Pompeo on US Embassy Venezuela: US to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that they’re protected.” And if they’re not?

Posted: 4:11 pm PST

Secretary Pompeo appeared today at the State Department Press Briefing Room to announced the appointment of Elliott Abrams as the “it” guy for Venezuela. We will blog about that separately. But here is the secretary of state’s response on the concern about the U.S. diplomats left in Venezuela as Maduro’s 72-hour deadline approaches.

MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to Washington Post. Carol Morello.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I think a lot of people are concerned about the diplomats who are down there. Would you tell us what you’re prepared to do if tomorrow, when the 72-hour deadline passes, they – the Venezuelans cut off electricity and water, maybe even surround the building, or even try to go in to bring out the diplomats by force? Could you be specific about what you are prepared to do in the event of any of these scenarios? And how can you assure people that they are protected?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I appreciate that question. There’s been no activity that’s taken more of our time over the past days than ensuring the protection of all those folks that are under our chief of mission authority there in Venezuela. We’re working diligently to make sure that they are protected. There’s no higher priority for the Secretary of State, and you should know no higher priority for the President of the United States. We have discussed this at some length.

With respect to the way we will deliver that, we’ve made clear to everyone that it is our expectation that the U.S. officials that are there, that have now been invited to be there by interim President Juan Guaido have a right, they have the privileges and immunities that accrue to having been invited to be there by the duly credentialed leader of Venezuela, and we have every expectation that those rights will continue to be protected.

You would have seen today that we have ordered a – have an ordered departure. We’re beginning to move some of our staff out. This is consistent with what the State Department does every day. The first briefing I get every morning is all around the world, every mission, every consulate, every facility where we have officers, I receive a briefing on risk and risk analysis. We’ll continue to do that in Venezuela. It is literally a 24/7, moment-by-moment exercise to evaluate risk to the people who work for me in the State Department, and we’ll get this right. We will make sure that we protect our folks on the ground and take all appropriate measures to ensure that they’re protected.

Thank you.

QUESTION: And if they’re not?

MR PALLADINO: Thank you guys.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all.

More about Venezuela here:

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US Embassy Venezuela Now on Mandatory Evacuation For Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members

Posted: 8:37 pm PST

In the afternoon of January 24, the US Embassy in Caracas issued a Security Alert announcing the mandatory departure of non-emergency USG personnel from Venezuela:

On January 24, 2019, the State Department ordered non-emergency U.S. government employees to depart Venezuela.  The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Venezuela.  U.S. citizens should contact U.S. Embassy Caracas for consular assistance.  U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Venezuela should strongly consider departing Venezuela.  Commercial flights remain available.

Actions to Take:

Consider departing while commercial flights are available.
If choosing to stay, ensure you have adequate supplies to shelter in place.
Monitor local media for updates
Review personal security plans
Remain aware of surroundings

Assistance:

U.S. Embassy, Venezuela
https://ve.usembassy.gov/
For all inquiries about ACS services email acsvenezuela@state.gov or call +58 (212) 975-6411 between the hours of 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except U.S. and Venezuelan holidays.
For emergency assistance after hours call +58 (212) 907-8400

State Department – Consular Affairs
888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444

While the Security Alert does not specifically addressed USG family members at the US Embassy in Caracas, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to us that the ordered departure includes not just non-emergency direct-hire U.S. government personnel but also eligible family members of U.S. government personnel posted at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. 

We were informed that the State Department is taking this action based on its current assessment of the security situation in Venezuela and that it has “no plans to close the Embassy.”

Also that “The United States will maintain diplomatic relations with Venezuela through the government of interim President Guaido, who has invited our mission to remain in Venezuela.”

We asked if there is a plan for USG-sponsored flights out of Venezuela and we were told that commercial flights remain available and that U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Venezuela should strongly consider departing the country.      

We should note that the host country government, in this case Venezuela’s is responsible for the safety of diplomatic personnel in country.  The State Department did not explain how Venezuela Interim President Guaido plans to protect the US Mission and personnel in Caracas given that he has no control over the military and security forces. 

