According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Venezuela has been assessed as Level 3: reconsider travel.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Caracas does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Caracas as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Please review OSAC’s Venezuela-specific webpage for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
Venezuela remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries; the notable deterioration in quality of life for Venezuelan citizens over the course of 2017 contributed to a dire situation in which over 73 Venezuelans died a violent death every day.
While official crime figures are not released by government officials, unofficial statistics indicate that most categories of crime increased in 2017. The government of Venezuela often attempts to refute or repudiate reports of increasing crime and murder rates; however, independent observers widely reject these claims. The majority of Caracas’ crime and violence remains attributed to mobile street gangs and organized crime groups. Caracas is notorious for the brazenness of high-profile violent crimes (murder, robbery, kidnapping) perpetrated in neighborhoods across the city, at all hours. In 2017, the Mexican think tank Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice listed four locations in Venezuela among the world’s top 10 most dangerous cities; Caracas was listed as number one, with Maturin, Ciudad Guayana, and Valencia listed as numbers six, eight, and nine, respectively.
Violent crime is the greatest threat in Caracas, affecting local Venezuelans and foreigners alike. Venezuelan NGO Observatory of Violence (OVV) listed Venezuela as the second most murderous nation after El Salvador. The OVV has tracked violence through police sources and media reporting. In its annual report, OVV stated that Venezuela had over 26,616 homicides in 2017, a rate of 89 per 100,000 inhabitants. This number is down from OVV’s reported tally of 28,479 homicides in 2016, and according to OVV one potential factor for this decline was the regime’s widespread deployment of security forces to counter (and prevent) protest activity between April and August, with the assumption being that an increased security profile may have tangentially diminished criminal activity in certain areas.
2017 was also a deadly one for law enforcement. Unofficial statistics indicate that 236 police officers and law enforcement personnel were killed countrywide, many of whom were victims of targeted assassination. These acts usually occur to gain access to the victim’s weapon/s and ammunition, further fueling criminal activity. Factors attributed to pervasive criminality include:
poorly paid, poorly trained, under-equipped, and often corrupt police force;
an inefficient and politicized judicial system;
a system of violent and largely overcrowded prisons that are under the control of prison gang leaders;
country-wide availability of millions of illegal weapons.
U.S. Embassy locally employed staff often report being victims of armed robberies and carjacking. There is no indication that American citizens or U.S. Embassy-affiliated personnel are specifically targeted for crime because of their nationality or official status.
The poorest areas (barrios, ranchos) frequently provide safe havens for criminal gangs. A majority of violent crimes occur in these areas, but criminal “ownership” of some of these neighborhoods often prevents police from entering. In many areas, police presence is only observed after an incident has occurred. High levels of vehicle ownership and the continuing negligible cost of fuel permit criminals the mobility to operate more widely in affluent areas so that wealthier victims can be targeted. In fact, relatively affluent residential neighborhoods in Caracas -- Chacao, Baruta, and El Hatillo (where many government leaders, professionals, businesspeople, and foreign diplomats reside) -- saw regular incidents of kidnapping, home invasion, and armed robbery in 2017.
After homicide, the crimes of greatest concern in Caracas are kidnapping and robbery, including carjacking, street robbery, and home invasions. Kidnappings and robberies often become homicides, as victims who resist are routinely killed. It is generally advised to not resist attempted robberies or kidnappings.
Robberies, particularly street robberies, occur throughout Caracas. Armed criminals target pedestrians (standing or walking along the side of a road) and motorists (parked or stopped in traffic). Often, criminals operate from a motorcycle, pulling up alongside their victim while brandishing a firearm and demanding valuables.
Robberies (and scams) continue to occur at public ATMs. ATMs inside hotels and banks are considered safer, as is withdrawing money from inside a bank via a teller. However, there have been several reported incidents involving victims who were robbed, and sometimes killed, after making large withdrawals while still inside banks. This suggests close surveillance of banks and/or possibly complicit bank employees. Robberies at banks and ATMs are increasingly common during the holiday season.
Pickpockets and grab artists operate throughout the greater Caracas metropolitan area but are especially active inside and surrounding bus and metro terminals and in the historic downtown city center, in the areas of Plaza Simón Bolívar, the Capitólio, the Sabana Grande neighborhood, and Parque Los Caobos.
Carjackings remain a serious concern. Carjackings are most likely to occur during evening and nighttime hours and increasingly involve newer SUVs, especially with four-wheel drive. Carjacking victims have included business executives and foreign diplomats in Caracas, though in 2017 no U.S. diplomats were victims of carjacking.
