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Víctimas de la violencia

Fotografías de Marcelo Pérez del Carpio

THE DREADFUL SITUATION OF THE UNIDENTIFIED CORPSES IN BOLIVIA

Bolivia is going through a serious and controversial crisis in the management and oversight of unidentified corpses “NN” coming from crimes, accidents and other violent events.

Tens of corpses piled up inside the crime morgue in La Paz, Bolivia. With violent crime on the rise, the management of unidentified corpses (“NN”) has reached crisis point.

The institution in charge of the forensic analysis and identification of mortal remains, (IDIF) has reached his crisis point, because they have nor the minimum basic resources neither own infrastructure to work, that is why it shares facilities with public hospitals morgues and grounds. In recent years the situation has become unsustainable due to the increased number of violent deaths in the capital, La Paz.

Scattered NN corpses on August 9th, 2011. The registration is usually written directly on the body and during the process of decomposition this information can easily disappear.
An unclaimed body of a foreigner lying unattended on the morgue’s floor for more than three weeks. Forensic workers says that this autopsy was carried during the first week.

With violent crime on the rise, the IDIF uses a small-improvised room, located next to the General Hospital ́s medical waste storage room. This precarious and appalling infrastructure does not have any air ventilation system or cold chambers. Although the weather in La Paz is usually cold, the sanitary conditions and the smell at the morgue forces its workers to operate in the waste storage room. Forensic investigators carry out an average of 30 autopsies per week and at least 70% come from El Alto (the most dangerous city in Bolivia), because it does not have a crime morgue either. The space provided can lodge until 50 corpses but generally overload its capacity up to 100 and more.

Skull in decomposition on the morgue´s floor.

The bodies can lie unattended on the floor for months and if they go unclaimed, they are exhumed and buried in mass graves, making impossible any future identification. Human dignity no longer exists.

Dr. Gutierrez tries to explain to a mother who claims for her son, why she had to wait. After a few minuts it became known that a beer bottle cut his throat during a gang fight in Villa San Antonio, an slum of La Paz.
Relatives who have been looking for missing loved ones are waiting outside the morgue to recognize bodies.
A woman in the morgue´s floor. She was stabbed (in the back) to death on August 1, 2011 in El Alto.
An assistant tries to make room for some corpses while Special Agents from FELCC get into the morgue carrying an unidentified victim of violence.

Although there are agreements for the construction of a new morgue it is far from becoming a reality because the entities in charge refuse to assume responsibility to execute it and therefore, the project did not materialize until now. Meanwhile, the situation is still getting worse in a place where health conditions and the respect not seems to be a priority.

A body is squashed momentarily by a metallic stretcher while the space is ordered by forensic staff. Respect for human dignity no longer exist.
Front top view of unidentified corpses on August 4, 2011
an assistant wrapped a body with a blanket to take it to a police vehicle.

In 2012, a formal complaint argued the crime morgue was an environmental threat for the entire hospital population.

View of the next medical waste storage room where forensic staff usually works.

More than a hundred bodies were incinerated and the place was about to be closed in the light of an international demand... now its situation is uncertain.

An agent starts to prepare a body for a funeral wake while another lights a cigar near from the crime morgue. The man was found dead in his place 15 days after he passed away. The body had to be moved by police to the crime morgue for forensic investigations.