The United States no longer recognizes the Maduro Government as the country’s legitimate government nor does it recognize its authority. So, whatever skeletal crew the US Embassy Caracas will keep, it will be in  country that has also declared our diplomats unwelcomed.  The United States has threatened appropriate action if the mission or US diplomats are harmed there, but that’s small comfort to the people in the crosshairs or loved ones watching this from afar.  

In the last 24 hours we have heard from folks using the words “bait” and “poker chips” to describe our people in Venezuela. Under the Trump Administration, Secretary Pompeo has declared the United States continuing diplomatic presence in Venezuela. Our diplomats will stay because they’re ordered to stay and they have a job to do. But what job is that exactly? Is there anyone in the 7th Floor who actually thinks Maduro will just sit back and watch when U.S. diplomats go about their business working with Interim President Guaido in Caracas? Really? 

On January 24,  also announced that the United States is ready to provide “more than $20 million in humanitarian aid to the people of Venezuela …to cope with food and medicine shortages and the other dire impacts of their country’s political & economic crisis.”

The State Department has yet to elaborate the logistics of sending humanitarian aid to a country with two presidents, one who actually still runs the country but the United States does not recognize, and the other who does not run the country but the United States do recognize.

And then this via the Caracas Chronicles:

If Maduro manages to hang on through the coming few weeks, the hemisphere will find itself in the very uncomfortable situation of having no interlocutor in Caracas. If Nicolás Maduro grabs Peruvian diplomatic facilities, who is the Peruvian Foreign minister going to call to protest, Guaidó? If the government expropriates Colombian company assets, what good does it do Duque to call Guaidó to protest? If an American Airlines jet gets impounded in Maiquetía, who does Pompeo bawl out? If Canadian citizens get thrown in jail on plainly made up spying charges, who is Chrystia Freeland supposed to complain about consular access to? Gustavo Tarre?

When this happens, what are you gonna do, Mike? Read more: Guaidó’s Diplomatic Rulebook Problem.

Counties, Utility Companies Offer Assistance to Furloughed Federal Employees in D.C. Area

Posted: 2:30 am EST

On January 14, we posted Furlough Assistance For Federal Employees and Pets During Shutdown. This is a follow-up list focusing on county assistance, and Washington, D.C. area utility companies that hopefully can be of use to you.  H/T to peacecorps.gov for the original utilities list offering assistance to furloughed employees. We have supplemented their list.

 

Arlington County Utility Payment Plans for Furloughed Federal Employees 

If you are a furloughed federal employee and are struggling to pay your County Utility Bill, please call our Customer Contact Center at 703-228-6570. You may be eligible for a payment arrangement that will allow you to extend your payment without the accrual of any late fees.

Fairfax County Coordinated Services Planning (CSP)

CSP connects Fairfax County residents to county and community-based services and resources. Just one phone call will get you connected to the information and assistance you need. Call 703-222-0880, TTY 711. In addition, our multilingual staff can assist callers in Amharic, Arabic, Dari, Farsi, French, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Pashto, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swedish, Tigrinya and Urdu. CSP services are also available in other languages through the use of an interpreter.

Beginning Thursday, Jan. 17, Fairfax Connector will provide free rides system-wide for federal government employees affected by the government shutdown who are still required to report for work.

  • You must show your federal photo ID to the bus operator when boarding to ride free.
  • By showing your federal photo ID, trips taken on all Fairfax Connector bus routes are free, including express routes to and from the Pentagon and Downtown D.C.

Alexandria, VA for  food assistance and other resources, call 703.746.5902

The Reston Community Center will be offering special summer camp fee waivers for affected families. To be eligible for this shutdown program, families must present their federal government employee identification when registering for 2019 camp sessions. Affected federal departments include Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury. Patrons must also live or work in Reston to receive the special fee waiver.  Affected families will pay $10 per child per week of camp; some camps are half-day in length. RCC offers an “after-care” option called Zen Zone for those in less than a full day of camp, which would cost another $10 for enrollment under the fee waiver program.

Loudoun County 

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has approved financial aid to local food pantries and a temporary fee waiver for federal workers who ride Loudoun County Transit buses. The Board also approved the allocation of up to $25,000 to Loudoun Hunger Relief and the Dulles South Food Pantry to help the organizations meet any increase in requests for food assistance caused by the federal government shutdown.

