US moves to reduce diplomatic presence in Haiti due to unrest

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States moved to reduce its diplomatic presence in Haiti and warned its citizens against travelling to the country as political unrest continued to roil the Caribbean nation.

This travel warning is being issued to inform American citizens that, due to continued political demonstrations and ongoing civil unrest,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The Department of State has authorized the departure of family members and non-emergency employees of the US Embassy on a voluntary basis,” it said.

It said US government will pay stipends and airfare for family members and non-essential diplomats of the US embassy in Port-au-Prince who chose to leave the country on a voluntary basis.

“The Department of State warns US citizens to defer travel to Haiti,” the statement said. “Private American citizens should evaluate their own security situations and should consider departing the country.”

It said the Haitian government “has not been able to maintain order in Port-au-Prince or in other cities and in some instances has assisted in violently repressing the demonstrations.”

Six leading Haitian industry groups on Friday called for a campaign of civil disobedience against President Jean Bertrand Aristide amidst mounting international convern over unrest in the impoverished nation.

The Haitian opposition also called for a “peaceful mobilisation” against Aristide who was to go to Jamaica on Saturday to meet the head of the Caribbean group of nations for talks on the crisis in his country which claimed more lives in the past week.

The State Department warned of the potential for “spontaneous demonstrations and violent confrontations” between anti-government protestors and pro-Aristide loyalists.

The US embassy in Port-au-Prince has been forced to close several times in recent weeks due to ongoing violence.