By Carlos Suniaga. Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.
The vultures still fly over the house of Alberto Juvenal Morillo, a 68-year-old retiree from the state-owned steel maker Sidor, who died last Tuesday.
The body of Morillo remained in his house for three days after he died from a stroke, according to the testimonies of the relatives told El Pitazo this Saturday, September 19.
The retired man lived in the sector Francisca Duarte, an area on the road to the rural villages of San Felix, Bolivar state. In that neighborhood, everyone talks about the case of Morillo, but they are not surprised. It is not the first time that a lifeless body spends several days inside a house before being buried, they say.
Rosa Agustina Lima, 75, now the widow of Morillo, said the first two days they left the body inside the humble house, but the third day, the smell became very strong, and they could no longer keep it in their home.
They took it out to the backyard and laid it on a chair. That was all we could do, said Rosas. The other thing was covering it with tree branches to prevent the vultures from attacking it. She added that they telephoned Sidor management insistently so that they help with the funeral arrangements, but they never responded. And the family lacked resources to organize a burial.
Insurance not covered him
Sidor was once one of the largest steel-makers in the continent, but now the company is almost inactive, as the country can not afford to give the plant enough electricity.
Workers and former workers, like Alberto Juvenal Morillo, not only do not get a proper burial, but Morillo was repeatedly denied medical care before he died, with clinics arguing that Sidor had a debt with them.
“More than once, we took him to the hospital in a wheelbarrow, and we went from clinic to clinic because he was not accepted anywhere; the insurance of Sidor got suspended,” commented Pedro Flores, stepson of the deceased.
Eventually, the decomposition got them some help in dealing with the tragic situation. The communal council (a pro-Maduro regime organization) of the zone suggested that they went to Mundo de Sonrisas, a charity founded by Francisco Rangel Gomez, the former governor of Bolivar state, now living in Mexico.
Rangel Gomez was sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department in 2018. The US linked him to corruption activities like pressuring courts to release gang members during his time as governor. Also, Rangel Gomez has linked networks of allegedly corrupt military officials, according to the US Treasury.
An official from that foundation sent a team to remove the body from the house on Friday, September 18, and since then, the family has not heard from Morillo. They are not sure if and where he got buried.
“The people from Mundo de Sonrisas told us to follow them, but with what car? If we do not even have enough to eat,” said the wife of the deceased.