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If you had to disappear, where would you go?

March 5, 2012
Caracas, Venezuela

Here’s a fun question to ask yourself: if you had to disappear and live out the rest of your days below the radar, where would you go?

Think about it seriously for a moment… it’s an interesting thought experiment. Assuming you had a dream team of angry creditors, bounty hunters, private investigators, and/or government agents chasing after you, where would you go?

There are several countries where disappearing is a relatively easy thing to do. We’ve talked about a few of them in the past– places like Morocco, Brazil, Lebanon, and the Philippines.

Venezuela is also one to consider.

Now, a country that’s known as the murder capital of the world and is run by a notoriously corrupt, populist dictator has a bit of a PR challenge. And frankly, this is a big advantage when trying to move off the reservation.

Like neighboring Colombia, there’s a terrible stigma about Venezuela. And also like neighboring Colombia, the stigma is way overblown.

Most foreigners (and especially North Americans) think that they’ll be kidnapped the second they set foot on Colombian soil. Or rounded up and shot upon arrival to Venezuela. This is obviously not true, but it’s enough to keep most people away.

Moreover, the population of Venezuela is nearly 30 million, with several million living here in Caracas. And like Brazil to the south, Venezuelans have a rich ethnic mix– African, European, indigenous, etc. Almost any westerner can pass as Venezuelan, so white or black, you don’t necessarily stick out.

Further, Hugo Chavez’s brand of National Socialism has created a largely cash society in Venezuela. There are few financial records from which anyone could be tracked, unlike in developed countries up north where constantly using your MasterCard pinpoints your exact location to any government agency paying attention.

Then there’s the bit about the extradition treaty. If you saw the Coen brothers 2008 film Burn After Reading [spoiler alert], you may remember George Clooney’s character hopping a flight to Venezuela at the end of the movie because the country has no extradition treaty with the United States.

This is actually incorrect. There is a US-Venezuela extradition treaty dating back to 1922. However it’s riddled with ambiguities and contains an extremely limited list of extraditable offenses (e.g. bigamy… seriously?) Even when the treaty does apply, Hugo Chavez rarely cooperates.

Under the terms of a 1988 UN Drug Convention agreement, narcotics trafficking and money laundering are considered to be extraditable offenses. However, once again, Hugo Chavez rarely cooperates, and it’s for this reason that a number of financial shadeballs are hiding out in Caracas… some even hoping to obtain citizenship.

Among the 350 articles from Venezuela’s most recent 1999 constitution– the one that changed the country’s name to ‘The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’– is one that expressly forbids the extradition of Venezuelan nationals.

(In case you’re wondering, it takes five years of residency to officially become a Venezuelan citizen, or about $20,000 and a few weeks to unofficially become one. I don’t recommend the latter.)

Anyhow, while Venezuela is not anywhere near the top of my list of places to spend meaningful amounts of time, there are definitely worse places to be.

In Caracas, the weather is fantastic. It’s never too hot, and it never gets cold. Venezuela itself is gorgeous with pristine mountains and beaches. And despite their reputation for being murderous thugs, Venezuelans are actually friendly people.

(As a matter of fact, Venezuelans tend to be close-talkers. It’s a cultural norm to invade personal space in conversation.)

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that single people will be absolutely delighted down here, especially men. There seems to be a beauty pageant every other weekend with no shortage of gorgeous women vying for the title.

So if you’re expecting that proverbial knock-knock at the door from Big Brother… think about heading down to Caracas while you consider your options.

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About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://ryangoesabroad.com/ Ryan

    I admit I have been curious about Venezuela for a long time, especially after seeing how the non-traveler’s general perception of Colombia is way off… But Caracas?? Are you serious??

    Nevertheless, if anyone knows areas of Caracas that are safer than others, please post them here.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OAQ25QG5MNMGUNXFO3JQW4TKBE jake garciaparra

    I spent a year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Venezuela. I lived in Cumana to the east, just south of the Isla de Margarita (Venezuela-owned) and Aruba. 

    Now, I am a dirty blonde, blue-eyed white boy from PA, and I certainly stood out. There are light-skinned folk in Venezuela, but nothing like, say, Mexico. 

    As far as Caracas not being dangerous, well, I didn’t live there. But my host brother did. And I distinctly remember one of my visits to him. After dark, he went to go to an ATM. Just before he got out of his truck, he grabbed a 4-inch blade and hid it in his hand. He told me that this wasn’t the safest city, and getting money at night was a particularly bad idea. But we needed cash for the bar ;). And this was in 2002. The economic situation there is much worse, not just b/c of the financial crisis but also b/c of Chavez’s populist economics.

