is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.
The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s
publication assesses Venezuela at Level 4, indicating travelers should not
travel to the country.
Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas does not
assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons
or firms appearing in this report. The
American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual
or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
Review OSAC’s Venezuela-specific
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
There is serious risk from crime in
Venezuela, but no evidence to indicate criminals specifically target U.S.
As in years past, Venezuela remained one
of the deadliest and most violent countries in the world in 2018. The crime
that had previously concentrated in some municipalities now exists throughout
the entire country. The Government of Venezuela often attempts to refute claims
of high crime and murder rates; however, independent observers widely reject such
claims. Venezuela does not release official crime statistics. In 2018, the estimated
rate of 81.4 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants (based on 23,047 total
homicides) represented a slight decrease from 2017.
The majority of Caracas’s crime and
violence remains attributed to mobile street gangs and organized crime groups. Caracas
is notorious for the brazenness of high-profile violent crimes like murder,
robbery, and kidnapping committed in neighborhoods across the city, at all
hours of the day and night. Because of the sociopolitical and humanitarian
crisis, the impoverished are resorting to crime as a means of survival.
In addition to homicide, the crimes of
greatest concern in Caracas are kidnapping and robbery, including carjacking,
street robbery, and home invasion. Kidnappings and robberies often become
homicides, as criminals routinely kill victims who resist. Do not resist
attempted robberies or kidnappings; doing so can result in severe injury or
death. Robberies occur throughout Caracas at any time of day or night. Armed
criminals target pedestrians (standing or walking along the side of a road) and
motorists (parked or stopped in traffic) alike.
Other Areas of Concern
Due to security concerns and continued
FARC and ELN activity along with the presence of fuel smugglers and other
organized criminal groups, U.S. Embassy employees may not travel within 50
miles of the 1,000-mile Venezuelan-Colombian border without prior
Because of safety and security concerns,
the following neighborhoods of Caracas are off-limits to U.S. employees of the
Embassy unless they have special permission:
In the western part of Libertador municipality: El
Retiro, 23 de Enero, Blandin, La Vega, La Rinconada, Las Mayas, Tazon, Oropeza
Castillo, Lomas de Urdaneta, Propatria, Casalta, Lomas de Propatria, Carapita,
Antimano, Tacagua, Ruiz Pineda, Caricuao, La Quebradita, El Atlantico, Sarria,
La Candelaria, San Martin, Coche, El Valle and La Yaguara.
In the Eastern part of Sucre municipality: Barrio
Piritu, Barrio La Rubia, Barrio Altavista, Petare, Caucaguita, La Dolorita,
Paulo Sexto, and El Llanito.
In Baruta municipality: Las Minas, Santa Cruz del
Este, Ojo de Agua, La Naya, and Las Minitas.
The Embassy mandates that all U.S.
employees travel in an armored vehicle to and from Maiquetía “Simón Bolívar”
International Airport (CCS). The Embassy judges the airport road especially
dangerous after receiving numerous reports of robberies and murders in the
areas around the terminal (e.g. on the street, in parking lots).
Criminal activity at CCS is significant.
Both arriving and departing travelers are sometimes victims of personal
property thefts and muggings. The Embassy has previously received credible
reports that individuals in official uniforms or bearing realistic (or real)
credentials have been involved in the facilitation and perpetration of these
crimes. For this reason, be wary of all strangers, even those who represent
themselves as airport officials. Do not to pack valuable items or documents in
checked bags; instead, store such items in carry-on luggage. The Embassy has
also received occasional reports of airport officials (or individuals
representing themselves as airport officials) attempting to extort money from
travelers as part of the check-in or boarding process for departing flights.
In Venezuela, it is illegal to take
pictures of sensitive buildings, including the presidential palace, military
bases, government buildings, and airports. For more information, review OSAC’s report,
This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
more information, review OSAC’s report, Security
in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Safety and Road Conditions
regulations in Venezuela are similar to those in the United States, although
drivers seldom obey them. It is common practice to ignore red traffic lights,
especially after dark. Motorcyclists frequently weave in and out of lanes,
passing on the right and the left, and driving into the oncoming lane to get
around traffic congestion. Traffic in Caracas is heavy at most times of the day,
as an abundance of vehicles running on heavily subsidized gasoline (ten gallons
cost less than twenty-five U.S. cents), continue to fill the aging
infrastructure of the capital city beyond capacity.
traffic law mandates that individuals involved in a traffic accident not move
their vehicle from the roadway until the traffic police arrive on the scene. Due
to the lack of availability, police can sometimes take several hours to arrive,
those involved in an accident may just negotiate a settlement among themselves,
or simply leave the scene, rather than wait for the police to arrive. If you
are involved in an accident, remain at the scene unless you feel your life may
be in danger.
are a common sight on Venezuelan roads, especially during inter-city trips.
