspaper published a dantesque photo of conditions there 0n its front page, it provoked not just a huge uproar but a direct attempt at censorship by the Judiciary. The tizzy-fit over that photo somewhat obscured the underlying reality that the place still lacks the human and material resources to cope with the tsunami of corpses it’s expected to handle.

Over the years, the Interior Ministry has presented and then abandoned a couple of plans to build a new morgue for Caracas. Now it looks like a definitive location has finally been chosen in El Llanito, a neighborhood in the East of the city, near Petare. The catch is that neither local authorities nor the people in the neighborhood were consulted in any way.

The planned morgue would be housed inside an existing CICPC (Venezuela’s FBI – guardando las salvedades) facility, located in an area surrounded by homes and schools: not exactly an ideal location for that kind of place. The protests could be dismissed as NIMBYism, but considering we’re supposed to have a participative democracy, you have to wonder that construction was launched without any type of warning.

The Mayor of Sucre Municipality (and MUD candidate for Miranda State Governor), Carlos Ocariz has offered an alternative location in one of the headquarters of the municipal police, in an area removed from residential use. The ministry’s response on both proposals has been of absolute silence. Apparently, if you want participatory democracy, you have to vote for a chavista mayor first.

Full report about violence in the Metropolitan Area of Caracas can be found here.

15 thoughts on “The morgue conundrum

  1. This also happened with the present morgue in Colinas de Bello Monte. The building was originally owned by the guys that make Pampero, in the early 70s (72 or 73) it was sold to the PTJ and turned overnight into a morgue, no consultations then either. I used to live beside it in the 70s and had a “beautiful” view of the ins and outs of the place…


      • Yes, my family lives near there and the neighbors have protested and tried to have the morgue moved since forever, but it has been impossible. The conditions under which they function are appalling, from what I’ve heard they only have one truck to collect the bodies and the bodies usually remain hours laying in the streets before they are picked up. For years the area had no public transportation and the families of the deceased went through a hard time just to get to the morgue.
        The moving is necessary, but as always rationality and dialogue are words that the government has never heard of. And as the message below says the big problem is not the morgue is the amount of bodies that get there every week.


  2. So the “solution” to the current violence is just to build more room to put the bodies. Venezuela is officially South Park.


    • Well Yes and No.

      Yes, the solution might well be to build a newer, bigger morgue (where Ocariz suggested) because it is not precisely in a residential neighborhood, the population is greater and therefore the number of deaths will be greater as well (assuming we will never have zero violence).

      It’s a shame that violence has increased to the point that building a bigger morgue is needed. It is wrong to paint it as a solution, it is a consequence.


    • Another fact is being forgotten: any death not occurred under medical supervision has to be determined at the morgue. That includes accidents, suicides, missing people found dead, death of beggars, and some deaths at home, especially the lonely. Whatever level the Caracas crime rate is, the city has been in dire need of another morgue for quite some time for population density reasons.


  3. Just a thought. Has anyone in the government considered lowering the murder rate? This could lower the demand for morgues. I know, I know. It was just a thought.


  4. Agreed with South Park Comment, but really the bigger/better/more fit for purpose is a necesity for the dignity of the deseased and of their relatives. Politics aside, the current one is adding scorn to an already painfull situation of the crossing of the Hades river.

    Does anyone know the numbers/ statistics for sure? How should be publishing this? is it done acordingly? which NGO’s has a better aggregate ingo on Morgue throughput????

    Just being a litle sadic here sorry.


    • During the primaries in February I had the privilege of spending a few minutes with Roberto Briceño Leon of the Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia. Among other things, I asked him if they had any numbers yet for 2011, and he replied they were over 19,000 murders for 2011, but that they were not finished tallying up yet. Bullets per murder are up, all violent indices are up.

      Since the government doesn’t bother to release statistics, we have to depend on folks like Mr. Leon and his group to give us an idea of what is happening.


  5. Improvisation is what drives this government, aside corruption. The lack of planning is and is felt everywhere at every level.
    Time for a change.


  6. Does participative democracy = consultation on planning issues? Not necessarily. In any case what planning laws have ever been applied consistently in Caracas?

    But that misses the point. Surely putting the morgue in a CICPC building the government can claim whatever improvements in murder rates it wants without those pesky journalists finding out?


  7. Sorry to write this in Spanish:

    En los últimos días han matado a la hija del consul de Chile, al manager de los caramelos de cianuro, y a un sexagenario en el Rosal para robarle su carro. La delincuencia desde hace mucho tiempo ha estado desatada, y el Gobierno no tiene capacidad para frenarla.

    Por otra parte, Luis Vicente León, de datanalisis, menciona lo siguiente:
    “Paradójicamente, peores momentos de evaluación de inseguridad coinciden con más altos niveles de respaldo a Ch. Por qué? Porque mientras más elevado es problema inseguridad, más se relegan problemas más costosos pol: inflación, desempleo, abastecimiento. Cuando la gente se preocupa de problemas económicos, el gob tiene responsabilidad directa. Con la inseguridad se diluye”



    • No, you didn’t get it at all, Armando.

      Lo que dice LVL es que la inseguridad es una categoría residual: lo primero de lo que te quejas CUANDO las preocupaciones económicas no te tienen totalmente agobiado. No es que la percepción de inseguridad como problema #1 sube cuando sube el crimen, es que sube RELATIVAMENTE cuando los problemas económicos preocupan a la gente menos, que es lo que aumenta el respaldo electoral del gobierno.

      No se olviden, el petróleo está a $110 y la economía está creciendo…


      • Hay que resaltar que la economia esta creciendo de forma artificial con un costo dañino a largo plazo, pero honestamente eso no le importa a la mayoria.


  8. Every cadaver in the morgue will end up voting for Chavez in October. Do they collect the cedulas?

    The more dead people the more votes for Chavez.


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