    However, Simon is right on the money about the women. They are absolutely stunning and love to show off in pageants. In my school year, there was a pageant to determine the following “queens”: a. Sports b. Overall school c. Spring break (semana santa) d. homecoming e. end of year

    Simon is also correct about Venezuela’s geographical beauty and the weather. Caracas has a wonderful breeze that cools you off, not that you need it. The humidity is very tolerable (unlike Cumana…omfg!) Other cool Venezuelan cities to check out are Valencia, Maracay, Maracaibo, and, of course, la Gran Sabana (with Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world. If you’ve seen the animated film UP!, then you’ve “seen” this already! 

  • Clarity2012

    This one may come back to bite you Simon, Chavez could croak any day from his cancer, and if there is civil war in Venezuela, Caracas is going to be the epicenter. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7L7TC42A7F5GCGGQXPATUCNUGA Mark

    I was in Bogota, Colombia in 2010.  I walked from my rented apartment to a mall about two miles away without any problems.  It was during the day.  Even at night I felt safe using a well lit ATM in a commercial district.
    I believe in many Latin American countries, if you marry a local and have a child, they will generally not deport you to your home country, unless you are wanted for murder.   And there is no storage of nice Latinas looking for a western man.
    There is another possible reason for leaving the USA.  If the American political establishment gets America into a long protracted war with Iran, the American government may bring back the draft.  If you don’t want your sons, nephews, friends being sent to the Middle East to die from Big Oil, AIPAC and a Saudis, you may want to have another country where they can sit out the war and live.

    • Fernao

      Mark:  I have had that conversation with my kids… Everyone in my family has that second passport except for me, and I am working on that for me too.

      • Nick

        How can i get a cheap second passport ? Even if it is an unknown place on map.

      • nomadcapitalist


    • Bonanzajoe40


  • Gato da Rua

    Simon, serious question
    Can you become a resident by marrying a Venezuelan?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OAQ25QG5MNMGUNXFO3JQW4TKBE jake garciaparra

      Yes you can…I remember meeting a Rotarian there who met his wife in America, but followed her to Venezuela and became a citizen after marrying.

  • amerikanka

    My friends from Venezuela make it sound like the culture is much more about sex than violence. I’ve been looking into places to disappear for years. There seem to be a number of former Soviet countries with lots of opportunity and opportunity to hide – who even knows where Bishkek is on a map? But that weather – yikes! My plan has been to disappear to an island in the Adriatic Sea, but if Croatia doesn’t adapt well to being a late addition to the EU, and if the EU regulations get anymore stifling, Venezuela and Colombia and Nicaragua have long been on my alternatives list. As for Ecuador and Chile – maybe too much PR has made me a skeptic….

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OAQ25QG5MNMGUNXFO3JQW4TKBE jake garciaparra

      I’m with you on that. Simon’s email disclaimer says he may receive compensation for the things he recommends. Maybe someone in Chile is paying him? I guess we’ll never know. 

      Point of interest, however: when the dollar collapses, it’s not just the USA that’s fucked…it’s the entire world. So, at that point, unless you’re like Simon with a farm in a decently stable country not too reliant upon America, and/or very rich with stable land outside the city, you’re probably fucked no matter what country you’re in. 

      • amerikanka

        It’s not just Simon recommending Chile, and if he’s compensated, I don’t mind at all. What I don’t want is some place that’s mainly hyped for US expats, like Merida, Mexico or Fortaleza, Brazil. The search for the right place to escape to continues…. I already own property in Croatia, but am enjoying it/sitting on it until I see how the country fares with EU accession. That might determine if I build another small beach shack on it, or just plant more olive and pomegranate trees

  • Mccs

    Caracas is great. I was also an exchange student to Caracas ten years ago and am back living here. You can’t go to most parts of the city, but the green zone is big here, and it’s fine if u stay in the eastern bubble…,

  • BeenThere


    I understand the disapearing angle but, as a place to build a life I must recomend against it.

    I personally know someone who’s uncle was executed by Chavez, and another who’s families fortune was seized.

    Also, when I worked there (Caracas) I was escorted most of the time and warned by locals not to venture out alone.

    Again, IF you are on the run, I guess this would work.

    • nomadcapitalist

      Hence the internationalization. No one said to bank in Venezuela.

  • latin american adventurer

    Helloo,  I lived in venezuela for a year and a half, (i was actually there when chavez was elected). 

    I would not recommend venezuela as a place to run off to.  Though it perhaps does not officially extradite people, if you pay the right general, you will find yourself on a plane in handcuffs, delivered offshore.