Officers from local police or Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) generally staff
the checkpoints. Stopping at checkpoints is mandatory; prepare to show vehicle
registration paperwork, along with proof of insurance and an identity document
(cedula or passport). Police or
guardsmen may search vehicles stopped at checkpoints.
Do not use
buses, even though they are plentiful and inexpensive, due to the high levels
of criminal activity.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has issued a notice prohibiting all flight operations in the territory
and airspace of Venezuela at altitudes below FL 260 by all U.S. air carriers
and commercial operators. The FAA previously assessed the government of
Venezuela’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Venezuela’s
air carrier operations. However, the FAA notice, released based on the current
situation, takes precedence. Find further information on the FAA’s safety
The U.S. Department of Transportation has
suspended all nonstop flights between
the United States and Venezuela, after the Department of Homeland Security
concluded that conditions in Venezuela threaten the safety and security of
passengers, aircraft, and crew traveling to or from the country.
Drug traffickers use the Maiquetía
airport as a transit point. CICPC and ONA frequently arrest travelers
attempting to smuggle illegal drugs out of the country. For this reason, among
others, do not accept packages from anyone, and keep your luggage with your at
Transit to and from the Maiquetía
airport is risky. Avoid using airport taxis; taxi drivers and their accomplices
have robbed or kidnapped a number of passengers, even when going from the
international terminal to the domestic terminal and vice versa. There have also
been occasional instances of armed individuals robbing airport shuttles
operated by local major hotels. For all these reasons, the Embassy requires its
U.S. direct-hire employees to travel to and from the airport in an armored
vehicle. Private travelers should prearrange airport pickup or drop-off with
reputable companies. When arriving on an incoming flight, set up a meeting
place inside the terminal where you can safely connect with the driver. Arrive
and depart during daylight hours when possible.
Exercise a heightened level of caution
in Venezuelan waters. Incidents of piracy off the coast of Venezuela remain a
concern. Anchoring off shore is not safe. Marinas, including those in Puerto la
Cruz and Margarita Island (Porlamar), provide only minimal security.
is a moderate risk from terrorism in Caracas. The Embassy is unaware of any
large-scale terrorist attacks or actions recently carried out in Venezuelan
territory. Prior reporting indicated that Venezuela maintains a permissive
environment that has allowed for support of activities that benefited known
terrorist groups. While individuals linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and Hizb’allah supporters
and sympathizers were all present in Venezuela, U.S. citizens in country are
not targets of these groups.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
is considerable risk from civil unrest in Caracas. Civil disruptions are common
in Venezuela in general, and particularly in Caracas. Demonstrations tend to
occur at or near university campuses or gathering places such as public squares
and plazas. In Caracas, the occasional unscheduled march through a busy
thoroughfare causes major traffic disruptions, and can bring traffic to a near
standstill. Candidates for political office call supporters to marches and
public gatherings during national and municipal elections. Venezuela
experiences protests and work stoppages by unions across both the public and
private sectors. Use extreme caution, and avoid large gatherings and
demonstrations wherever they occur.
Venezuela experienced a marked increase in civil unrest and spontaneous
protests because of the lack of food and/or basic services, including the lack
of electricity/public transportation, poor working conditions, and increased
One major area of concern is the
continued prominence of pro-government gang-militias known as colectivos. These gangs (e.g. “La
Piedrita,” Los Tupamaros,” and “Alexis Vive”) self-identify as socialist,
anti-capitalist, “anti-imperialist,” and Chavista. They are armed and have
expressed a willingness to use weapons to “defend Chavismo,” a radical
left-wing ideology based on the personality of former President Hugo Chavez; it
is not always clear what they identify as the threats facing Chavismo, or how
they would seek to defeat the threats. In recent elections, media outlets
reported incidents where pro-Chavista gangsters on motorcycles (known by the
Spanish word in Venezuela for motorcyclist, motorizado)
would surround voting centers in opposition-leaning neighborhoods to intimidate
voters. Clashes between these groups and local law enforcement are rare.
Religious and Ethnic Violence
There are no reports of religious
violence in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country; however, there are
occasional reports of violence against Venezuela’s small indigenous population.
These incidents are sporadic and unsystematic.
Venezuela is prone to earthquakes and
landslides. Several small seismic readings registered throughout Venezuela in
2018. The most significant recent incident was a 7.3 earthquake that shook the
northern coast of Venezuela on August 21, 2018. Its epicenter was in the
Yaguaraparo area in Sucre state, but shaking occurred throughout the region,
including parts of Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Guyana,
Barbados, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Suriname. The
Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for a radius of 300
kilometers around the epicenter of the quake, but none materialized.
