Haiti

Haiti has undergone tremendous political and social upheaval since summer 2003; the situation remains extremely unstable. Political protests were marred by police and gang violence, which led to the formation of an opposition army comprised largely of former soldiers. This army swept the country, gaining control of large portions of northern Haiti before moving south into Port-au-Prince. Months of violent political protest culminated with the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the early morning of Feb. 29, 2004.

Since Aristide's departure, a multinational force has been trying to restore order to Haiti. The handover of authority to the United Nations took place June 1, 2004; Brazil is officially leading the U.N. forces in Haiti. These forces are in place to stabilize the security situation in Haiti and to ensure that the interim government has the required infrastructure to succeed in fostering a successful democracy. Portions of the country, however, may still be under the unofficial control of rebel groups. Haiti's police force was crippled by desertion during the rebel uprising, and is struggling to increase its numbers.

International peacekeepers will be necessary in Haiti until the police can control all corners of the nation. Haiti has no safe areas; all travel should be well-planned with consideration taken for adequate security measures. Foreigners are often targets of petty theft and sometimes more violent crimes, including kidnap for ransom, especially in urban areas, due to their assumed affluence. Criminals are often armed and will not hesitate to use violence. Avoid traveling alone at all costs; limit travel at night.

The only secure mode of transportation in Haiti is a private car (preferably armored) with a professionally trained security driver. Limit all road travel to daylight hours. Carjacking is endemic and often violent. Strictly avoid public transportation as buses are often hijacked. If a private car with driver is not available and travel is unavoidable, only use taxis hired through a hotel. Expect roadblocks and checkpoints manned by international peacekeepers, Haitian police or rebel groups and criminals in all large cities. At roadblocks, authorities may request identification and search cars.

The U.S. and French governments and U.S., French, German and Canadian businesses have been targets of violence and kidnappings over the past two years. General strikes occur frequently and with little notice and can severely affect daily life. The threat of international terrorist activity in Haiti is low but may rise along with possible increased drug trafficking unless Haiti's borders and ports can be adequately patrolled. Election periods usually are very volatile with a high rate of political violence and intimidation.

The situation in Haiti is volatile. Crimes against travelers are common. Travelers are advised to take extra precautions when visiting Haiti.

 

 

 

 

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