Editor’s Note: Just to be clear, this article is hypothetical. Jose wanted to share how he thinks they would handle a virus outbreak should it occur in Venezuela. At the time of this writing, there are no known cases of Coronavirus in Venezuela.
That being said, Jose’s story and timeline do have a lot of facts and scenarios that are based on actual things that Jose saw during the collapse.
This article is a bit different than what we typically do at Backdoor Survival but I think you will like it and it will help you think. It reads like a short story.
Thanks for reading,
For those who already have an overview of the situation in my beloved country, I am going to write about how we would deal with a highly contagious virus, made even more challenging under the current state of collapse.
I will give a few imaginative and fictional twists, just to provide the needed scenario to recreate an even harder context. This will allow you to develop your own plans according to your environment, and your needs. I have enough information all ready to write something that may be crude but absolutely based on what I experienced being there.
Dealing with an outbreak like this, in a normal, developed, or semi-developed country is one thing. In a failed state, you’re very likely on your own. And this is exactly the kind of scenario I’m sure going to find, should I once come back.
I will establish some sort of a timeline here, just to make it informative and entertaining at the same time. As usual, this will be based on the aspects already witnessed by me, while I was living there.
This will be a hypothetical situation but in an already pre-existent scenario. Not exactly an “imagination exercise” nor a “creative adventure”. It’s based on the human behavior I’ve experienced, our own cultural traits, and the seriousness I’ve observed of this disease. We, as a small country, have a relative advantage: the mobility of people already has been highly reduced because of the collapse, and this stopped the spreading of the disease to the interior of the country.
The previous stage
A few days after the virus was detected in China, official news about this situation started to be quite brief, and just mirroring those notes provided by the Chinese government. Despite seeing the Chinese president asking their people national unity, Venezuelans don’t care generally speaking. Just a few ones concerned (including us) start to smell something funny. Many of us had access to some way of gathering reliable information. This was a need, especially after all the turmoil in the big cities.
We know these types of governments have specialized in cover-ups and fake news as a form of social control. They know how weak they are, and the slightest form of civilian unrest would sweep them out for good. That said, special measures started to be taken.
They locked out most of the cities in China. To those already knowing the indications of something bad happening, it was enough to start monitoring twice a day for one hour or more, the evolution of the outbreak. Once several hospitals started to be built on the rush, we accepted this was going to be serious.
The WHO information was never considered an important parameter in the equation.
Our homes have been stripped out of plenty of goodies and stuff that we thought once was necessary: furniture, appliances, tools we never used, even some plumbing spare parts like blockage valves we never used, PVC fittings and such. We just kept a few basic spares for our WCs. Old spare parts of cars we don’t have any longer, or motorcycles, and alike, including used, worn clothes and shoes (during and after the collapse, everything becomes a commodity).
Our apartment was never luxurious, but comfortable enough, and fresh enough to sleep without air conditioning or even a fan: just a mosquito screen is enough, being on the 6th floor. Even short lengths of 110V rated wire were sold.
A good coffee machine, and instead of one large refrigerator, two smaller ones have done a great job, with a chest freezer would be taken with us, in one of the trucks, the group already had agreed previously. Just the basic furniture is all we have to leave behind: empty box springs, sofas and living room chairs, tables, and bare closets.
Some toddler toys, remaining from our kiddo, have been swiftly auctioned online, and supplies were bought on the move, mostly tuna cans, pasta, cornmeal flour, and sardines (rice is abundant, and some farmers in our state have been able to produce and process it). These will make a great meal, properly seasoned and mixed with fresh tomatoes, some garlic, basil, and pasta. Or can be cooked with spices, and spread on an arepa as a breakfast, or over casabe (a large “cookie” made with tapioca flour, not highly nutritional but quite common, cheap and easy to find, widely used as a side in most of our meals) for a snack on the road.
On our shelves, there are a few ornaments, family pictures as everyone has (with a digital back up), and many books. Most of these about living in a cottage, gardening, butchering, everything adequate to our climate and living conditions. It was quite interesting to learn that plenty of our meals can be prepared with fresh ingredients, all of them suitable to be raised in our modest cottage.
The supplies bought with the last remains of the useless stuff, were added to our meager BOB rations. This would be a great idea as it showed evident in a few more days. Keeping an eye on a few renowned sites with updated information, and using some communication software that could be accessed safely (most of the communications get monitored these days) via VPNs. A good advantage we have is to know how powerful those behind the censorship and worldwide communications are.
We know they can shut down the entire world, leaving us in the dark asking ourselves what happened. If you don’t believe this, just try to look for some leaked videos of medical personnel there in China. Just look at how many satellites are there, and their capabilities.
Therefore, no reason to trust any word they can say. As I write this, it was evident we were right. There were cases in Caracas, brought by Chinese “consultants” in security, who could access freely to our country. That team was already infected and had spread the disease to an unknown number of people.
Prostitutes, waitresses, they had contact with many people. Of course, the good news we heard after the worst had happened, were that some of the official socialist party members went to meet their Creator…and explain personally the reasons for their crimes.
But that’s another story.
In these underground networks of communication, we had the rule to just incorporating people we know personally, to make sure all of the information transmitted was confirmed and reliable. This would prove, afterward, to have been the most efficient organization, for a variety of reasons.
Without even knowing it, the members of these groups became preppers. Just looking for their safety and their families’ welfare. Not even one member of the group belonged or was related in some way to the ruling…” team”, so to speak.
This would result in crucial in the coming events. We were lucky: our meat/poultry provider let us know one of his better customers couldn’t afford a delivery and had some excess meat to sell. We bargain a little bit, and in exchange for some of our excess rice, a few homemade pasta sauce jars, some national currency, and a few electronic payment USDs, a widely used means to pay inside our frontiers, the deal was done.
