Saturday, April 12, 2008

Travel Warning

US Bars Officials From Travel to Haiti
15 hours ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The U.S. State Department banned government officials from traveling to Haiti in a statement issued Friday after recent violent demonstrations.

It also advised American citizens to consider leaving the impoverished Caribbean country where protests over high costs of living left five dead in the countryside. The warning comes despite a general sense of calm settling over Port-au-Prince.

"If you don't need to stay, you might consider departing," said James Ellickson-Brown, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

An estimated 19,000 U.S. citizens live in Haiti, most dual-nationals who live in the capital. More than 140 American citizens have been kidnapped since 2005, but few were short-term visitors, the U.S. Embassy said.

Officials are meeting daily to re-evaluate travel warnings as circumstances change, Ellickson-Brown said. The embassy has been closed since Wednesday, though some staff members are still working. As the capital recovers, grocery stores offer limited stocks and long lines have formed at gas stations, where workers are charging US$8 a gallon (euro1.30 a liter) or more.

Many countries, including the United States, already posted travel warnings about Haiti before the riots. Canada is warning against all travel there, while France and the United Kingdom have warned against nonessential travel.

Haiti tourism officials say the warnings are exaggerated and unfairly discourage investment

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