Caracas is the economic and commercial
center of Venezuela, as well as its most populous city. As such, the city sees
its share of industrial and transportation-related accidents. Although vehicle
accidents involving the transportation of hazardous chemicals are rare, when
they occur, roadways can close for significant periods for cleanup activity. Because
of the mountainous terrain, tunnels are an essential way to navigate the city
In general, Venezuelan infrastructure
suffers from years of neglect and is deteriorating across the country. Bridges
occasionally collapse, and roads sometimes crumble or wash away, creating major
traffic disturbances in the affected region.
You will likely encounter individuals in
Venezuela willing to exchange bolivars for U.S. dollars at a rate significantly
more favorable than the official exchange rates. These black market currency
exchanges are illegal under Venezuelan foreign exchange controls. Authorities
may detain and charge travelers involved in such activity with criminal
The World Economic Forum’s 2017-2018 World
Competitiveness Report ranked Venezuela 127 out of 138 countries in
intellectual property protection. Venezuela again remained on the Priority
Watch List in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2018 Special 301 Report. Key concerns
cited in the report relate to questions about the consistency of domestic laws
and international obligations resulting from the 2008 reinstatement of the 1955
Industrial Property Law; the status of trademarks registered under the Andean
Community law prior to Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Andean Community; and
lack of enforcement against counterfeiting and piracy, both physical and
A lack of adequate resources for the
Venezuelan copyright and trademark enforcement police (COMANPI) and for the
special prosecutor's office hinders Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
protection. Because of a shortage of personnel, limited budget, and inadequate
storage facilities for seized goods, COMANPI has had to work with the
Bolivarian National Guard and private industry to enforce copyright laws. COMANPI
can only act based on a complaint by a copyright holder; it cannot carry out an
arrest or seizure on its own initiative. In the past, the Venezuelan
government’s tax authority (SENIAT) has been more successful at enforcing IPR
laws. It has taken action against some businesses importing or selling pirated
goods based on presumed tax evasion. While such actions on the part of SENIAT
have decreased over the past few years, SENIAT does continue to take action against
Copyright piracy and trademark
counterfeiting remain widespread, however, including piracy over the
Internet. Pirated software, music, and movies are readily available
throughout the country.
There is a significant risk of
kidnapping in Venezuela, especially in the border region between Venezuela and
Colombia where the FARC and the ELN operate with impunity. The State Department
recently added a kidnapping risk indicator to Venezuela’s Travel Advisory. For
more information, please review OSAC’s Report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of
LGBTI events in Venezuela.
does not have national standards for accessibility. Most buildings lack
accommodations for those with disabilities.
Drug trafficking is a serious problem in
Venezuela and treated as such by Venezuelan authorities. Convicted traffickers
receive lengthy prison sentences of usually eight to ten years. Lack of
international counternarcotic cooperation in Venezuela, along with a shift in
trafficking patterns in the region has made Venezuela one of the biggest
drug-transit countries in the region.
The continued presence of the ELN and
FARC in the border region between Venezuela and Colombia continues to be a
serious concern. Along with kidnapping and smuggling operations, both the ELN
and FARC use the drug trade to finance their operations. Groups not affiliated
with the FARC or ELN also engage in drug trafficking and other illicit
There is also evidence of involvement in
the drug trade by some high-level Venezuelan government officials. Throughout 2018,
several military officers were involved in drug traffic. Although the press
regularly reports on drug seizures, large quantities of illicit drugs continue
to flow through Venezuela to markets in the United States and Europe.
Police attempt to patrol most of
Caracas, but are unable to provide the coverage necessary to deter violent
crime, especially at night, and in the poorer areas of the city. While
investigative police follow-up is intermittent and they rarely catch perpetrators
of crimes, officers will generally respond to ongoing emergencies. Police
response is generally slow to crime scenes and traffic accidents; they often do
not arrive until many hours after the initial call.
Corruption, inadequate police training
and equipment, insufficient central government funding, and rapidly
deteriorating economic conditions dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the
security forces. Media reports often identify police abuse and police
involvement in crimes, including illegal and arbitrary detentions,
extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, and excessive use of force. The
extrajudicial actions of the police coincide with an increase in the lethality
of the police action and a lack of professionalism. Deaths of people at the
hands of the police or military authorities under the argument that they
resisted authority increased in a remarkable and worrying way.
Venezuelan government officials have
previously proposed increasing the budget for the military and local police in
an effort to combat the rapidly rising crime rate. Government critics remain
wary that it can deliver on the promise to better fund the military and police,
especially in a time when the Venezuelan economy continues to undergo rapid
inflation and an inability to secure foreign currency in order to import goods.
