US Embassy El Salvador: Peace Corps Suspends Program in World’s New Murder Capital

Posted: 12:42 am EDT

 

On January 11, Peace Corps announced the suspension of its program in El Salvador where there were 58 volunteers assigned.  The program was previously suspended in 1980 amid increasing violence prior to the civil war.  The government of El Salvador invited the Peace Corps to return to El Salvador in 1993 after the signing of the Peace Accords that ended the civil war.  In 1994, Peace Corps El Salvador invited new two-year Volunteers to serve in the project areas of Water Sanitation and Health, Agroforestry and Soil Conservation, and Small Business Development.  Volunteers have worked in El Salvador since then until this year’s program suspension. Below is the announcement:

The Peace Corps today announced the suspension of its program in El Salvador due to the ongoing security environment. The agency will continue to monitor the security situation in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador to determine when the program can resume.

The Peace Corps has enjoyed a long partnership with the government and people of El Salvador and is committed to resuming volunteers’ work there in a safe and secure environment.

Volunteers’ health, safety and security are the Peace Corps’ top priorities. More than 2,300 Peace Corps volunteers have worked on community and youth development projects in communities throughout El Salvador since the program was established in 1962.

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USA Today recently called El Salvador the world’s new murder capital:

Government data show 6,657 people were murdered in the small country last year, a 70% increase from 2014. The homicide rate of 104 people per 100,000 is the highest for any country in nearly 20 years, according to data from the World Bank.

“Keep in mind, you’re talking about the national average,” Adriana Beltrán of the Washington Office on Latin America said about El Salvador’s homicide rate. “If you start looking at where the pockets of violence are, it’s shocking.”

A June 22, 2015 Travel Warning  continues to warn U.S. citizens that crime and violence levels in El Salvador remain high, and U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador should remain alert to their surroundings.  The Travel Warning notes that there is no information to suggest that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted by criminals; however, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country.” Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador including a nine-year-old child in December 2013. During the same time period, 419 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen, while others were victims of violent crimes.”

Last summer, the Guardian reported that “With one killing on average every hour, August is on course to be the deadliest month since the 1992 peace accord. On current trends, the homicide rate will pass 90 per 100,000 people in 2015, overtaking that of Honduras as the highest in the world (not including battlegrounds like Syria). This would make El Salvador almost 20 times deadlier than the US and 90 times deadlier than the UK.”

El Salvador has been a 15% COLA and 15% hardship differential since September 7, 2014. It  is not designated as a danger pay post.

The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador is headed by Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte, a noncareer appointee  who assumed charged in 2010. She has been nominated in July 2015 to be the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States(OAS). That nomination is currently pending in the SFRC.  Her second in command is career FSO, Michael Barkin who was previously the Deputy Director of the Office of Canadian Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) and served as Principal Officer and Consul General in Matamoros, Mexico.

 

Related itms:

El Salvador Travel Warning | June 22, 2015

El Salvador 2015 Crime and Safety Report | May 20, 2015

 

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US Embassy Burundi Now on Ordered Departure Status (Second Evacuation in 2015)

Posted: 3:07 pm EDT

 

On May 15, 2015, the US Embassy in Bujumbura, Burundi went on Ordered Departure status (see New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure).

On November 3, 2015, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Burundi, informing U.S. citizens that it has terminated the Ordered Departure status, allowing eligible family members and non-emergency personnel who departed Burundi to return.

On November 15, Belgium advised its citizens to leave Burundi, while the EU announced a cut in staff levels at its embassy in the country because of the “rising risk of violence” (see EU Evac From Burundi On, a Fresh Round of Ordered Departure For US Embassy Bujumbura?).

On December 13, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Burundi and announced the ordered departure of USG dependents and non-emergency personnel, the second evacuation from post this year alone:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so. As a result of continuing violence, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Burundi on December 13. The U.S. Embassy is able to offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Burundi. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on November 3, 2015.

Political violence persists throughout Burundi in the aftermath of the country’s contested elections, an attempted coup d’etat and the debate over the President standing for a third term. Armed groups operate in Burundi and gunfire and grenade attacks occur with frequency, but are usually not directed at foreigners. If you encounter such a situation, stay indoors in a ground floor interior room away from doors and windows. Government command and control of the armed forces and security services is not complete. Police and military checkpoints throughout the country have the potential to seriously restrict freedom of movement. Police have also searched the homes of private U.S. citizens as a part of larger weapons searches.

U.S. citizens interested in departing Burundi should note that departure plans can be subject to change because of safety and security factors as well as varying availability of commercial transport. U.S. citizens interested in departing should therefore monitor the media, check with airlines to verify flight schedules, and also check U.S. Embassy Bujumbura’s website for the latest consular information, including security messages. The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor potential airport and land border closures.

Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning. For this reason, U.S. citizens should routinely monitor local media sources and the Internet for reports of demonstrations and unrest, and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind.

Travel outside of Bujumbura presents significant risks, especially after nightfall. The U.S. embassy limits and monitors the travel of its personnel in Burundi. All movement by embassy employees outside the city from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. is prohibited. Likewise, U.S. citizens should not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn. Armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows up when stopped in heavy traffic.

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Related posts:

US Embassy Burundi: Students Broke Into Embassy Grounds Seeking Refuge (Updated)

US Embassy #Burundi Announces Evacuation Flights From Bujumbura to Kigali For May 17

New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure

US Embassy Burundi: Amidst Coup Attempt, No Movement of Personnel Until Further Notice

U.S. Embassy Burundi — Sacrificing Free Time Is Worthwhile, Rinse, Repeat

New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status

 

Once More, @State Dept Strongly Recommends Against Travel to North Korea

Posted: 3:01 am EDT

The State Department has once more, issued a warning against travel to North Korea. Not sure this will dissuade folks intent on seeing the hermit kingdom.

The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). This replaces the Travel Warning for North Korea of April 15, 2015, to reiterate and highlight the risk of arrest and long-term detention due to the DPRK’s inconsistent application of its criminal laws.

Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens have been subject to arrest and long-term detention for actions that would not be cause for arrest in the United States or other countries.  North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally or intentionally crossed into DPRK territory without valid visas. The Department of State has received reports of DPRK authorities detaining U.S. citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country.  North Korea has even detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours.  Do not assume that joining a group tour or using a tour guide will prevent North Korean authorities from detaining you or arresting you.  Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.

The Government of North Korea has detained, arrested, and imposed extremely heavy fines on persons who violated DPRK laws, such as entering the country illegally. Travelers to North Korea must enter the DPRK with a valid passport and valid DPRK visa.  Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and/or political activities (whether those activities took place inside or outside North Korea), unauthorized travel, or unauthorized interaction with the local population.

Read in full here.

There is no U.S. embassy or consulate in North Korea. In the case of a detention, arrest, or death of a U.S. citizen in North Korea, the United States can provide only limited consular services through our Protecting Power, the Embassy of Sweden.

Swedish Embassy  (U.S. Protecting Power in North Korea)
Munsu-Dong District
Pyongyang, DPRK
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (Deputy)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)
Facsimile: (850-2) 3817 663
Email:ambassaden.pyongyang@gov.se

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EU Evac From Burundi On, a Fresh Round of Ordered Departure For US Embassy Bujumbura?

Posted: 2:10 pm EDT

 

On May 15, 2015, the US Embassy in Bujumbura, Burundi went on Ordered Departure status (see New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure).

On November 3, 2015, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Burundi, informing U.S. citizens that it has terminated the Ordered Departure status, allowing eligible family members and non-emergency personnel who departed Burundi to return. The Department continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burundi and recommends U.S. citizens avoid non-essential travel.  The terrorist organization al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, has threatened to conduct terror attacks in Burundi.  It may also target U.S. interests in Burundi.

Just several days after the lifting of the Ordered Departure status, africaleader.com is reporting that Belgium and the European Union are warning of escalating violence in the country.  The EU has now reportedly withdrawn its non-essential personnel and families from violence-hit Burundi.

Note that the initial cable ordering a post evacuation declares the evacuation for a specified period of time (normally 30 days). At the end of that period, the State Department, working with post, reviews the evacuation status to determine whether it should be continued, whether employees should be reassigned, or whether to terminate the evacuation. If the evacuation is not terminated, the status must continue to be reviewed every 30 days up to 180 days. Today is exactly 180 days from the date Bujumbura was declared on Ordered Departure, and 12 days after the termination of its evac status, but by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days. If things in Burundi get worse, the newly returned non-emegerency personnel and family members may be subjected to a fresh round of evacuation order.

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@StateDept Terminates US Embassy Chad’s Authorized Departure Status

Posted: 1:18 pm EDT

 

The State Department issued an updated Travel Warning for Chad. The  warning dated November 10 informs U.S. citizens that the Department of State has terminated the Authorized Departure status for non-emergency personnel and dependents, who had previously departed Chad. These individuals may now return to the Embassy. The State Department nevertheless continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Chad.

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“U.S. citizens already in Chad should continue to avoid all travel to border regions, particularly those areas adjacent to Chad’s eastern border and the Lake Chad region. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services is limited in remote and rural areas. All U.S. citizens should review their personal security and have evacuation plans that can be carried out quickly. Do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance. All U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Chad should have an evacuation plan developed with the United Nations agency coordinating their work.”

Read in full here.

