Saturday, January 26, 2013

El Salvador: US Department of State Updates Travel Warning

COMMENT: For the benefit of our readers who travel, work or live in El Salvador, be advised that the US Department of State, effective January 23, has updated its travel warning on El Salvador. For the complete text of the warning, see below:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5871

Excerpt:

Tens of thousands of US citizens safely visit El Salvador each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work. However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. In 2011, El Salvador had the second highest murder rate in the world: 71 per 100,000 people (by comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000). 

In 2012, a truce between El Salvador’s two principal street gangs contributed to a decline in the homicide rate. However, the sustainability of the decline is unclear, and the truce had little impact on robbery, assaults, and other violent crimes. Most of these crimes go unsolved. 

In March 2012, as a result of an administrative review of the security situation, Peace Corps El Salvador substantially reduced the number of its volunteers in country.  
 
US citizens do not appear to be targeted based on their nationality. However, 22 US citizens have been murdered in El Salvador since January 2010. During the same time period, 230 US citizens reported having their passports stolen. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers in El Salvador’s national parks are common, and the Embassy strongly recommends engaging the services of a local guide certified by the national or local tourist authority when hiking in back country areas, even within the national parks. In 2000, the National Civilian Police (PNC) established a special tourist police force (POLITUR) to provide security and assistance to tourists, as well as protection for the cultural heritage of El Salvador. It has officers located in 19 tourist destinations. 

A majority of serious crimes are never solved; only five of the 22 murders committed against US citizens since January 2010 have resulted in convictions. The Government of El Salvador lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases and to deter violent crime. The PNC is still developing into a modern and effective police force that can protect the public. While several of the PNC’s investigative units have shown great promise, routine street level patrol techniques, anti-gang, and crime suppression efforts are limited.