Home invasions continued to occur routinely in Caracas in 2017. Home invaders primarily used one of two tactics.
An individual or small group targets an abode, convincing the doorman (vigilante), maid, and/or resident that they are performing some service (home goods delivery, a telephone installation). Once inside the home, criminals brandish weapons, threaten the occupants, and steal valuables. This tactic sometimes involves an insider who tips off the criminals to the presence of valuables and/or helps them to scam their way into the home.
The second tactic involves groups of heavily-armed criminals forcing their way into an abode. This approach can be carried out by threatening the doorman, accosting the victim as s/he waits to enter the building, or “piggy backing” behind the victim (following close behind as the victim drives into his/her protected garage or parking area).
Home invasions are often accompanied by gratuitous violence. Victims are often selected because of their perceived wealth, either from the home or neighborhood where they live or the car they drive. The Embassy advises that all family members, domestic staff, and doormen be instructed not to open doors or accept deliveries from unknown/unexpected strangers. The Embassy also recommends that all houses and apartments have a working alarm system, bars on windows, and solid external doors with a deadbolt-type lock. There is no evidence to indicate criminals are specifically targeting U.S. citizens.
Use extreme caution when using international credit cards. Credit card fraud has been reported even at respected local restaurants and major hotel chains in Caracas.
Other Areas of Concern
Border security at ports of entry remains vulnerable and susceptible to corruption; cross-border violence, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and smuggling.
In 2015, the land border between Colombia and Venezuela was closed due to political, economic, and security disputes. Brief periods of controlled openings along the border with Colombia occurred in 2016 that resulted in thousands of Venezuelan national pedestrians crossing into Colombia to search for food. In 2017, this situation worsened when unprecedented protest activity and a spiraling economic crisis led to severe shortages of food, medicine, and other staples. In a humanitarian effort, the Colombian government introduced ‘border mobility cards’ to allow Venezuelans free access across the border without the use of a passport. As of December 2017, some 1.3 million people had applied, and according to Colombian migration authorities 37,000 people used the card in 2017. According to official statistics, at least 300,000 Venezuelans have permanently migrated to Colombia; however, many suspect the actual number to be much higher.
The notoriously porous border Venezuela shares with Guyana became a point of contention in 2017, with a noted up-tick in violent attacks ostensibly perpetrated by Venezuelan crime gangs. Assaults, robberies, extortion, and murders have been reported in towns on both sides of this border as well.
Additionally, due to security concerns, continued FARC and ELN activity, and the presence of fuel smugglers/organized criminal groups along the border, embassy employees are prohibited from traveling within 50 miles of the Venezuelan-Colombian border without prior Chief of Mission authorization.
The Embassy prohibits American employees from traveling to certain neighborhoods (barrios) of Caracas without special permission, including Petare, 23 de Enero, and Las Minas. These neighborhoods are some of the highest crime areas, and law enforcement is known to patrol these areas with less frequency. Because of safety and security concerns, the following neighborhoods of Caracas are off-limits to American 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.
For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Driving regulations are similar to those in the U.S., although drivers seldom obey them. Defensive driving is an absolute necessity. It is common practice to ignore red traffic lights, especially after dark. Traffic in Caracas is heavy most of the day, as an abundance of vehicles running on heavily-subsidized gasoline (a gallon costs about $0.0001) continue to fill aging infrastructure beyond capacity. Such overuse produces wear-and-tear on roads that authorities are often slow to fix. Road damage is often marked with a pile of rocks over a pothole or a stick protruding from an uncovered manhole. Traffic fatalities remain a common occurrence, given the poor state of the roads and local aggressive/reckless driving habits.
Venezuelan traffic law mandates that individuals involved in a traffic accident not move their vehicles until the traffic police arrive. Due to the lack of availability, police can take several hours to arrive, and those involved in the accident have been known to negotiate a settlement among themselves or simply leave the scene rather than wait for the police. Nonetheless, it is strongly recommended that people involved in an accident remain at the scene unless they feel their life may be in danger.
Motorcyclists frequently weave in/out of lanes, pass on either side, drive between the lanes on freeways, and drive into the oncoming lane to get around traffic congestion. Traffic accidents involving motorcycles are extremely common due to the reckless manner in which they are operated and due to failure to use safety equipment. Occasionally, groups of motorcycle operators will congregate around the scene of an accident involving another motorcyclist. Depending on the severity and circumstances, these instances have the potential to escalate into a dangerous situation for the occupants of the other vehicle involved, even if they were not at fault.