Prince George’s County Relief Package

From Angela D. Alsobrooks Prince George’s County Executive:

“Yesterday we held an event with several local partners to announce a “shutdown relief package” for Prince George’s County residents who are currently furloughed by the federal government shutdown. Through a combination of county government resources and contributions from community partners, we are offering a package of resources that will help bring some stability and security to families who are trying to figure out how to pay the bills or put food on the table. While we do not know how long this shutdown will continue, we want our county residents who are struggling to know that we have your back. I’d like to highlight a couple of the resources being provided by the county below:

Maryland National Capital Park and Planning, through their Department of Parks and Recreation, will waive membership fees for any federal worker affected by the shutdown. You may use any of their exercise facilities. The department is also waiving childcare fees for furloughed workers until the end of the shutdown.

I have authorized our county budget director to put an additional $70,000 into our Emergency Assistance Fund, giving us a total of $150,000 to help those with immediate financial need. The fund can help with items such as delinquent mortgages, utility bills and other financial needs.

While these are resources that the county is providing, local partners in the community have stepped up to provide several resources as well. We’ve built a webpage that lists all the resources currently being offered to furloughed workers, and we will continue to update it as we get more commitments. To find all those resources, please visit the site at: www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/shutdown.

Washington, DC Area Utility Companies 

Pepco waived late fees and said customers could call to set up budget billing or move bill due dates. The utility also created a $50,000 matching grant to an emergency fund created by the United Way of the National Capital Area.
D.C. customers can call 1-800-735-2258;
Maryland customers can call 1-800-643-3768.

D.C. Water said in a statement that it would “immediately begin working with any federal worker who may need additional flexibility in paying their bill.” Programs include extended payment plans and assistance offered through the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment.
Customers can call 202-354-3600.

Washington Gas said in a statement that it will “offer flexible payment arrangements for government employees directly impacted” by the shutdown. Programs include payment deferments, budget plans and help through a fuel assistance fund.
Customers can call 1-844-WASHGAS.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission  WSSC will suspend all water service shutoffs to ensure safe, clean water continues to flow to customer’s homes. Additionally, the state’s largest water utility serving 1.8 million residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will delay bill payments, waive all late fees, and work one-on-one with customers impacted by the shutdown to establish convenient payment plans.  In addition to these new assistance measures targeted to customers impacted by the federal shutdown, WSSC offers a variety of affordability programs to help customers in need.
Customers are encouraged to contact WSSC and speak with a representative at 301-206-4001 or 1-800-828-6439 to discuss their specific situation.

Dominion Energy doesn’t have a program specifically for furloughed workers, but the utility has a number of options for energy assistance, including budget billing and programs offered through the Virginia Department of Social Services.
Customers can call 866-366-4357.

The Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF): Founded by Washington Gas and administered by The Salvation Army, WAFF helps families who do not qualify for, or who have exhausted, government energy assistance. WAFF provides funds for all types of fuel to heat families’ homes during the winter heating season. Through its merger with AltaGas, Washington Gas has increased its funding to WAFF and broadened WAFF’s eligibility beyond low-income customers. For example, a family of four earning $75,050 could qualify for assistance. WAFF also accepts donations to assist neighbors in need. Every dollar donated to WAFF goes directly to those who need assistance because Washington Gas pays the administrative fees of the fund. For more information or to apply for assistance, contact The Salvation Army at 888-318-WAFF (9233) or visit http://washingtonareafuelfund.org/.

 

Emergency Food Via AFL-CIO-United Way

Community Services Agency of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO | 202-974-8226

Non-perishable canned and dry goods available while supplies last. Must make appointment to pick-up by emailing sducote@dclabor.org.

Capital Area Food Bank https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/programs-2/#Distribution

Northern Virginia Family Service Emergency Food Assistance (NVFS) https://www.nvfs.org/our-services/healthwell-being/food-assistance/

See more AFL-CIO Government Shutdown Resources

American Federation of Government Employees(AFGE)/Feeding America

Find Your Local Food Bank

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Operation Chaos: $4.2Billion and counting, this is the ongoing #TrumpShutdown cost to U.S. taxpayers

Posted: 12:13 am EST

Via shutdowncalculator.com

Note: We will keep this counter on the blog’s side bar until the federal government reopens. Thanks XX!  For those who do not like the name of this shutdown, please watch this “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it” video before sending us a love letter.