Police and Security Agencies
The Bolivarian National Police (PNB)
answers to the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace, and is responsible for
general crime prevention and patrolling around government buildings and
diplomatic facilities. Although it technically is a national police force,
outside of Caracas the PNB currently only operates in a few cities across six
states: Anzoátegui, Aragua, Carabobo, Lara, Táchira, and Zulia. Where it
operates, the PNB is the first responder for major demonstrations and riots, as
well as being responsible for traffic safety and patrolling major roads and
highways. The government plans to increase the size of the PNB so that it can
operate all across the country, but there is no clear timeline for the proposed
The Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) is
part of the Venezuelan armed forces and reports to the Defense Ministry. GNB
provides support for drug investigations and anti-drug operations while also
providing security at Venezuela’s borders, ports, and airports.
The Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigations
Corps (CICPC) is part of the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace. As
Venezuela’s main national investigative body, CICPC is roughly equivalent to
the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is responsible for investigating
most crimes (e.g. property crimes, violent crimes, fraud, and kidnapping). CICPC
has specialized units, similar to SWAT, responsible for dangerous arrests and
hostage situations. It also serves as Venezuela’s representative to INTERPOL.
Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) investigates crimes against
the government and provides protective details for government officials. SEBIN
has specialized tactical units, as well as an explosive ordnance disposal
capability. SEBIN also serves as the Venezuelan government’s civilian
intelligence and counterintelligence agency.
National Anti-drug Office (ONA) reports to the Ministry of Interior, Justice,
and Peace, and provides counter-narcotics intelligence and analysis support to
various other Venezuelan law enforcement agencies. It also supports drug
rehabilitation centers and coordinates the government’s anti-drug campaign.
How to Handle Incidents of Police
Detention or Harassment
Limited reports of harassment of U.S.
citizens by Venezuelan airport authorities and some segments of the police do
occur. Report any incident to the American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit at the
U.S. Embassy in Bogotá at ACSBogota@state.gov.
Crime Victim Assistance
If you are the victim of a crime,
contact local police using the designated emergency response number, 911. Operators speak Spanish.
medical infrastructure is quickly deteriorating in Venezuela and, as public
facilities fail, private clinics have become severely overtaxed and crowded. Seeing
a physician can be a trying experience, often requiring a minimum of several
hours in a waiting room. The government strictly controls medical supplies;
medicines and medical equipment availability at local facilities is
unpredictable at best and completely absent at worst.
There are many U.S.-trained and/or
English-speaking physicians available in Venezuela. Unfortunately, their staffs
often do not speak English. Private clinics/hospitals are the only recommended facilities.
For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s
Medical Assistance page.
consider supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation (medevac). Serious
medical conditions will require medevac to the United States. Ensure you have
sufficient quantities of all medications for the duration of your stay. Always
carry your prescription medication in original packaging with a doctor’s
Country-specific Vaccination and
water in Venezuela is not potable. Use bottled water for drinking and brushing
teeth. Avoid fruit you cannot peel, and all raw vegetables.
is an outbreak of measles in Venezuela. Venezuelan authorities have reported
confirmed cases of measles in nine states: Bolivar, Capital District, Miranda,
Monagas, Delta Amacuro, Apure, Anzoátegui, and Vargas. Immunization levels
among the local population have deteriorated seriously and all travelers should
ensure that they have received full series of all childhood immunizations
before arrival in Venezuela. Children who will be staying for prolonged periods
should have all immunizations up to date, as availability of immunizations in
Venezuela is sporadic. The CDC recommends that travelers to Venezuela have the
following up-to-date vaccinations at least four weeks before traveling to
Venezuela: measles/mumps/rubella (MMR); diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT); polio;
hepatitis A; hepatitis B; typhoid; rabies; and yellow fever (for travelers over
nine months of age. See CDC’s website for more information).
control measures have also deteriorated, and malaria cases have returned to
areas that had not had cases for many years. Check with CDC or other sources
for the need for malaria prophylaxis in the areas you are visiting. Other
mosquito borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, and Zika virus are highly
prevalent. Purchase CDC-recommended topical repellants before arrival in
The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for Venezuela.
Country Council Information
The Caracas Country Council meets
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin America team
with any questions.
Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas
suspended operations on March 13, 2019 and therefore cannot provide protection
or consular services to U.S. citizens in Venezuela.
U.S. citizens in Venezuela in need
of assistance, or those concerned about a U.S. citizen in Venezuela, should email
ACSBogota@state.gov or VenezuelaEmergencyUSC@state.gov;
or call 1-888-407-4747 (from the U.S. & Canada) or +1-202-501-4444 (from
U.S. citizens should register in the
Traveler's Enrollment Program (STEP). All travelers should check the
State Department's Travel Advisory for up to date information.
Additional Resource: Venezuela
Country Information Sheet