The One about Chávez’s Hearse

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Carolina Acosta-Alzuru has a good riff about the need to wait until a country is ready to tell its stories. Venezuela isn’t ready to start telling its story yet, but one day, when the dust has settled and the country begins to find its voice, it’s going to be incredibly spoilt for choice: the one item where production has not lagged in the Chávez era is the scarcely-believable story.

Take the one about Chávez’s hearse.

CNN en Español has the simply bizarre tale of how the Venezuelan government only realized at the very last minute that there weren’t any glass-sided hearses available for a state funeral anywhere in Venezuela. They had to scramble at the last minute to locate a funeral home in Colombia able to supply one, and had to send an Air Force cargo transporter to pick it up with the clock ticking to the start of Chávez’s Funeral.

Given that Chávez had been very publicly dying for months, that funeral plans weren’t worked out in detail until the day before the event is insane – though, at the same time, how much more in character could you get?

But the really jaw dropping bit comes next, as you read about the kafkaesque nightmare with which this Colombian funeral home’s friendly gesture was reciprocated. Since the 1998 model Lincoln had been shipped into the country in a mad last minute rush, none of the usual paperwork needed to move a car into the country had been followed. But of course that meant that after the funeral was finished, there was no straightforward legal way to get the hearse back to its rightful owners in Medellín. And of course once the funeral was finished and the pressure was off, nobody on the Venezuelan side lifted a damn finger to help them figure out how to undo the mess.

The car ended up stranded for months on end in a depot on the Venezuelan side of the border as the owners tried to figure out some way – any way – to get it back across the border to Medellín. Finally, the owners brought the car into Colombia. They didn’t have a problem at the border, but later, since the paperwork was screwed up, the Colombian government ended up seizing it as illegal property. In the end, the original owners had to buy back their own hearse at auction from the government, for $45,000!

The whole crazy story is worth a read.

21 COMMENTS

  1. In the news I heard that they weren’t allowed to participate at the auction.
    So they made an offer to the winner of the auction, and that’s how they could get it back

  2. “Given that Chávez had been very publicly dying for months, that funeral plans weren’t worked out in detail until the day before the event is insane – though, at the same time, how much more in character could you get?”

    Actually, they took more than two months to prepare the funeral, the galactic mortadela left the mortal coil in december of 2012, so it was rotting in havana until they decided to claim he kicked the bucket in march.

  3. You’d think, as a bona fide relic, it would be preserved and put on display. Or perhaps used one day as evidence that, once again, South America’s great leader and unifier was done in by Colombians: i.e. he was alive and giving out instructions until the Colombian hearse arrived….

  4. The hearse story is revealing of the kind of marginal mentality of the people who head chavismo , the kind of mentality which is common in many of their barrio supporters , i.e live for the present , dont think about tomorrow , dont plan for the morrow , dont think of the implications of what you do or fail to do today , manage things thru chaotic improvizations so, even if Chavez was in the process of dying they didnt plan for his funeral . they forgot they would need an open hearse. , this is typical of the behaviour of Chavez and his coterie of followers , for example for 10 years they didnt plan for the growth in electricity demand , nor for the deterioration in the infrastructure so we had power cuts and shortages which paralyzed the country and destroyed the guyana aluminum industry . They sought loans when they could not afford them to prop up Chavez populrity in his last electoral campaign , the result a financial situation where the country must suffer inumerable privations and harships from its inability to import the basic stapples and articles it needs because there is not enough money . They also failed to provide for how the hearse would be returned to its owners so it was lost to them until they rebought it at a very high price, and of course the irresponsability of not doing anything to compensate the owner of the hearse for its use or for the problem they had created for him . This culture of neglecting to think about the future , of taking responsability for the consequence of that neglect has deep roots in the mind of many Venezuelans . The behaviour of this regime only represents that flaw in this one of the most mediochre traits of our national character . We spend what we have today , splurging on what we dont need even if later we are left incapable of feeding our selves . We thus are improvident in our lives , things will take care of themselves, or we improvize wildly , as a people we lack an innate sense of order , all we do is disorganized , disorderly , slovenly .

    But one thing we are great at is complaining about the problems which our improvidence cause ourselves, and of course at blaming someone for having them .!! Chavismo representes the worse of our national failings as a people , compounded by a haughty sense that we are all knowing and cunning ( vivos) that we can always scape from any mess we get ourselves into.

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