Checkpoints are common, especially during inter-city trips. They are generally operated either by local police or by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB). Stopping at checkpoints is mandatory, and drivers should be prepared to show vehicle registration paperwork, proof of insurance, and an identity document (cédula, passport). Police or guardsmen may search vehicles stopped at checkpoints.
Because roads are poorly maintained and roadside assistance in inter-city areas is extremely limited, travelers should ensure that their vehicle is in good working order before departing on a trip. Gas stations are occasionally without fuel or unexpectedly closed. Drivers should plan ahead and not permit the fuel tank to fall below half a tank. Drivers may consider bringing along extra fuel in case of emergency but should investigate its safe transport.
For these reasons and increased criminal activity after dark, the Embassy strongly advises against inter-city travel after dark. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Venezuelans travel in large numbers before, during, and immediately after their major civil and religious holidays (Carnival, Easter, Christmas, New Year’s Day, etc.). During such times, roads are more congested, and travelers should anticipate increased delays.
Public Transportation Conditions
Only use legitimate radio-dispatched taxis at designated taxi stands or have your hotel call a reputable taxi company directly. Most mall (centro commercial) taxis have also generally been reliable. Do not hail a taxi on the street.
Criminal activity at the Maiquetía Simón Bolívar International Airport is significant. Arriving and departing travelers have been victims of thefts, muggings, and even targeted murders. The Embassy has received credible reports that individuals in official uniforms or bearing realistic (or real) credentials have been involved in crimes. Travelers should be wary of all strangers, even those who represent themselves as airport officials. Travelers are also urged not to pack valuable items or documents in their checked bags. The Embassy has 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.
Drug traffickers use the Maiquetía airport as a transit point, and CICPC and ONA frequently arrest travelers attempting to smuggle illegal drugs. Travelers should not accept packages from anyone and should keep their luggage with them.
Transit to/from the airport is risky. Use of airport taxis is strongly discouraged, as a number of travelers in airport taxis have been robbed or kidnapped by taxi drivers and their accomplices. Travelers have even been robbed when taking a taxi between the international and domestic terminals. There have also been occasional instances of airport shuttles operated by local major hotels being robbed by armed individuals. The Embassy requires its U.S. direct hire employees to travel to/from the airport in an armored vehicle. Private travelers are encouraged to prearrange airport pick-up or drop-off with reputable companies. When arriving, travelers should set up a meeting place inside the terminal where they can safely connect with their driver. The Embassy encourages travelers to arrive/depart during daylight hours when possible.
During its October 2017 airport security assessment, TSA concluded that the three Venezuelan airports that are departure points for direct flights to the U.S. (Caracas, Barcelona, and Maracaibo) met recognized international safety standards. Passengers flying directly from Venezuela to the U.S. are required to pass through an additional security screening immediately before boarding.
Though the Venezuelan government continues to announce its desire to improve civil aviation, the sector remains deficient in many ways. The average age of its domestic fleet is 25 years, and there have been several aviation accidents in recent years. The majority of these accidents have resulted from equipment failures due to poor maintenance and unavailability of spare parts.
In addition to technical shortcomings and constraints surrounding its airline industry, Venezuela grappled with a bevy of companies reducing or outright ceasing their flights due to increasing security and logistical concerns. 11 international airlines have suspended service over the past 4 years, including:
Avianca and Delta airlines: ceased service to Venezuela in July and September 2017, respectively, claiming that their operations were at risk due to infrastructure and security failures in-country.
United Airlines: ceased service as of July 2017, citing falling ticket sales.
Lufthansa: ceased service in June 2016.
Latam Airlines: announced the suspension of its operations in Venezuela in May 2016.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Caracas as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The Embassy is unaware of any large-scale terrorist attacks or actions recently carried out in Venezuelan territory. Prior reporting has indicated that Venezuela maintains a permissive environment that has benefited known terrorist groups. While Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), and Hezbollah supporters and sympathizers were present in-country, Americans are not believed to be targets of these groups.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Caracas as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
In the violence-prone lead-up to the July 30 election and later installment of the illegal and all-powerful National Constituent Assembly, the U.S. Department of State, in an abundance of caution, ordered the departure of non-emergency employees and their family members from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. The order was not reversed until late October 2017.
