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a211: Haiti - Consular Information Sheet (fwd)

From: radtimes <resist@best.com>

Haiti - Consular Information Sheet
December 28, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  Haiti is one of the least developed countries in the
Western Hemisphere, and it experiences a high level of civil and political
unrest.  Supplies of goods and services are adequate in Port-au-Prince, the
capital, but there are shortages in other parts of the country.  Most
products are imported and are more expensive than in the United States.
While tourism facilities in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Cap Haitien are
satisfactory, they are rudimentary at best in most other Haitian cities, and
they are virtually non-existent elsewhere in Haiti.

ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS:  Haitian law requires travelers to have a
passport to enter Haiti.  In practice, officials frequently waive this
requirement if travelers have a certified copy of their U.S. birth
certificate.  Due to fraud concerns, however, airlines do not board
passengers for return to the United States unless they are in possession of
a valid passport.  The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens obtain
passports before travel to Haiti.  The Haitian government requires
foreigners to pay a fee prior to departure.  For additional information
regarding entry, departure and customs requirements for Haiti, travelers can
contact the Haitian Embassy, 2311 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 332-4090, one of the Haitian consulates in
Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois or Puerto Rico, or via the
Internet at http://www.haiti.org/embassy/.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have
initiated procedures at entry/exit points.  These often include requiring
documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel
from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present.  Having such documentation
on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:  Haiti continues to experience civil and political
unrest.  Protests and demonstrations, which can turn violent at any time,
day or night, occur periodically throughout the country.  Private
organizations and businesses may be targets of demonstrations or take-over
attempts related to business disputes or extortion demands.  Rural areas
have become more dangerous.

Local and national elections held in May 2000 remain publicly disputed, and
they are expected to dominate the political climate in 2002 as they did in
2001.  In the year following the elections and presidential inauguration,
activists established unofficial, temporary roadblocks throughout the
country, at times cutting off major thoroughfares and the airport.
Protesters succeeded in paralyzing Port-au-Prince and other major cities
using flaming barricades and bonfires, with U.S. Government buildings
serving as the focal points of some of these actions.  Recent incidents have
included politically motivated violence perpetrated against the offices and
homes of political leaders, government offices including the Presidential
Palace, and the press.  The rhetoric of some activists and popular
organizations has been anti-foreign, and the Haitian government has failed
to contain or condemn certain violent and dangerous situations.  Political
events are often held in public areas, and many have turned violent.

On occasion, the U.S. mission in Haiti may have to suspend service to the
public or close because of security concerns.  In those situations, the
Embassy will continue to be available by telephone to offer emergency
services to American citizens.

American citizens should avoid all such gatherings, as crowd behavior can be
unpredictable.  Travelers encountering roadblocks, demonstrations, or large
crowds should remain calm and depart the area quickly and without
confrontation.  Assistance from Haitian officials, such as the police,
should not be expected.  Particular caution should be taken on the days of
planned political activities.

American citizens traveling to or residing in Haiti are advised to take
common-sense precautions and avoid any event where crowds may congregate.
For current information on safety and security, please contact the U.S.
Embassy at the telephone numbers listed below.

CRIME:  There are no "safe areas" in Haiti.  Crime, already a problem, is
growing.  The state of law and order is of increasing concern, with reports
of armed robberies and break-ins, kidnappings, murders and car hijackings
becoming more frequent.  The police are poorly equipped and unable to
respond quickly to calls for assistance.  Criminals have kidnapped, shot,
maimed and killed several U.S. citizens in recent years.  Kidnappings for
ransom, in particular, are an emerging problem and several U.S. citizens
have been victims of recent kidnappings.

Travelers should be particularly alert when leaving the Port-au-Prince
airport, as criminals have often targeted arriving passengers for later
assaults and robberies.  Criminals also watch bank customers and
subsequently attack them, and some recent incidents have resulted in the
victims' deaths.  The use of public transportation, including "tap-taps"
(private transportation used for commercial purposes), is not recommended.
It is suggested that travelers arriving at the airport be met by someone
known to them.

