Vandals have desecrated the tomb of Venezuela's most-beloved novelist turned president in the latest and most-shocking case of grave robbery in the increasingly lawless nation.

The destruction of ex-President Romulo Gallegos' grave in a Caracas cemetery was reported Wednesday by his granddaughter. She said that with the tomb's destruction a piece of Venezuela's history had been stolen. It's unclear if the ex-president's remains had been taken.

Gallegos was author of Venezuela's best-known novel, the classic "Dona Barbara." He won the first fully democratic presidential elections in 1947 but was overthrown nine months later in a coup.

Robbing crypts for marble and to supply bones to practitioners of Voodoo religions has long plagued Venezuela. But some say such crimes are becoming more frequent as the country spins further out of control.