In 2017, Venezuela experienced a record-setting number of protests and widespread unrest, spurred by the country’s opposition parties calling for democratic change and compounded by food and medicine shortages and inflation. Venezuelan NGO Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS) tallied at least 9,787 protests in 2017; an average of 27 daily protests country-wide and an increase of 41% over 2016’s total. Many of these anti-government protests - staged daily between April and August - devolved into violent clashes with riot police, with thousands arrested, hundreds injured, and over 160 killed.
This backdrop of violence and discontent coincided with the government of Venezuela's further erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence, arbitrary arrest/detention of antigovernment protestors, economic mismanagement, and an exacerbated presence of significant government corruption.
Although the four months of continuous violent protests largely ceased by mid-August, civil disruptions remain common; the political and security situation, particularly outside of Caracas, is unpredictable and can change quickly. Scarcity of food, water, power and basic consumer goods often results in spontaneous riots and/or lootings of stores and transport vehicles.
Another major area of concern is the continued prominence of pro-government gang-militias (colectivos). These colectivos (La Piedrita, Los Tupamaros, Alexis Vive) self-identify as socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and Chavista. They are well-armed and have expressed a willingness to use their arms to defend Chavismo. During elections in recent years, media outlets reported incidents in which pro-Chavista gangsters on motorcycles (motorizado) would surround voting centers in opposition-leaning neighborhoods to intimidate voters. Clashes between these groups and local law enforcement are rare.
In July 2017, colectivos and other supporters of President Nicolas Maduro stormed the Federal Legislative Palace armed with pipes, firearms, and fireworks, eventually making their way inside the legislative palace and assaulting legislators. After hours of brawling, during which time many opposition officials were beaten, the National Guard finally withdrew the perpetrators from the grounds.
In April 2017, two young protesters were shot and killed, allegedly by members of colectivos, while they were participating in a ‘megamarch’ organized by the opposition.
In October 2014, a major gun battle erupted between colectivos and police officials in downtown Caracas when police attempted to arrest a principal leader of the group. The gun battle resulted in the killing of one of the prominent leaders, after which the colectivos called for the arrest of the police for improper arrest procedures. In addition, during the course of the incident, the colectivos took two police officers as hostages.
Caracas has a high permanent seismic threat due to its geological characteristics: a fault that covers the entire north slope of the Guaire River, full of alluvial deposits, which has caused earthquakes of significant scale since 1892.
A magnitude 4.5 quake struck Venezuela in August 2017. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of the buildings in Caracas lack the necessary reinforcements to withstand a serious earthquake, and local emergency services would likely be overwhelmed in such an event.
Landslides are common during and following major rainstorms. Although there has not been a major landslide tragedy since December 1999, landslides continue to kill, and the unrestricted and uncontrolled nature of development in some parts of the country seems likely to exacerbate the risk.
Information about earthquakes, landslides, and other natural disasters can be found on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website.
In general, Venezuelan infrastructure has suffered years of neglect and is deteriorating across the country. Caracas 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 be shut down for significant periods while cleanup takes place. Because of the mountainous terrain, tunnels are an essential way to navigate Caracas. When accidents occur inside these tunnels, the flow of traffic can be blocked or severely restricted for hours.
Bridges occasionally collapse, and roads sometimes crumble or are washed away, creating major traffic disturbances in the affected region. A frequently used bridge collapsed in the La Guiara area, temporarily cutting off one commonly-used road to and from Caracas.
The World Economic Forum’s World Competitiveness Report 2017-2018 ranked Venezuela last out of 137 countries in intellectual property protection.
Venezuela remained on the Priority Watch List in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2017 Special 301 Report. Key concerns cited in the report include 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 that were registered under the Andean Community law prior to Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Andean Community; and lack of enforcement against physical and online counterfeiting and piracy. Intellectual property rights (IPR) protection remains hindered by the lack of adequate resources for the Venezuelan copyright and trademark enforcement police (COMANPI) and for the special IPR prosecutor's office. 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. 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 SENIAT actions have decreased over the past few years, SENIAT does continue to take action against pirated goods. Copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting remain widespread, however, including piracy over the internet. Pirated software, music, and movies are also readily available.
The Embassy is unaware of any confirmed cases of industrial espionage in Venezuela.
The constitution provides for the inviolability of the home and personal privacy, but government authorities increasingly infringe on citizens’ privacy rights by searching homes without judicial authorization, seizing properties without due process, or interfering in personal communications.
Personal Identity Concerns
Journalists must possess the appropriate accreditation and work visa from the authorities before arriving. International journalists are closely scrutinized and have been expelled/detained for lacking appropriate permissions to work in Venezuela or for participating in what could be seen as anti-government activity, including observing and reporting on public health facilities.