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Trump Shutdown Day #22: Longest Ever, Also Can “Better Off” Federal Hostages Eat Vacation Days?

 

Marking the 22nd day of the Trump Shutdown. This is now officially the longest government shutdown in history.

Also here is a White House official who need not worry about a paycheck, calling the current chaos and debacle on government workers’ lives as somehow putting them in a “better off” universe.

Trump Shutdown Day #21: Across America, Federal Hostages Are Hurting

Posted: 1:06 am EST

Today marks the 21st day of the Trump Shutdown, making it exactly as long as the 1995 Gingrich Shutdown, a 21-day shutdown which was apparently caused  by this pettiness: “Gingrich confessed he’d forced the closing of the federal government partly because Bill Clinton had relegated him to a rear cabin aboard Air Force One on the way home from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Jerusalem.”

Then as now, the federal government furloughed 800,000 workers.

By Saturday, this sh*tshow, which somebody publicly said he is proud to own, will be the longest shutdown in history. Congress can do its duty as an equal branch of our government and pass a bill over the president’s objections and re-open the government. This requires a two-thirds vote in the House and in the Senate. A two-thirds supermajority in the Senate is 67 out of 100 senators, and  two-thirds supermajority in the House is 290 out of 435 representatives. The 116th Congress is now a 47 Democrat, 53 GOP split  in the Senate, while the House is 235 Democrat, 199 GOP. See the challenge there? But there is apparently already a bill to reopen the government, why won’t they call it on the floor for a vote? Is the leadership afraid that it will pass both houses, and the president would look worse when he vetoes it?

James Fallows writes: “On December 18, Mitch McConnell’s GOP-run Senate passed, on a unanimous voice vote, a “clean” funding measure, to keep the government open and postpone funding fights about “the wall.” They did so with guidance from the White House that Donald Trump would go along. Then the right-wing mocking began; then immediate funding for the wall became an “emergency”; then Trump preferred a shutdown to appearing to “lose.” Mitch McConnell’s GOP of course switched right along with him—and against the measure all of its members had supported just days ago. One man’s insecurity, and his party’s compliance, are disrupting millions of lives.”

Well, maybe some of these folks really believed that a 30-foot wall works over a 35-foot ladder or 30-feet tunnel or maybe all their spinal bones are just made of jello. The larger public may soon start to realize that these elected representatives do not much care for 800,000 of their fellow Americans and their families. Or care much for their fellow citizens and their families who rely on the people and services that make our government work. We’ve taken for granted that the checks and balances in our system works … but take a look.

As this shutdown continues, we are struck at the high tolerance for people and their families to be put in great hardship, all for a fucking wall that Mexico was supposed to pay.

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What happens after pay period #26?

Posted: 1:26 am EST

The State Department issued a thin Furlough Guidance Handbook to employees on January 4. It notes that State Department employees funded with no-year or multi-year accounts received their paychecks for pay period #25 on Thursday, January 3, 2019. Foreign Service annuitants received their December annuity payments on January 2, 2019 (Note that pension is not funded by annual Congressional appropriations but is drawn from the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Fund). The Guidance says that State will also be able to make payroll for these employees for pay period #26 (actual pay date is January 17). What happens beyond that seems to be a big question mark beyond the nugget that CGFS will be issuing some future guidance.

Should the lapse in appropriations continue past the end of pay period 26 (January 5, 2019), the Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS) intends to process payroll for pay period 26 to meet the Department’s Thursday, January 17, 2019 official pay date, for those individuals (both direct-hire employees and LE staff) who are funded using no-year or multi-year accounts that have residual balances. CGFS will be preparing and issuing T&A guidance for bureaus and posts for reporting time during any periods of lapse for pay period 26 and any later pay periods. Furloughed, excepted, and intermittent excepted employees who are not funded would not receive another pay check until there is legislation to permit payment.