Certain high-crime zones should be avoided when possible, including
Carrefour, the port road (Boulevard La Saline), urban route Nationale #1,
the airport road (Boulevard Haile Selassie) and its adjoining connectors to
the New ("American") Road via Route National #1.  This latter area, in
particular, has been the scene of numerous robberies, carjackings, and
murders.  Due to high crime, Embassy employees are prohibited from entering
Cite Soleil and La Saline and their surrounding environs, and are strongly
urged to avoid Delmas 105 between Delmas 95 and Rue Jacob.  Under no
circumstances should one attempt to photograph in these areas, as this
almost inevitably provokes a violent reaction.  Neighborhoods in
Port-au-Prince once considered relatively safe, such as the Delmas road area
and Petionville, have been the scenes of increasing incidents of violent
crime.  U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Haiti should exercise high
levels of caution at all times and review basic personal security

Holiday periods, especially Christmas and Carnival, often see a significant
increase in violent crime.  Haiti's Carnival season is marked by street
celebrations (Carnival starts the Saturday prior to Ash Wednesday, and
continues for four days).  In recent years, Carnival has been accompanied by
civil disturbances, altercations and severe traffic disruptions, and people
attending Carnival events or simply caught in the resulting celebrations
have been injured and killed.

Roving bands called "Raras" operate during the period from New Year's Day
through Carnival.  Being caught in a Raras may be a peaceful and enjoyable
experience, but the potential for injury and the destruction of property is
high.  Raras are organized as celebrations, but a mob mentality can develop
as more people join in and alcohol consumption takes its effect.  People who
would not act out alone find it easier to violently express their
frustration as part of the mob, leaving the people and cars that were
engulfed in the Rara in danger.  Raras generally operate on Sundays until
Carnival.  During Carnival, Raras continuously erupt without warning.  Some
Raras have identified themselves with political entities, lending further
potential for violence.

Travelers and residents should exercise caution throughout Haiti.  Keep
valuables well hidden, do not leave possessions in parked vehicles, favor
private transportation, alternate travel routes, and keep doors and windows
in homes and vehicles closed and locked.  If an armed individual demands the
surrender of a vehicle or other valuables, the U.S. Embassy recommends
compliance without resistance.  Criminals have shot drivers who resisted.
The Embassy also recommends against traveling at night, particularly outside
Port-au-Prince.  The limited response and enforcement capabilities of the
Haitian national police and the judiciary can frustrate crime victims'
attempts to achieve justice.

Mariners should note that Americans and other foreigners have reported the
theft of yachts and sailboats along the Haitian coast in recent years.  Some
of the thefts were carried out by armed gangs, and one foreigner was killed.

Cameras and video cameras should only be used with the permission of the
subjects; violent incidents have followed unwelcome photography.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately
to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Lost or
stolen U.S. birth certificates and/or drivers licenses used as entry
documents generally cannot be replaced outside the United States.  U.S.
citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip
Abroad," for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey.  This publication
and others, such as "Tips for Travelers to the Caribbean," are available by
mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at
http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES:  Medical facilities are scarce and sub-standard.
Medical care in Port-au-Prince is limited, and the level of community
sanitation is low.  Medical facilities outside the capital are generally
below U.S. standards.  Life-threatening emergencies may require evacuation
by air ambulance at the patient's expense.  Doctors and hospitals often
expect immediate cash payment for health services.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:  The Department of State strongly urges Americans to
consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to
confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency
expenses such as a medical evacuation.  U.S. medical insurance plans seldom
cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental
coverage is purchased.  Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not
provide payment for medical services outside the United States.  However,
many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will
cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services
such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider
that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to
providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may
cost well in excess of $50,000.  Uninsured travelers who require medical
care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have
purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be life-saving when a
medical emergency has occurred.  When consulting with your insurer prior to
your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas
healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you
incur.  Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of
Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling
Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax:
(202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION:  Haitian pharmacies may have expired medications
on their shelves.  Americans always should check expiration dates on the
original packaging before purchase.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for
international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax
1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:  While in a foreign country, U.S.
citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those
in the United States.  The information below concerning Haiti is provided
for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular
location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation:              N/A
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance:    Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance:     Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance:       Poor

Driving in Haiti should be undertaken with extreme caution.  It is often
preferable for those with no knowledge of Haitian roads and traffic customs
to hire a driver.  This can generally be accomplished through local hotels.
Those who do drive in Haiti should be conservative in their actions, avoid
confrontations such as jockeying for position, and remain aware of the
vehicles around them.  Drivers should carry the phone numbers of people to
call for assistance in an emergency because Haitian authorities are unlikely
to respond to requests for assistance.  When travelling outside of
Port-au-Prince, drivers should caravan with multiple vehicles; in case a
problem occurs with one car, another will be available.

