Lost Corpses and Broken Down Hearses, Covid Causes Funeral Chaos in in Cuba

With the collapse of the healthcare and funeral services, there have been dozens of complaints of corpses that spend hours and even days in a home or a state institution. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 25 August 2021 — In Güira de Melena, municipality of Artemisa, a family lived an odyssey this Wednesday to recover the body of Armando, a relative who lost his life due to covid-19. On two occasions, those in charge of the funeral services at the Manuel Fajardo hospital in Havana delivered the wrong coffin.

It’s a story that feels like it was inspired by the popular film Guantanamera (1995), by the directors Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío, but sadly it is real. How complicated it can be to achieve simple things, in Cuba; with the pandemic, it has become very common.

“We went through a lot of work to get a car to come from Güira to look for the body, but we finally succeeded,” says a source familiar to 14ymedio. “When the hearse returned to Güira, the son of the deceased, at the request of the sister who lives in the United States, asked to see his father for the last time. The driver did not want to open the box and said: ‘This is covid, it is forbidden to open the box.’ And he showed him the papers so that he could see that it was his father he was transporting.”

When Armando’s son reviewed the documents, he realized that there must be a woman in the coffin. The young man flew into a rage, demanded that the man open the box and that was when he realized that it was not the father, and it wasn’t even the woman described in the papers.

The family, desperate, returns to Fajardo in search of Armando to try to say goodbye and bury him once and for all. “At the hospital they tell us they made a mistake and they give us another box with the deceased’s papers. There we discovered that the one they had given us before was from Caimito (Artemisa), and they didn’t even know where the corpse was,” explains the source.

Armando’s son, distrustful of what he experienced with the first coffin, asks again to open the box to confirm that this time he is taking his father. “When they opened it was a Chinese man, a resident of Havana’s Chinatown.”

Finally, after a “scandal” with the family in the hospital, Armando’s body appeared and he was able to be buried after 5 o’clock in the afternoon in Güira de Melena, his hometown. “Who knows how many corpses are buried in the wrong way. If we had not insisted on opening the box, we would never have found out,” complains the relative.

With the collapse of the healthcare and funeral services, dozens of complaints have arisen of corpses that spend hours and even days at home or in a state institution.

In a room at the Puntarena de Varadero hotel in Matanzas, which functions as a medical center for positive cases of COVID-19, the body of a traveler spent more than two days without the authorities picking it up. In a video published on social networks at the beginning of July, an oxygen tank was seen at the entrance of the room and then the silhouette of the lower extremities of the corpse lying on a bed covered with a white sheet.

In Ciego de Ávila, Lisveilys Echenique’s brother died at home after spending 11 days with covid and without receiving medical attention. The body had been in the living room of the house for more than seven hours and an ambulance did not arrive to pick it up. “The situation in Cuba is precarious. The government does not want to ask for help and there are no doctors,” Echenique denounced.

After much insistence, a family from the municipality of Placetas, in Villa Clara, could not fulfill the wish of Omar, a covid-19 patient who asked to be cremated if he died. “The hears] did not have tires in good condition and it was not possible to move [the body] to Matanzas, which was where the possibility of doing it [cremation] was found because in Santa Clara you have to wait four or five days to do it,” the wife of the deceased identified as Nancita Ñanguita narrates in a Facebook post.

The woman also denounces that after her husband died on August 15 “for lack of an intensive care room and better resources,” she spent four hours in a hospital corridor. After that time, the family spent hours finding a coffin.

“Please reflect, gentlemen leaders, so that you can avoid the terrible pain that one feels when losing a relative in their hands without being able to do anything, neither the family nor the doctors,” Nancita requests.


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