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a244: Haiti: Travel Warnings & Consular Information Sheets (fwd)

From: Robert Benodin <r.benodin@worldnet.att.net>

U.S. Department of State
Haiti:  Travel Warnings & Consular Information Sheets
- Dec. 28, 2001 (Extract)

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
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 procedures.

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