Thanks to the knowledge of the members of the group, exposure was kept to a minimum. Children were not sent to school, but instead, a study plan was published in the group for the kids of every grade to work in from home. Every child would use the internet for research only, at the moments when the connection was available.
Using a motorcycle without any signs or identification to deliver supplies was a much more efficient means than a van or a larger vehicle, much more prone to be detained by starving troopers toting AKs.
We were in a calmed state but were alert. As we found new evidence day to day about this outbreak, we were more convinced this had all of the traits to be a real threat. We already had a plan to bug out and started to review it. Some alternate routes were discarded. They were considered too risky, as we had some reports of road pirates. Without any means to defend ourselves, other than handguns without any other kind of weapon (and with starving, uniformed guys with empty pockets plaguing the roads looking for “suspicious activity”, this is not a good idea neither: it´s a failed state, remember?).
One of our contacts nearby to a military hospital had noticed unusual activity with ambulances in the dark of the night. At first, a few official vehicles were seen.
Afterward, ambulances were not enough, and military trucks started to be seen. At first, emergency stretchers were used. Finally, the patients were carried on, with thick dishwashing type gloves, by a few military or civilian personnel, my shoulders and under the knees, as every stretcher available was occupied. With dirty fabric masks, or some of them with their faces covered with one of the millions of the free red T-shirts used by uncle Hugo in the previous “revolution” years.
The member reporting this informed that in the nearby buildings to that hospital a few blocks away, in the lower floors there had been some deadly cases already, and they were setting everything to head for the countryside. They were gathering gasoline (diesel had no problems to be found), a little every day every family member, because of the over 700 km long ride. Their bugging out would involve just a couple of cars, loaded to their maximum capacity.
At the same time, similar reports from other people all around the main cities were shared in the chat room. Many members had some friends or relatives belonging to medical staff, and they were secretly stocking up supplies, just waiting for the last signal before evacuating silently.
Their reports had something in common: every medical facility had been secretly put under military control and every doctor signing death reports was ordered to use the words “unknown cause”, “pneumonia”, “acute respiratory syndrome” or some other euphemism, at gunpoint. A few senior doctors who refused disappeared without any trace.
After that, other ones, maybe younger but clever enough to see what was about to come, just vanished. Family and all. The medical staff of the hospitals, public or private, reduced to a 40% of its already migration-hit leftover was “escorted” by armed military up to their door, “for their protection”. Soon enough this would extend to nurses and all kinds of medical staff members or employees of a medical facility.
In the news, the constant was someone dressed in olive drab continuously calling the citizens to “keep calm”, and “trust their national government” in this journey. “Every possible effort is being done by our revolutionary leaders” (who hadn´t broadcasted a single second since the outbreak started). This transmission started to be seen more and more suspiciously until all traces of shame was lost by the state-owned channel, and they just transmitted the same pre-recorded messages of some uniforms, as well as calming images of sunsets, lakes, cascades, and rivers, added to old videos belonging to the once happy uncle Hugo´s era.
Other reports that were quite alarming were those ones where military and police posts were attacked by a dozen or more of armed gangs, killing everyone with a uniform and taking with them all of the guns. This repeated itself several times, country-wide. A sudden hardening of the uniform’s speech just made things much worst.
Every vehicle with uniforms inside would be shot on sight, and this started to be on social media with a few hours of an interval between attacks. Once this started to happen, the members of the group understood it: it was time to leave and head for the relative safety of the countryside. And a tacit consensus was achieved.
Hitting the road
The violence and the evidence of lies of the official authorities were such, that once the decision to leave was made, a deadline was set up. In a lapse of 24-36 hours, everyone should be already on the road. This would be the wisest choice, as time would prove. The safest way to travel would be in a long row. Those members with mechanical skills would take care for free, that every car was in shape for a 1000 km long ride. This was critical, as they were not allowing leaving anyone behind. Every car should have a strap winch, and a wood pole to safely tow other vehicles. Those with diesel trucks proved to have a huge advantage over SUVs and family cars.
Loaded with supplies and everything they could need for a long stay in the countryside, they made the needed arrangements. If someone needed gas, some other commodity would be exchanged. It was time to show solidarity and not greed. The integrity of the group was paramount. Blackouts started, being the first one over 8 hours. The maintenance staff trying to keep alive the power grid was equipped with viral masks, and “escorted” for their “protection” by armed uniforms, masked and with a red bracelet in their left shoulder, surely “volunteers” of some kind, mostly a national jail.
With no people roaming the streets, this seemed to be an exaggeration. It was not. In an interesting move, one of the members owning a gas station (who had previously shown collaboration to the uniforms, but was already tired and needed to leave) made a quite interesting device to be installed inside the underground tanks of his station. When someone arrived to measure the level of the gas and diesel tanks (all of them previously emptied just to ¾ full), they would only measure a few centimeters in the bottom.
The main fuel spigots were generously sealed with two components cold welding, as well as the measuring portholes. The hoses were removed, properly packaged and buried in an empty spot in the owner´s house backyard, covering them with trash bags and other debris, as well as the circuit breakers that made the pumps work. All of the spare parts were taken out of the shop, leaving behind a few items that never could be sold, as decoys just in case someone peep in through the windows.
Once everyone in the group was ready, a coded message was put in place, and everyone agreed. Silently, the truck owners started their routing, gathering the freezers, gensets, and the fridges of the group members. These would be important survival items in the next couple of years. One of the members had an AC repair shop.
He emptied all of the supplies and tools, loading half of a truck. Other members running a business did the same: tire shops, car parts, mini-markets. Another member who was a teacher carried on with books and a payload of pencils and plain paper.
…to be continued…