Below is a glimpse into how the US Embassy sees the security situation in Caracas. We get these emails a few times a year. It’s worth mentioning that the requirements to notify the Embassy of travel only apply to the people who are employed by the State Department.
If I were to take what they say to heart, I probably would never leave our apartment. All I can say is that I’ve rarely, if ever, felt unsafe going out: to bars, to the zoo, to the movies, to the various parks, to the ATM, to the market, to the metro, to the doctor, and all the other places I go.
The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens about the security situation in Venezuela.
Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Venezuela each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work. However, violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior. According to the non-governmental organization Venezuelan Violence Observatory (VVO), there were 21,692 homicides in Venezuela in 2012, amounting to a rate of 73 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, among the highest in the world. In Caracas, the homicide rate is even higher at 122 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
Kidnappings are also a serious concern throughout the country. In 2012, 583 kidnappings were reported to the authorities. It is estimated that roughly 80% of kidnappings go unreported; meaning the actual number of kidnappings in 2012 is likely much higher. Common criminals are increasingly involved in kidnappings, either dealing with victims’ families directly or selling the victims to terrorist groups. In addition, there is cross-border violence, kidnappings, drug trafficking, and smuggling along Venezuela’s western border.
The Department of State considers the criminal threat to U.S. government personnel in Venezuela sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions. All U.S. direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to U.S. Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy movement policy for their safety and well-being. The policy divides Caracas into three zones: Yellow, Orange, and Red. [Note: no green zone.]
Movements into the Orange Zone between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. are not recommended, and if U.S. personnel choose to visit the Orange Zone during those hours, they must notify the Embassy when entering and upon departing the zone. In addition, U.S. personnel must request armored vehicles to transit the Orange Zone between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
Unofficial (i.e., personal) visits to the Red Zone are prohibited, and U.S. personnel are only authorized to transit the Red Zone on personal travel during daylight hours provided they remain on one of the city’s highways. If a trip includes movement through the Red Zone, U.S. personnel must notify the Embassy. Furthermore, U.S. personnel are required to leave public establishments, regardless of zone, by 2:00 a.m. The details of which areas of Caracas comprise each zone are found in our Country Specific Information on Venezuela. These practices limit, and may occasionally prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of Caracas and the interior of the country.
In addition, all U.S. direct-hire personnel and their family members who are assigned to U.S. Embassy Caracas are required to take an armored vehicle when traveling to/from Maiquetía Airport.
U.S. citizens should be vigilant of their surroundings at all times and in all locations, especially when entering or exiting their homes, hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces. Whenever possible, U.S. citizens should travel in groups of two or more persons; avoid wearing jewelry and carrying large sums of money or displaying cash, ATM/credit cards, mobile phones, or other valuables; and avoid walking at night in most areas of Venezuela or walking alone on beaches, historic ruins, and trails. Incidents of crime along inter-city roads, including carjacking and kidnapping, are common in Venezuela. Motorists should avoid traveling at night and always drive with their doors locked to deter potential robberies at traffic lights and on congested city streets.
And with that, Kat and I can honestly say we like living here.