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State Dept Terminates “Authorized Departure” Status of Embassy Ouagadougou

Posted: 2:40 am EDT

 

On September 21, the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso went on “authorized departure” status for eligible family members and non-emergency personnel (see U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure).  On October 9, the State Department announced the termination of the “authorized departure” evac status of U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou. Below is an excerpt from the updated Travel Warning:

This Travel Warning is being issued to inform U.S. citizens that the Department of State on October 9 terminated the “Authorized Departure” status which allowed eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou to voluntarily depart the country on September 21. As a result of the termination of “Authorized Departure,” eligible family members and non-emergency personnel who departed Burkina Faso may now return. The decision to allow the return of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel has been made because of improved civil conditions which include the reopening of the airport and the resumption of commercial flights to and from the country. The transnational military and police forces also appear to be, again, firmly in control; and the transitional Government President, Michel Kafando, has been reinstated. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on September 21, 2015.

U.S. citizens should still carefully consider the risks of travel to the countryand, if already in Burkina Faso, review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members should remain. There is still the potential for sporadic civil disruptions throughout the presidential and legislative elections period, including demonstrations, which can be spontaneous and occur with little-to-no advance warning throughout Burkina Faso. U.S. citizens who choose to remain in Burkina Faso should remain vigilant and utilize appropriate personal security practices. Try to avoid political rallies, campaign events, polling stations, demonstrations, protests, and other large gatherings in the weeks before and after elections; maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment; stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times; and stay abreast of the situation through media outlets. U.S. citizens should maintain adequate supplies of food, water, essential medicines, and other supplies to shelter in place for at least 72 hours should this become necessary.

Read more here.

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U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure

Posted: 11:51 pm EDT

 

On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff during a military coup that occurred less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power (see US Embassy Burkina Faso Orders Staff to Shelter in Place Amidst Coup Attempt).

On September 21, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Burkina Faso recommending that U.S. citizens in the country depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.” It also notified the public that the State Department has authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burkina Faso depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.

This Travel Warning is being issued to notify U.S. citizens that on September 21, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.  U.S. citizens are urged to carefully consider the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and, if already in Burkina Faso, encouraged to review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members, should depart.  U.S. citizens are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.  Citizens who decide to remain in Burkina Faso despite this travel warning should maintain situational awareness at all times and register their presence within Burkina Faso with the Embassy by enrolling in STEP.  This Travel Warning supersedes and replaces the Travel Alert issued on September 4, 2015.

Embassy staff remaining in Burkina Faso continues to shelter in place.  The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou will operate at reduced staffing levels and will continue to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

Elements of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) took control of the presidential palace during the weekly council of ministers meeting the afternoon of September 16, detaining President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and two additional members of the cabinet of ministers.  President Kafando and others have since been released, but Kafando remains under house arrest.  Prime Minister Zida remains in detention.  Former special chief of staff responsible for the RSP General Gilbert Diendere was declared to be in charge of Burkina Faso following the establishment of a “Conseil national pour la democratie” (CND, the National Council for Democracy).

The security environment in Ouagadougou remains fluid.  Gunfire continues to be reported in locations throughout Ouagadougou.  Elements of the RSP have set road blocks and have engaged in crowd control measures. Civilians have also established roadblocks around the city.  The level of activity on the street has diminished, and many businesses providing essential services—including food, gasoline and cooking fuel—remain closed.  Local electricity and water utility providers have declared a strike, which could further decrease the level of services provided to residents.  A nationwide curfew remains in place from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Outside of Ouagadougou, the security situation varies, but remains dynamic and susceptible to change at any moment.  There have been reports of demonstrations in Bobo-Dioulasso, Gaoua, Fada N’Gourma, and Ouahigouya.  Due to reports that roadways between major cities may be impassable, U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso may find that at times sheltering in place may be the only and best security option.

Read in full here.

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US Consulate Adana Now on Authorized Departure, Plus New Turkey Travel Warning

Posted: 11:45 am PDT

 

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On September 2, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass was on CNN Turk TV talking about the coalition effort against ISIL:

“We have seen in the last week, Turkey start to fly combat missions against DAESH in Syria as part of the coalition effort; that’s a really important step forward.  And we are already benefiting not only from Turkey’s active participation, but also from the ability to base U.S. and potentially other coalition aircraft and assets in Turkey which greatly reduces the time for those assets to reach targets in Syria, and therefore increases the capability of the coalition to pursue this military campaign.”

Map from travel.state.gov

Map from travel.state.gov

The American Consulate Adana is a very small post located less than 5 kilometers from Incirlik Air Force Base, a Turkish air base and hosts of the US 39th Air Base Wing.  The previous time Adana was placed on “authorized departure” order was in September 2013 (see US Embassy Beirut and US Consulate Adana (Turkey) Now on Departure Orders for Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members). That, too, was done “out of an abundance of caution.”

The State Department has now released its Travel Warning on Turkey dated September 3:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Turkey that the U.S. Consulate in Adana has authorized the voluntary departure of family members out of an abundance of caution following the commencement of military operations out of Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.  

