10 Survival Rules When Society Collapses: Lessons from Venezuela
10 Survival Rules When Society Collapses: Lessons from Venezuela
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Mike Monahan. As I have written about Venezuela and even discussed it on the podcast before, this information is very valuable as it is a personal account from someone who has intimate knowledge of what it is like for the average person living in a collapsing society and how survival rules might apply to everyday life.
Please note that I emailed with Mike and asked some further questions about his experience. His reply is at the end of this article for your information.
A visit with my brother in Venezuela was an eye-opener for me. For those of you who do not know, the country has been suffering from a slow collapse since 2015 when oil prices dropped. Almost everything is shipped into the country, and other than oil, they have very little exports to bring money in. The currency there is called the Bolivar Soberano. In April of 2015, the exchange rate for a U.S. Dollar was about 6 Bolivars. Before I left from California, I exchanged 1,000 USD at the official exchange rate for about 172,000 to the dollar. I felt like a multimillionaire overnight when the bank teller special ordered me 172 million Bolivars for my trip. Little did I know that 172 million Bolivars wouldn’t even buy 25 loaves of bread at the real exchange rate. As a prepper myself, I have changed my preparations based on what I learned on my visit. This article will share some survival rules to consider when society collapses.
Survival Rules to Know #1 – Basic Items Mean More Than You Think in a Collapse!
I arrived at Simón Bolívar International Airport on November the 11th of this year and planned to stay one week. My brother had sent me a list of things he needed that were small and so I loaded a suitcase of those items for his needs. I loaded the suitcase with personal items, about 30 freeze-dried meat meals, 40 feet of beef jerky, bread mixes, small bottles of vodka, trash bags, two water purifiers, rechargeable battery packs, socks, jeans, shirts, and condoms. I couldn’t satisfy everything on his list, but what I did get came to about 50 pounds. I knew these 50 pounds of food would help my brother greatly.
See Related: How Preppers Can Thrive in a Barter Economy
Survival Rules to Know #2 – Don’t Be Fooled When Things “Look” Normal!
When I arrived, I found the airport looked nice and like a modern-day airport. That changed when I went through customs and the Venezuelan version of the TSA started dumping traveler’s luggage. Each customs agent had their own seizure boxes and a giant trash can. They immediately took my luggage and I waited to be called back. When I returned, my luggage was dumped in a pile. I immediately noticed all the food items, the Vodka bottles, and the battery packs were all now seized. My fifty-pound suitcase for my brother was now around twenty pounds. When I complained, they yelled that only things not permitted in the country were seized. They also implied, in a nice way, to get out or I would wish I had. I noticed a plastic box with some of my things in them being guarded by a customs agent. I had no choice but to cut my losses, quickly throw everything back in my suitcases and continue through the exit door.
Survival Rules to Know #3 – Blend-In to Look Like a Local!
I walked outside and met my brother. He lives three miles from the airport. He walked all the way to the airport to meet me because he didn’t have any money. I got the two of us a cab, which cost three hundred thousand Bolivar per mile. Before we got into the cab, my brother had me leave the suitcases and put all of my belongings in two garbage bags. This scene at the airport was duplicated many times and there were stacks of discarded luggage bags next to the garbage cans. Some chose just to put their luggage in the trash bags. My brother explained that if you were seen with a suitcase, it might be eyed as having something valuable and make you a target.
Survival Rules to Know #4 – Always Stay Aware of Your Surroundings!
The cab ride to my brother’s house was scary. He eyed every motorcycle going by. Many had passengers that stared into the cab to see what we had. We arrived at his house unmolested, however. With fees and time, the three-mile cab ride cost me almost 1.2 million Bolivar’s, but the cab accepted USD $20 instead. I was taken back a little not realizing it then. I later found most people would give me the value of about a 750,000 Bolivars for $5 in American Greenbacks. But that 750,000 would buy about $1 USD worth of whatever you were buying. It was a strange but commonly accepted exchange rate. I wished I had just brought U.S. cash instead of Bolivars.
Survival Rules to Know #5 – Your Surroundings Say A Lot – Pay Attention!
When we got to my brother’s house, it looked very scary. He lives in a small two bedroom house on a small lot on the corner of two major streets with his wife who was six months pregnant. All the windows in the house were covered in black plastic. I noticed all the lawns were dead. Weeds grew up through all the cracks in the streets and sidewalks. Trash was piled up on the street and almost every trash can and trash bag had been tipped over or torn open by people looking for any treasures they might hold. Street after street looked the same way.
On virtually every corner there was a ragged chair or couch and shady occupants sat in them or stood around the person sitting in them. My brother asked me for $40 dollars USD as soon as we got to the house. He then went over to one of the guys on the street corner and handed him the money. He later explained he paid them to protect his house. Even though it was only sporadic payments, nothing bad had happened to his house since he volunteered to pay them the money. He felt safe because of it.
Survival Rules to Know #6 – People Are Always Watching Your Moves – Watch Them Watch You!
