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State Department warns U.S. citizens to leave Haiti as soon as possible

UPI
The State Department on Wednesday warned U.S. citizens to leave Haiti as soon as possible. Earlier this week, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince (pictured in July) restricted staff to the embassy and residential compounds because of "ongoing police activity and gunfire" in the area. File Photo by Johnson Sabin/EPA-EFE

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The State Department on Wednesday warned U.S. citizens to leave Haiti as soon as possible amid the island's deteriorating security and infrastructure.

"Given the current security situation and infrastructure challenges, U.S. citizens in Haiti should depart Haiti as soon as possible via commercial or private transport," the State Department said in a statement. "Please contact ACSPAP@state.gov if you are having challenges departing Haiti or if you need to apply or request the return of a U.S. passport (or other travel document) to travel to the United States."

The security alert warned U.S. to use extreme caution when traveling in Haiti, to avoid large gatherings and to turn around and get to a safe area if roadblocks are encountered.

According to the State Department, several airlines and charter companies still have flights out of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien airports, but "flights fill up quickly and seats may only be available several days or even weeks in advance of departure."

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince Monday restricted staff to the embassy and residential compounds due to "ongoing police activity and gunfire" in the area.

The State Department alert said local news should be monitored to decide when to safely exit the country.

The embassy also had to close for a time on Aug. 8 due to gunfire nearby.

A July 28 travel advisory urged all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and eligible families to leave Haiti.

On Aug. 9 a kidnapped humanitarian group staffer and her child were released unharmed. They were kidnapped July 29.

The United Nations in March urged that a specialized international force be sent to Haiti to halt rising gang-related violence.

Much of Haiti's current slide into widespread gang warfare is blamed on the island nation's past political injustices.

In April, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Gary Bodeau, former president of the Haitian Chamber of Deputies, for allegedly bribing Haitian government officials

U.S. officials said the 45-year-old paid Haitian officials bribes to secure their votes while seeking ministerial position appointments in 2018. He also allegedly solicited bribes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior government officials for his political support.