On September 2, the Department of State permitted the departure of U.S. government family members from the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey. U.S. citizens seeking to depart southern Turkey are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations; however, commercial flights are readily available and airports are functioning normally. The U.S. Consulate in Adana will continue to operate normally and provide consular services to U.S. citizens.

U.S. government employees continue to be subject to travel restrictions in southeastern Turkey. They must obtain advance approval prior to official or unofficial travel to the provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig. The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas in close proximity to the Syrian border.

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New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure

Posted: 9:46 pm  PDT

 

We posted this earlier today: US Embassy Burundi: Amidst Coup Attempt, No Movement of Personnel Until Further Notice. Sometime in the last 24 hours, the State Department must have decided to place the US Embassy in Bujumbura on “ordered departure.” A new Travel Warning was released today. Non-emegency personnel and family members are also ordered to depart the country.   Ordered Departure is initiated in extraordinary circumstances when the embassy is no longer confident of the security of its personnel and families. Once the Under Secretary of State for Management (“M”) approves the evacuation status for post—either authorized or ordered—the 180-day clock “begins ticking” (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).

The State Department also recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.”   Meanwhile, the game of continues, and there are still conflicting reports on social media regarding the operating status of the Bujumbura airport.

by-map bujumbura

Below is an excerpt from the new Travel Warning dated May 14:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.  As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Burundi on May 14.  The U.S. Embassy is able to offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Burundi.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 11, 2015.

The security situation remains fluid and volatile because of military and security forces activity in Bujumbura.  There have been increased political tensions and civil disturbances related to these actions.  Airport and land borders are reportedly closed.  U.S. citizens should shelter in place until it is safe to move about, ensure that your travel documents are up-to-date, and confirm that air and land borders are open before attempting to depart the country.

The terrorist organization al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, has threatened to conduct terror attacks in Burundi.  It may also target U.S. interests in Burundi.  Political violence persists throughout Burundi, a carryover of the Burundian civil war. Armed groups operate in Burundi.  Weapons are easy to obtain and some ex-combatants have turned to crime or political violence.  Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits or street children, poses the highest risk for foreign visitors.  Exchanges of gunfire and grenade attacks have increased but are usually not directed at foreigners.  If you encounter such a situation, stay indoors in a ground floor interior room away from doors and windows.  Common crimes include muggings, burglaries, and robberies.  U.S. government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets after dark and from using local public transportation at any time.  Local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance during an emergency.

Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning.  For this reason, U.S. citizens should routinely monitor local media sources and the Internet for reports of demonstrations and unrest, and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind.

Travel outside the capital, Bujumbura, presents significant risks, especially after nightfall.  Note the U.S. embassy limits and monitors the travel of its personnel in Burundi.  All movement by embassy employees outside the city from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. is prohibited.  Likewise, U.S. citizens should not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn.  Armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura.  Keep vehicle doors locked and windows up when stopped in heavy traffic.

Corruption is endemic in Burundi and contributes to an environment where the rule of law is not respected.  Government officials may ask for bribes for providing routine services.  Travelers are frequently stopped, questioned, and asked for bribes by security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks throughout the country.  Likewise, criminals who have paid off local officials may operate with impunity.

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US Embassy Nepal Now on Authorized Departure For Non-Emergency Staff and Dependents

Posted: 2:30 am EDT

 

We’ve anticipated the evacuation of the family members of Embassy Kathmandu staff following the devastating Nepal earthquake of April 25.  On May 1st, the State Department issued a new Nepal Travel Warning and announced the May 2nd “authorized departure” not just of embassy family members but also of its non-emergency personnel. See part of the announcement below:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nepal and recommends that they defer non-essential travel there following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25.  On May 2, 2015, the Department of State approved authorized departure for non-emergency U.S. government personnel and dependents.  The U.S. Department of State also recommends that U.S. citizens in Nepal exercise caution when traveling in or planning departure from the country.  The possibility for aftershocks of significant magnitude persists.  Infrastructure is fragile and access to basic resources, including healthcare, could be limited.  Cell phone and internet service are intermittent. In Kathmandu and elsewhere, some buildings are collapsed and some roads are impassable, making transportation difficult.  Some areas of the city are crowded with displaced persons.  Kathmandu and Lukla airports have been re-opened since the earthquake.  However, the airports may close temporarily without notice due to aftershocks or inclement weather.  We encourage travelers to contact their airlines to confirm flight availability before departing for the airport.

Read the full Travel Warning here.

USAID supported DART teams have been on the move and just rescued a man from a building in Gongabu. Photo from US Embassy Nepal/FB

USAID supported DART teams have been on the move and just rescued a man from a building in Gongabu. Photo from US Embassy Nepal/FB

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Related posts: