Tuesday, September 23, 2008

U.S. Embassy La Paz on Authorized Departure Now

The Department of State has recently authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all family members of U.S. Embassy personnel in Bolivia and suggests all U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to Bolivia. U.S. citizens currently in Bolivia were encouraged to depart and those who chose to remain in country were advised to be vigilant, to monitor local media, and review their security situation on a regular basis. With two U.S. missions on authorized departure in a span of a week, a quick explanation on an in-house term here: "authorized departure" merely allows the Ambassador greater flexibility in determining which employees or groups of employees may depart, and avoids any negative connotation that might be attached to the use of the term “evacuation.” 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). Peace Corps has now temporarily suspended its program in Bolivia and Peace Corps volunteers have left the country. The State Department reports: "Over the course of the past weeks, opposition to the Central government’s policies by five of the nine departments (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Chuquisaca and Tarija) has turned increasingly violent. Hunger strikes, marches and road blocks that were initially peaceful have become violent as pro-government and opposition forces attempt to consolidate or impede control of government buildings and strategic facilities, such as the gas and oil pipelines. To date, more than a dozen persons have died and over 100 persons have been seriously injured. Police and military police have lost control of the situation in some areas and cities of those departments, and the road blocks and other measures taken by the opposition are making gas, diesel and other essential items unavailable. No one can, with any degree of confidence, predict what may happen in the near future." Read more about the U.S. Embassy La Paz here, and the current Travel Warning here. The Bolivian melt-down continues. The Embassy did resume full consular operation yesterday including visa services but pointed out that the potential for last minute changes is there. Our safe travel wishes to friends returning home from Bolivia and Yemen. To all our friends left in La Paz and Sana'a, take care and stay safe.

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