Thieves plunder headstones as Venezuela's crisis turns grave

Thieves plunder headstones as Venezuela's crisis turns grave

Grief flooded back for Ivonne de Gutierrez when she brought flowers to her son's grave at a cemetery in Venezuela's capital, only to find that the grave markers of several relatives were gone.

"Almost all of them have been taken," Gutierrez said, standing among the vandalized graves at Cemetery of the East, one of Caracas' most cherished final resting places.

An avalanche of complaints on Twitter and Instagram in late May prompted the cemetery's administrators to acknowledge the surge in stolen plaques and their plan to replace them with a cheaper, plastic material less attractive to thieves.

Some inscriptions have been removed, but no replacements have appeared, leaving relatives clueless about whether the grave markers of loved ones have been put in safekeeping or taken away by looters.

In recent months, robbers have made off with roughly 6,000 headstone markers from the Cemetery of the East, said Nora Bracho, an opposition lawmaker who heads a congressional committee overseeing public services.

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