Thursday, June 5, 2014

Venezuela: US Department of State Updates Travel Warning Effective June 4, 2014

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform US citizens about the security situation in Venezuela. 

Tens of thousands of US citizens safely visit Venezuela each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work. However, violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital of Caracas and throughout the country. Moreover, since February 2014, frequent demonstrations have taken place throughout Venezuela, and may pose a security risk.

Demonstrations have occurred throughout Venezuela since mid-February.  Demonstrations and counter-demonstrations are expected to continue, and the majority of protests are not advertised in advance.  There have been reports of firearms being used during protests. US citizens should attempt to avoid demonstrations and leave the area if a protest moves closer to their location.  Since February 2014, there have been at least 42 fatalities in connection with demonstrations, counter-demonstrations, and measures taken by the security forces.

Violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior.  According to the non-governmental organization Venezuelan Violence Observatory (VVO), there were 24,763 homicides in Venezuela in 2013, amounting to a rate of 79 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, among the highest in the world.  In Caracas, the homicide rate is even higher at 134 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. 

Kidnappings are also a serious concern throughout the country.  In 2013, 625 kidnappings were reported to the authorities.  It is estimated that roughly 80% of kidnappings go unreported; the actual number of kidnappings in 2013 is likely much higher.  Common criminals are increasingly involved in kidnappings, either dealing with victims’ families directly or selling the victims to terrorist groups.  In addition, there is cross-border violence, kidnappings, drug trafficking, and smuggling along Venezuela’s western border.

The Department of State considers the criminal threat to US government personnel in Venezuela sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions.  All US direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to the US Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy movement policy for their safety and well-being.  The details of the policy are found in our Country Specific Information on Venezuela.  These practices limit, and may occasionally prevent, access by US Embassy officials to certain areas of Caracas and the interior of the country.

In addition, all US direct-hire personnel and their family members who are assigned to the US Embassy in Caracas are required to take an armored vehicle when traveling to and from the Maiquetia Airport.

US citizens in Venezuela should be vigilant of their surroundings at all times and in all locations, especially when entering or exiting their homes, hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces.  Whenever possible, US citizens should travel in groups of two or more persons; avoid wearing jewelry and carrying large sums of money or displaying cash, ATM/credit cards, mobile phones, or other valuables; and avoid walking at night in most areas of Venezuela or walking alone on beaches, historic ruins, and trails.  Incidents of crime along inter-city roads, including carjacking and kidnapping, are common in Venezuela.  Motorists should avoid traveling at night and always drive with their doors locked to deter potential robberies at traffic lights and on congested city streets.

For more detailed information on staying safe in Venezuela, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information.  For the latest security information, US citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs' internet website, where the current Worldwide CautionTravel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the US and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 001-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 0800 hoursa and 2000 hours EST, Monday through Friday (except US federal holidays). US citizens living or traveling in Venezuela are encouraged to enroll with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to obtain updated information on travel and security within Venezuela.  For any emergencies involving US citizens in Venezuela, please contact the US Embassy.

The US Embassy in Caracas is located on Calle F con Calle Suapure, Lomas de Valle Arriba. The telephone number during business hours (0800 hours to 1700 hours) and the phone number is (011) 58-212-975-6411.  For after-hours emergencies use (011) 58-212-907-8400. The fax is (011) 58-212-907-8199. Please check the Embassy website for additional information.

For the full text of the travel warning, see:

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/venezuela-travel-warning