The Haitian government lacks adequate resources to assist drivers in
distress or to clear the road of accidents or broken-down vehicles blocking
the flow of traffic.  Public transportation as it is usually defined does
not exist in Haiti.  While Haitians use buses, "taptaps" and taxis, which
may observe regular routes much like public transportation, none of these
should be considered reliable.  The U.S. Embassy strongly discourages their

Speeding is the cause of many of the fatal traffic accidents in Haiti, as
are overloaded vehicles on winding, mountainous roads and vehicles without
brakes.  Poor maintenance and mechanical failures often cause accidents as
well.  Drivers should be particularly cautious at night because unlighted
vehicles can appear seemingly from nowhere.

As neither written nor driving tests are required to qualify for driver's
licenses, road laws are not generally known or applied.  Signaling imminent
actions is not widely practiced, and not all drivers use turn indicators or
international hand signals properly.  For instance, many drivers use their
left blinker for all actions, including turning right and stopping in the
road, and others flap their left arm out the window to indicate that they
will be taking an unspecified action.  Drivers do not always verify that the
road is clear before switching lanes, turning, or merging.

The situation on the roads can be described as chaotic at best.  Roads are
generally unmarked, and detailed and accurate maps are not widely available.
Lanes are not marked, and signs indicating the direction of traffic flow
seldom exist.  This lack of organization, along with huge potholes that
occur without warning, may cause drivers to execute unpredictable and
dangerous maneuvers in heavy traffic.

Traffic is extremely congested in urban areas, and hours-long traffic jams
develop throughout the country.  Cars are supposed to be driven on the right
side of the road in Haiti, but few roads have lane indicators and drivers
use whatever part of the road is open to them, even if it is not the correct
side of the road.  Speed limits are seldom posted and are not widely known
or observed.

In addition to vehicles, a variety of other objects may appear on the road
in Haiti, such as wooden carts dragged by people, small ice cream carts,
animals, mechanics with vehicles, and even vendors and their wares.
Vehicles are often abandoned in the road or by the side of the road.  There
are few marked crosswalks and sidewalks, and pedestrians often wend their
way through traffic in urban areas.

Right of way is not widely observed in Haiti, and there are few operational
traffic lights or traffic signs.  It is advisable at most intersections to
stop and verify that there is no oncoming traffic even if it appears that
you have the right of way.  Drivers can be quite aggressive and will seldom
yield.  Walls built to the edge of roads frequently make it impossible to
see around corners, forcing drivers to edge their cars into the road at
intersections to check for oncoming traffic.  Drinking and driving is
illegal in Haiti, but people do drive after drinking, as there is no
alternative transportation.

For additional information about road safety, including links to foreign
government sites, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs' home page at
http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.  For specific information
concerning driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory
insurance in Haiti, please contact the Haitian Ministry of Tourism by email
at info@haititourisme.org or on the Internet at

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:  The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
has assessed the Government of Haiti's civil aviation authority as Category
2 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the
oversight of Haiti's air carrier operations.  While consultations to correct
the deficiencies are ongoing, any of Haiti's air carriers with existing
routes to the United States will be permitted to conduct limited operations
to the United States subject to heightened FAA surveillance.  No additional
flights or new service to the United States by Haiti's air carriers will be
permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air
carrier from a country meeting international safety standards.  For further
information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within
the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web
site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.  In
addition, the DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from
Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating
from or terminating in the United States.  For information regarding the DOD
policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618)

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:  While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject
to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly
from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available
to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be
more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons
violating Haitian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
imprisoned.  The judicial process in Haiti can be extremely long; progress
is often dependent on considerations not related to the specific case.
Detainees may wait months or years for their cases to be heard before a
judge or to have legal decisions acted upon by the authorities.  Penalties
for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Haiti are strict.
Those accused of drug-related crimes can expect lengthy legal proceedings,
irregular application of Haitian law, and delayed due process.  If
convicted, offenders may face long jail sentences and substantial fines.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS:  Haiti, like all Caribbean countries, can be affected
by hurricanes and other storms. Hurricane season runs from approximately
June 1 to November 30 each year.  Extensive flooding as a result of heavy
rainfall has occurred in the past.  General information about natural
disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:  For information on international adoption of children
and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet
site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202)

visiting Haiti are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the
U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince and obtain updated information on travel and
security in Haiti.  The Consular Section is located on Rue Oswald Durand,
Port-au-Prince; telephone 011 (509) 222-7011; fax 011 (509) 222-1641.
Consular Section hours are 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday,
except U.S. and local holidays.  The U.S. Embassy is located on Harry Truman
Blvd., Port-au-Prince; telephone (509) 23-0200, 223-0354, 223-0955 or
223-0269; fax (509) 23-1641. Internet: http://usembassy.state.gov/haiti.

*  *  *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 11, 2001, to update
the Country Description section and the sections on Safety and Security and

See http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html for
State Department Travel Warnings