01/04/19DS-5113 Agency Notice of Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees
01/04/19SF-8 Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees Program

We should note that a January 7 update to AFSA members flagged down a different date, which is this Friday, January 11:

In order to meet normal deadlines for processing payroll in time to meet the next payday on January 17, AFSA understands that funds need to be appropriated by Friday, January 11. The bill that funds operations at State and USAID passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in June by a 31-0 vote, but that bill has not yet gone before the full Senate. 
[…]
If that does not happen by the end of the week, however, some members of the Foreign Service (including some members who have been required to report to work) may not receive a paycheck on January 17. As a first step to preparing for that difficult possibility, members are encouraged to read the new Furlough Handbook to review options for coping with the financial consequences of the partial government shutdown.

Consular Affairs

An update on our query about Consular Affairs funding — we’ve heard from a source that CA/EX recently sent a notice to consular sections informing folks that the bureau “anticipates” being able to continue paying its staff and providing consular services as long as the funding situation with partner bureaus/agencies allowed them to continue providing service that generates revenue. Here are a couple of dire scenarios that have a potential to impact thousands of working people and their families, and not just within the State Department. 

If partner agencies are not able to do their work due to the ongoing funding lapse, it could have a potential to derail consular services. Think DHS or  FBI.  Visa services require that applicant fingerprints, photo and personal data be sent to DHS for the purpose of checking the applicant’s fingerprint information against DHS databases and establishing a record within DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification (IDENT) system. Visa issuance data is then forwarded to DHS for use at US ports of entry to verify the validity of the visa. Visa services also require the  transmission of  applicant fingerprints and personal data to the FBI fingerprint system for the purpose of checking to determine if the person has a criminal record that would have an effect on visa eligibility. If DHS and FBI stop providing those clearances, embassies and consulates won’t be able to issue visas worldwide. And that would have a cascading impact on services, fees collected, and employees getting paid.  Also if/when visa issuances stop, there will be economic consequences for the tourism, travel and hospitality industries. What’s that going to do to the international travelers spending in the United States, or travel industry employment, both direct and indirect employment?

We should note that DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification System or IDENT, is operated and maintained by OBIM (IDENT currently holds more than 200 million unique identities and processes more than 300,000 biometric transactions per day). OBIM resides in DHS’s Management Directorate. During the lapse in appropriations, the Directorate estimates 193 employees as the total number exempt/excepted employees to be retained out of a total of 1,777 employees. So they have people working over there but for how long? How long can people work with no pay?

Additionally, DOJ’s 2019 Contingency Plan says that “all FBI agents and support personnel in the field are considered excepted from furlough.” It also says that “At FBI headquarters, the excepted personnel will provide direction and investigative support to all field operations and excepted headquarters functions. This includes personnel in the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which provides fingerprint identification services to criminal and national security investigations, and the Records Management Division, which provides name check services to criminal and national security investigations.”

Regarding partner bureaus — consular operations do not stand alone at overseas posts. They are not able to operate without security guards, typically locally hired security guards. Local guards are not under consular sections but under the purview of Regional Security Officers. They are funded under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security within the Worldwide Security Protection, an account that the State Department previously identified as “initially have [ing] available balances”. We don’t know how much available balances DS has, but when that account is depleted, there won’t be money to pay the local guards, and posts cannot just use comp time or issue IOUs. And if there are no local guards to provide this critical function, posts won’t be able to open their consular sections to the public. That will have a cascading effect on services provided, fees collected, employees getting paid, and beyond. 

Also below, the State Department furlough Q&A includes the following;

On jobs during furlough: May I look for a job during the furlough if that is required to apply for unemployment compensation in my state?

A. A furloughed employee may seek employment without advanced authorization and can provide to the unemployment office any evidence that he or she is in fact seeking employment. Some States require claimants be engaged in an active search for work to be eligible for unemployment compensation. Department employees are reminded that relevant ethics laws, rules, and regulations continue to apply to them while in furlough status, including restrictions on outside employment with non-federal entities. For example, Department employees employed by a non-Federal entity during the furlough may later be restricted from participating in their official capacity in matters that affect that entity. If you have specific questions about your potential employment, you can contact EthicsAttorneyMailbox@state.gov.

