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State department issues Haiti travel warning as protests turn violent

By Darryl Coote
State department issues Haiti travel warning as protests turn violent
People walk down a street during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. Photo by Jean Marc Herve Abelard/EPA-EFE

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning Thursday ordering all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members home.

"Do not travel to Haiti due to crime and civil unrest," the advisory said, adding "protests, tire burning and road blockages are frequent and unpredictable. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common."

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The warning comes as protests in Port-au-Prince have turned deadly this week, with at least two people killed and dozens more injured, some severely, as police and anti-government protesters clash, Haiti Libre reported.

There have been months of demonstrations in the Caribbean nation's capital as demonstrators are demanding to know the whereabouts of some $4 billion that was supposed to have gone to social development, the Guardian reported.

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The money was from a petrol deal the country made in 2007 with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that would see Haiti pay a fraction of the cost for oil with the remainder owed over 25 years.

The savings from that deal, earmarked for social development, have gone missing. Several investigations have been unable to determine where the money went.

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The city has been brought to a standstill since last week as Port-Au-Prince streets have been clogged with protesters and barricaded with burning tires.

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On Wednesday, protesters set fire to the courthouse and the Prosecutor's Office.

A total of 78 prisoners from a local prison escaped while guards were distracted by a nearby demonstration.

As the violence escalates and it becomes more difficult to find food and water in the city center, protesters have been demanding for President Jovenel Moise to resign.

The U.S. State Department warns that travelers to the country are sometimes targeted, followed and violently attacked while going to and from the airport in Port-au-Prince.

U.S. personnel in Haiti have been prohibited from using public transport and taxis, visiting banks and ATMs, driving at night and visiting certain parts of the city without approval and security, the advisory said.

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