    Venezuela is an incredibly corrupt country, and Caracas is a very dangerous city.    I would not recommend it at all based on personal experience, and the opinions of my Venezuelan friends.  (All of whom are proud of the fact that they are Venezuelan, but every single one of them has now left the country).  

    The women though, are yes, absolutely gorgeous.

    (I would recommend Colombia as a place to go to).

    • Gret

       Thanks for knowing what you are talking about and sharing data from Venezuelans who’ve actually lived there

  • Contrarianism

    To your question… when the financial system implodes and everything goes to hell … I’m going to my sailboat.

    A well equipped ocean capable sailboat is floating self-contained ecosystem and full-blown traveling home that can roam anywhere in the world using a limited amount of resources. It has all the creature comforts and accoutrements of a waterfront home with a king sized bed, full kitchen (galley) with propane stove/oven and refrigeration, heating system, washroom (head) and shower, with satellite phone, navigation, generator, etc.

    You can make your own water with a reverse osmosis water-maker and make your own electricity with solar and/or wind generator, and if you can fish … then you can eat for free. You can move along under sail at 6-8 knots or if mother nature is uncooperative you can move at the same speed by diesel engine.

    You can live inexpensively or lavishly, but best of all you can live completely off the grid while traveling the world in privacy and relative comfort. It is one of the great secrets!

     –  Contrarian




    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OAQ25QG5MNMGUNXFO3JQW4TKBE jake garciaparra

      Great plan, Mr. Costner.

      Seriously tho. Pirates. There will be lots of them after the collapse. I wish you luck my friend.

      • Contrarianism

        Jake –  don’t ya know, there are many, many more pirates on land than at sea. 

        Machine-gun wielding Somali teenagers in the Indian Ocean don’t scare me nearly as much as the pirates in government.

        The odds of being captured and killed by pirates at sea is practically zero. The odds of loosing your liberty and being bled to death through forced taxation by the pirates in government is almost 100%.

         –  Contrarian

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OAQ25QG5MNMGUNXFO3JQW4TKBE jake garciaparra

        I’m going on a journey to Tibet to live with the monks and pray to the gods we have let go b/c holding on to them is just like holding on to material possessions. And I’m not doing it just because I look like Brad Pitt. ;)

        Oh wait, Chinese psychos own Tibet; it’s now a tourist trap.


    • Fernao

      Hey Contrarianism: I am right there with you. I am busy trying to either buy or build a boat. I am looking at a Colvin Gazelle. You’re right about going off the grid on a boat. May you always have fair winds in your sails..

  • DAvidrit2

    Well, to be certain, wherever I would go, I would not publicize my intended destination in a public forum/posting! Fun to think about, best left private.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OAQ25QG5MNMGUNXFO3JQW4TKBE jake garciaparra

      I’m going to Kazakhstan. Great success!

  • The Godfather

    Hong Kong and it’s environs work for me, with Thailand as a comfortable second choice

  • Yahoo

    Yeah, I’ll exchange my (diminishing) American freedom for a burgeoning dictatorial statehood under the rule of the likes of Hugo Chavez, who has “nationalized” (ie, stolen) vast swathes of the Venezuelan economy.  For example, he stole the minefields of Crystallex, a Canadian mining company that was developing its gold reserves in the country.  Soon after, as a direct result of Chavez’s actions, the company’s stock crashed, dropping from $1.2 billion to $23 million (a 98% loss).  That’s the same kind of socialism B.S. that I am looking to escape from in the U.S.

  • Savagecolombia

    I live in Colombia these days and love it!!   If i had married a Venezuelana………  i would have been very happy to settle there as well.    I visited the country extensively.   From Caracas to Isla de margarita to the Interior , including Angel Falls.    On owning a gun……….  its always about who you know and how you play the game.   1 way to keep and maintain firearms in Venezuela would to be to Join a shooting club.   Most often time —  the shooting club is closed off to the general public and populated by Military Officials and other persons from High Status.    Thru them the priviledges are quickly available.   On Politics……..  like anything else.  Learn how to operate and flourish in your new enviroment.  

  • nomadcapitalist

    I can’t comment as much on the prospect of blending in and “disappearing”, but in the fantasy world of slipping away, plenty of livable countries don’t have extradition treaties with the US. People say I’m nuts, but China is a place that’s huge, would give you plenty to do, and it’s easy to love many parts of the culture. The dating component is there, too. While Brunei is an authoritarian state, it’s perfectly livable. Boring, but livable. Indonesia is a ferry away for more excitement. And do you think the Russians would turn you over?

    • James David Haynes

      dating in china? maybe as a woman? their 1 child policy has left a divide of 30 million between the population of men and women (there are 30 million more men than women in china – good luck!)

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