For presidential appointees and covered noncareer employees (e.g., both noncareer SES and SFS and certain Schedule C employees), there are certain restrictions on outside earned income. Employees who file a Public Financial Disclosure Report (OGE 278e) must also file a recusal notice at negotiationnotice@state.gov when negotiating outside employment.

If you have more specific questions not covered above, you can contact negotiationnotice@state.gov.

Injury while on furlough: If employees are injured while on furlough or LWOP, are they eligible for workers’ compensation?

A. No, workers’ compensation is paid to employees only if they are injured while performing their duties. Employees on furlough or LWOP are not in a duty status.

Can somebody please ask the State Department what happens to employees in war zones and high threat posts who may be injured during this shutdown?

Mental Health Resources:

MED’s Employee Consultation Services (ECS) office remains open with reduced staffing during the furlough. You can reach ECS at 703-812-2257 or email MEDECS@state.gov.FEDERAL

Medical Evacuation:

New medical evacuations and ongoing medevacs are considered excepted activities and will continue during the furlough.

Employee Health Benefits and Life Insurance: Will I still have coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program during the furlough?

A. Yes, the employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status.

For Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), coverage continues for 12 consecutive months in a nonpay status without cost to the employee (5 CFR 870.508(a)) or to the agency (5 CFR 870.404(c)). Please note that premium payments are required if an enrolled employee in nonpay status is receiving workers’ compensation (5 CRF 870.508(a)).

 

Gabonese Military Stages Coup Attempt in Libreville

Posted: 12:49 AM PST
Updated: 1:06 AM PST
Updated: 10:30 AM PST

Reuters is reporting that Gabon has thwarted the attempted coup and the government has killed or arrested the plotters. On January 7, U.S. Embassy Libreville in Gabon posted four Security Alerts on the embassy’s website. The first one warns of “possible anti-government military activity underway.” The second alert says “Embassy has advised the family members of U.S. citizen employees and local staff members to remain in their homes today.  Out of an abundance of caution as we further assess the situation, the Embassy has asked the families of U.S. citizen employees to keep their children at home from school tomorrow.” The third alert says “The Embassy has advised local staff members to remain at home.  U.S. Citizen employees have been told to avoid the downtown area.” The fourth, and latest alert posted as of this writing includes the following:

In light of recent anti-government activity, the U.S. Embassy has requested that Embassy personnel restrict their movements to the area north of Léon-Mba International Airport from dusk tonight until dawn tomorrow.  Embassy personnel and their families are advised to continue to exercise increased caution tomorrow by avoiding the downtown area and limiting unnecessary travel. Although the Léon-Mba International Airport is open at this time, a number of flights have been cancelled. Those who plan to travel in the next few days should contact the airport or their airline to confirm flight status.

The Security Alerts are posted on the embassy’s website but none are posted on Twitter or Facebook. Best we could tell @TravelGov has posted all the alerts here but only the second Security Alert on Twitter. The main State Department account @StateDept has not posted any of the Alerts. 

Website U.S. Embassy Libreville Gabon+241 0145 7100
Email: librevilleacs@state.gov
State Department – Consular Affairs: 888-477-4747 or 202-501-4444

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On January 4, the Trump Administration notified Congress of U.S. troop deployment to Libreville, Gabon, in anticipation of potential security requirement at the US Embassy Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (see Military Personnel Deploys to Gabon in Support of US Embassy Kinshasa Security #DRC).

Early Monday morning, Gabonese soldiers appeared on state television announcing a coup in the West African country. Tanks and armed vehicles are reportedly in the streets of the capital, Libreville and a curfew has been imposed. The Internet has reportedly been shutdown. As of this writing there are no alerts, emergency message, or security updates from the U.S. Embassy Libreville (embassy last posted on Twitter and FB the day before the shutdown). There is no update from @StateDept. The Gabon situation is developing.

