While it is not my intention to portray my homeland as one where terror and fear reign supreme, there are a few lessons about safety farmers have learned here that American farmers would be prudent to learn as well. We live in relative tranquility in a small rural town at a decent distance from the capital city. Venezuela is abundant in haciendas. Corn and rice production has increased, against all prognostics.
However, living in the countryside is a risky business.
There are gangs that, from time to time, can spread fear and havoc. Isolated, secluded farms seem to be the these gangs’ favorite targets. While isolated farms make for great survival retreats, one should be aware of the difficulties of asking for help when bad people show up.
How to manage this problem is not easy. Usually, people in the nearby towns are so poor that they will hide these gang members and will lie about those stealing from the farms to protect them from the law. Hiring someone from these towns is like playing Russian roulette. A huge percentage of these robberies (even at gunpoint) are committed by thugs that previously managed to get hired on the farms so that they could secretly collect all the intel they needed on how to best rob the place.
How many laborers, windows, rooms, safes, valuables, vehicles, guard dogs, and guards are all common bits of information these hired hands will find out for their buddies. While I don’t portray my country as a land of outright violence, the existence of huge gangs with names like “The Train of Aragua” is a fact that can’t be ignored. These are almost paramilitary organizations, rivaling in cruelty and as dangerous as the Maras from El Salvador.
They seem to be interested in larger haciendas with vast commercial operations rather than small mom and pop farms. However, predators tend to choose easy prey.
How rural predation works here in Venezuela
In many places, laborers refuse to use bank accounts and electronic payment cards. Most of them can write and read, but they prefer to receive their weekly payment in cash. At $25-30 each week per laborer, a farm with five employees will need $150 cash. This little money is a more than enough reason to ambush the patron when he comes from the nearby town with the money.
Some laborers even sell information to gangsters once the patron has left out to town to look for their salary money. Then these thugs will patiently wait outside the bank offices or even at the very same gate of the compound. These tactics are not exactly exclusive to Venezuela; this is a modus operandi brought by Colombians when there was no electronic transfer.
Extortion of hacienda owners and blackmail under threat of harming relatives and family is another modus operandi. Twenty years ago, they kidnapped one of my father’s customers and held him until the family paid a ransom. They ended by catching the thugs, but it was because of the connections of that family.
The crime problem in the Venezuelan countryside relates to a combination of variables: common crime, opportunity crime, and even juvenile delinquency. Some years ago, another factor increased their presence:
The Colombian guerrilla.
Sure, many common thieves use to identify as “guerrilla” because of the “prestige” and the fear this name brings along. Many people here literally start shaking when hearing this name.
Petty thieves will run with water pumps, generators, wiring, and all sort of things they can get rid of easily and quickly. However, the worst threat is the gangs looking for larger profits, like a juicy ransom. Nevertheless, this is not exclusive to Venezuela.
Nasty things happen in South Africa as well. I would argue that what happens there is even worse, as the motives are even more sinister: to make people evacuate, leaving their lands behind so that others can occupy them. Their problems are different from ours, but the outcomes are the same: violence, instability, and uncertainty in the countryside of what was once a peaceful way of life.
(For information on emergency evacuations, check out our free QUICKSTART Guide.)
Here, it’s not unheard of for common thugs to sell their victims to the guerrillas.
Organizations from other countries have been aware of this particular situation for decades. Nevertheless, I HAVE noticed a decrease in such events in these last few years. Maybe because there is no opposition, and they control the entire territory already. I can’t tell.
A story close to home
Here’s a story for you from my very own neighbors. Their home is next to mine, and they own a hacienda in the countryside as well. We have been acquaintances for years, and I know this story is true. It is not so easy to read calmly, so please be warned.
The hacienda next to their own is property of a couple of farmers over 60 years old, living there full time. One of the laborers came late at night, yelling and alerting the hacienda owners, “Look out, there are some guys, and they’re armed.”
As you must already know, having self-defense means in Venezuela is considered a crime these days. People can’t get firearms of any kind. Should anyone stab a thief in their hacienda with a fork, even if the thug lives, the problems with the law would be plenty. Too many to do it and go “call the cops” afterward.
When the owners went out, the four guys tied them up, him and his wife. After this, they realized the presence of a ten or twelve years old young girl hiding under a bed. The cronies were seemingly under the influence of some substance, as one of them tried to grab the child from under the bed while yelling, “We want blood! We want blood.”
My neighbors have told me that girl is traumatized to this day
When they told me the story, she was still under treatment in another country.
The bad guys wore ragged-up green military uniforms (a felony here, if you don’t belong to the armed forces) and stank as if they hadn’t bathed in weeks. The elders were treated poorly, but fortunately, they were too high (and at the same time scared of the consequences) to do something with the poor girl.
They found some alcohol, got drunk, destroyed the furniture, made a mess, and took everything that was left: some valuables, food, and other supplies. They then loaded everything on the family truck and went away, just to be chased and shot dead in the open country within the next few days by one of the armed corps in charge of rural security. The family was contacted the day after these men were shot once the laborers started arriving in the early morning.
This was horrible, I know. Just writing makes my blood boil with indignation. Nobody should ever have to live through that. On the verge of becoming a homesteader myself, I promised myself that something like that would NEVER happen to us. The difference is, that I do have the means to avoid it and a good head on my shoulders with some manual skills that will allow me to prepare a few surprises. Heat cameras, for instance, covering 360° of the house, and a couple of panic rooms to hide in while all hell break loose outside. (Remember my article about using sound as a deterrent?)
This is where silent “defense tools” come in handy.
And yes, I write this with a smile. Including some sort of body armor when going to inspect or work the fencing, for instance, is another good idea here. Keeping the “silent tools” covered with a tarp next to us or in some duffel bag is common. Constant communication with the radio central in the ranch house is logical. If someone wants to walk the extra mile, and use an inexpensive surveillance drone that could keep flying for 30 minutes, so much the better.
The world can be a dark place sometimes.
We all have experienced that feeling to a degree. It depends on ourselves, though, to take off the dark glasses and allow clarity to enter inside us. The following story brings along a message of hope, and it is one of the best traits I have identified the better half of my country exhibits: a willingness for peace and respect for others.
Unbelievably, one company in Venezuela decided that it was enough. Its owner decided to face the gangs, heavily armed with…a rugby balloon. El milagro del rugby: historia de reconciliación en Venezuela.
The initiative of Ron Santa Teresa (a rum distilling company) to pacify the region was providing employment! Nowadays, the same former gang members give football balloons to the kids instead of guns. It was a peaceful approach with wonderful results: the Project Alcatraz.
To me, this is a glimpse of hope and a message for the coming generations that desperation and violence can transmute into something positive. I never thought this was possible, but the outcomes are there.
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What do you think?
Don’t get stuck in a situational bias. Really think through the possibilities. When things break down economically, everything changes. How will you secure your rural property and keep your loved ones safe? Share your thoughts.
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela.
Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.