Two hours after we arrived, a woman on the street corner whom my brother had seen many times before, was gunned down in broad daylight. He identified her as a prostitute and druggy that stayed on the corner in front of his house day in and day out. A motorcycle with two men with helmets on pulled up behind her at two in the afternoon. Both men on the motorcycle unloaded their handguns into the back of her head. The man on the back of the motorcycle then jumped off, pulled her body to the side, yanked down the front of her shirt and bra exposing her hiding place for her money and her phone. Grabbing both the money and the phone, he hopped back on to the motorcycle and fired twice more into her body for good measure. They then sped away. My brother and I deduced the attackers had been watching her and saw where she hid her money. They went right for her bra and didn’t even check her pockets.
Survival Rules to Know #7 – Make Do With What You Have!
For food, the government stores have unsweetened corn cereal, cornmeal, and rice for food. On the black market, you can get just about anything for the right price. A loaf of bread that is barely moldy costs 2.5 million Bolivars. A pound of chicken is 5 million more.
The trash bags here are also in low supply. People dump other people’s trash on the ground, so they can reuse the bags. There are no shampoos, no new clothes, no razors, no toothpaste, no baking soda, no lice sprays, no personal items, no condoms, no tampons, no maxi pads available in any store. Lice and crab infestations are everywhere. In the public toilets, you can see dead ones and some still alive on the toilet seat from the previous person using it.
The trash bags I brought were used to store clothes that you got from pretty much anywhere. You store them in the trash bags for months to allow time for the lice, crabs and the eggs to hatch and die. It’s a must. There were whole families I saw shaved from head to toe, and not because they are getting cancer treatment. It’s because it’s the only way to get rid of the lice and crabs. Hygiene here means having no hair. The good news is that there are no fleas, which used to be the problem before the collapse. The reason is there are no dogs, cats, or small animals left. They’ve all been eaten.
Survival Rules to Know #7 – Realize That There Will Always Be Evil and People Willing to Hurt Others!
Two days before I left to come back to the states, some of the gang members on the corner in front of my brother’s house saw a cat in the window of a single elderly lady across the street. From my brother’s broken window, we could hear the gang members discussing how she must have food and lots of other valuable stuff. Later that evening, we heard them discuss how they were going to break into the lady’s house later that night.
At about midnight, my brother and his wife woke me up because there was a gang of about fifty people outside their house. As we lifted the shades to see outside in the dark, the moon was bright enough to watch those fifty or more people descend on the elderly woman’s house. In less than five minutes, every window had been broken, every door had been kicked in and the house entirely ransacked. We watched a person in front of the house cut the still living cat in half and share it with another hooded person who ran off with it.
Survival Rules to Know #8 – Understand That You Will See Things You Don’t Want to See!
Five minutes after the break-in, another twenty people from the neighborhood entered the house. The woman screaming is all you could hear. About ten minutes after it all started, everyone in the house exited in a hurry and ran away as flames could be seen in the windows. The nude elderly woman who owned the house stumbled out of the front door and fell to the ground just two feet away from the house. My brother’s wife, my brother and I ran out to try and help the elderly woman. But when we got there, we could see it was hopeless. She was bleeding from every orifice. Blood was running down her pubic area, chest, legs, nose, mouth, and even out of her ears. She struggled to breathe for about two minutes before the breathing stopped. My brother’s wife held her hand until it was clear she was gone and then my brother pulled her away as she cried.
Survival Rules to Know #9 – You Can Only Count On Yourself and Those Close to You!
The house burned to the ground within an hour. Not a single fire truck came. An armored police truck with a 20MM machine gun on the top showed up for less than five minutes about nine that morning. They spent less than five minutes looking at the smoldering ruins, threw the body in the back of the truck and left.
Survival Rules to Know #10 – Adjust Your Preparedness to Meet Your Needs!
In the end, I decided to take my passport, $100 USD cash, my wallet, and my phone and left my brother everything I had traveled with. He and his pregnant wife would need it. If they couldn’t use it, they could sell it. Everything in my bags was probably worth $500 USD, but probably worth millions and millions of Bolivars to them. Funny thing is, I was robbed of my wallet and the remaining money by an accomplice of the cab driver who got me to the airport. So, I came home hungry but alive.
This trip, however, taught me that I never want to go back to my homeland again. It’s just too dangerous. It also made me evaluate my preparations as a prepper and I realized that most of the food buckets I acquired lack meat and protein. I’ve now started to add just meat and protein to my preps. Also, I have now made sure that I have four years of everything I need on a personal basis for my wife, myself and kids. Everything from tampons, cold medicine, razors, toothpaste, trash bags and I have even purchased two cases of lice spray.
Hope this story helps you.
Further Questions for Mike…
What was a typical day like there since you were there a week?
I was terrified the whole time and probably only slept for 3 hours each night in total. I heard gunshots day and night and I saw 4 murders just in the week I was there. The story only has significant highlights from my trip.
What does you sister-in-law plan on doing when it is time to give birth?
My sister Juanita plans on giving birth in her bathtub with a midwife friend. There are no functioning hospitals.
What kind of security measures is your brother utilizing on a regular basis to not get robbed, be the grey man, etc…
My brother’s way of staying alive is pretending to carry trash all the time when he is out and when he is at home relying on paying the street lords money. For the most part, he relies on his payments and the use of his water hose when he has water to the thugs who run his street corner. Every corner has its own thugs and they kill each other all the time for crossing boundary lines. Several of the street thugs know him and his wife from grade school which helps with his safety.
See Related: This is Why We Prep! This is Why We Stay Aware!