Regional Map with Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Regional Map with Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Military Personnel Deploys to Gabon in Support of US Embassy Kinshasa Security #DRC

On December 14, 2018, the State Department issued a Level 3 Travel Advisory for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) urging American travelers to reconsider travel there due to “crime and civil unrest.” The advisory also announced that the Embassy’s non-emergency personnel and their family members were on mandatory evacuation order. See US Embassy Kinshasa on Ordered Departure For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members #DRC

On January 4, the president notified Congress of the deployment of approximately 80 Armed Forces personnel to Gabon in support of the security of the US Embassy in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Excerpt below:

United States Armed Forces personnel have deployed to Libreville, Gabon, to be in position to support the security of United States citizens, personnel, and diplomatic facilities in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.  This deployment of approximately 80 personnel is in response to the possibility that violent demonstrations may occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in reaction to the December 30, 2018, elections there.  The first of these personnel arrived in Gabon on January 2, 2019, with appropriate combat equipment and supported by military aircraft.  Additional forces may deploy to Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the Republic of the Congo, if necessary for these purposes.  These deployed personnel will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed.

This action was taken consistent with my responsibility to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of United States national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct United States foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

WH: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/letter-president-speaker-house-representatives-president-pro-tempore-senate-2/

@StateDept’s Level 4 “Do Not Travel” Countries For 2019

The State Department’s Level 4 – Do Not Travel advisory category is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.

As of January 4, 2019, there are eleven countries designated as Level 4 “do not travel” countries.

In Somalia, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens due to the lack of permanent consular presence in the country.

In North Korea, the State Department says that the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in North Korea as it does not have diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea. Sweden serves as the protecting power for the United States in North Korea, providing limited emergency services. However, the North Korean government routinely delays or denies Swedish officials access to detained U.S. citizens.

In South Sudan, U.S. government personnel are under a strict curfew. The advisory says personnel “must use armored vehicles for nearly all movements in the city, and official travel outside Juba is limited. Due to the critical crime threat in Juba, walking is also restricted; when allowed, it is limited to a small area in the immediate vicinity of the Embassy and must usually be conducted in groups of two or more during daylight hours. Family members cannot accompany U.S. government employees who work in South Sudan.”

In Iraq, the U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens is “extremely limited.”  On October 18, 2018, the Department of State ordered the temporary suspension of operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.

Secretary Kerry's Helicopter Flies Over Baghdad En Route to Airport
Baghdad, Iraq | State Department Photo

In Iran, the U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations. “The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iran. Switzerland serves as the protecting power for U.S. citizens in Iran, providing limited emergency services.”

In CAR, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens as U.S. government employees must obtain special authorization to travel outside the Embassy compound.

The U.S. Embassy in Damascus in Syria suspended its operations in February 2012. “The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with Syria. The Czech Republic serves as the protecting power for the United States in Syria. The range of consular services that the Czech Republic provides to U.S. citizens is extremely limited, and the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Syria.”

In Mali, the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the northern and central regions of Mali as U.S. government employees travel to these regions is restricted due to security concerns. 

In Libya, the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency or routine assistance to U.S. citizens as the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli suspended its operations in July 2014.

In Afghanistan: The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is severely limited, particularly outside of Kabul. Evacuation options from Afghanistan are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints, and the volatile security situation. Family members cannot accompany U.S. government employees who work in Afghanistan. Unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. government employees and their family members is restricted and requires prior approval from the Department of State. U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from traveling to all locations in Kabul except the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. government facilities unless there is a compelling U.S. government interest in permitting such travel that outweighs the risk.  Additional security measures are needed for any U.S. government employee travel and movement through Afghanistan.

The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a suspended its operations in February 2015. The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Yemen.

Somalia Travel Advisory | AFLevel 4: Do
Not Travel
December
26, 2018
North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Travel Advisory | EAPLevel 4: Do
Not Travel
December
19, 2018
South Sudan Travel Advisory | AF

Level 4: Do
Not Travel
December
11, 2018
Iraq Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
October 18, 2018
Iran Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
October 10, 2018
Central African Republic Travel Advisory |
AF
Level 4: Do
Not Travel
October 3,
2018
Syria Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
September 10, 2018
Mali Travel Advisory | AFLevel 4: Do
Not Travel
August 13, 2018
Libya Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
August 8,
2018
Afghanistan Travel Advisory | SCALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
July 9, 2018
Yemen Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do Not TravelJuly 5, 2018

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