The border area between Venezuela and Colombia remains dangerous due to the continued presence of the ELN and dissident rebels from the FARC. Along with kidnapping and smuggling operations, members of both groups use the drug trade to finance their operations. Other groups also engage in drug trafficking and other illicit activities. Lack of international counternarcotic cooperation in Venezuela and a shift in regional trafficking patterns has made Venezuela one of the biggest drug-transit countries in the region. There is evidence of involvement in the drug trade by some high-level Venezuelan government officials.
In February 2017, the U.S. Treasury designated Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami as a “Foreign Narcotics Kingpin” who has overseen and even partially owned narcotics shipments from Venezuela to the U.S. Such a designation indicates his assets in the U.S. are now frozen, and U.S. citizens are barred from doing business with him.
In November 2015, two Venezuelan citizens, later identified as nephews of the Venezuelan First Lady, were extradited to the U.S. and convicted in November 2016 of conspiring to smuggle more than 800 kilograms of cocaine to the U.S.
Although the press regularly reports seizures by Venezuelan law enforcement, large quantities of illicit drugs continue to flow through Venezuela to markets in the U.S. and Europe.
Kidnapping remains a major criminal industry. Kidnappings in Caracas happen primarily during the nighttime hours but are not uncommon during the day. The Venezuelan government does not officially track kidnappings, but it is believed that kidnapping cases remained constant during 2017, as with 2016. Criminologists continue to report that 80% or more of kidnappings go unreported to officials for fear of retaliation by kidnappers and include “express kidnappings” and traditional kidnappings for ransom.
Investigations by the Criminal, Penal, and Scientific Investigation Bureau (CICPC) have identified multiple heavily-armed criminal gangs specializing in express kidnappings that operate in the wealthier neighborhoods of Caracas. CICPC’s specialized unit aimed at combating kidnapping has had limited successes but has failed to reduce significantly the number of kidnapping incidents. Kidnappers continue to operate with little fear of arrest, prosecution, or incarceration. Police officers and security officials are often implicated in acts of kidnapping and other crimes.
In September 2017, a U.S. Embassy local guard was kidnapped in Caracas while patrolling in a diplomatic-plated vehicle with a colleague in a neighborhood near the Embassy. A Venezuelan national, he was released unharmed two days later. As a direct result of this kidnapping, the street from which he was abducted (‘Calle A,’ which runs through La Alameda neighborhood) was deemed off-limits for Embassy employees and their families for a period.
A majority of kidnappings are “express kidnappings” that usually last less than 48 hours (sometimes as short as two hours). Victims have been driven around by their kidnappers and forced to withdraw cash from multiple ATMs until the account balances were zero or the card was locked by the bank. However, changes in Venezuelan law and banking practices have restricted daily withdrawal amounts, making the old practice less lucrative. In recent years, it has become more common for kidnappers to drive their victims around for several hours, disorienting the victim and giving the victim’s family/friends time to gather a ransom payment. Paying a ransom is against Venezuelan law.
Kidnappings frequently occur in front of victims’ homes, while they are leaving hotels, when using unauthorized taxis from Maiquetía “Simón Bolívar” International Airport, and when walking in wealthier areas with limited vehicle and foot traffic.
The Embassy also has received reports of virtual and inside kidnappings. Virtual kidnappings occur when family and/or friends are persuaded to a pay a ransom by scammers using information about a “victim” whom they have supposedly kidnapped. Inside kidnappings occur when an insider, usually a domestic employee, is paid or promised a share of the proceeds in exchange for keys or information to facilitate a kidnapping.
For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”
Police attempt to patrol most of Caracas but are unable to provide coverage to deter violent crime, especially at night and in poorer areas. While investigative follow-up is intermittent and perpetrators of crimes are rarely caught, the police will generally respond to ongoing emergency situations. Police often do not arrive until many hours after a call to crime scenes and traffic accidents.
Corruption, inadequate police training/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 involvement in crimes, including illegal/arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, and excessive use of force.
Venezuelan government officials have proposed increasing the budget for the military and local police 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 national economy continues to undergo rapid inflation and an inability to secure foreign currency in order to import goods.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Harassment of U.S. citizens by Venezuelan airport authorities and some segments of the police is limited but does occur. Any incident should be reported to American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit at the U.S. Embassy, which can be reached at +58 (212) 975-6411 or by e-mail.
Crime Victim Assistance
If you are the victim of a crime, contact local police at 911 or 0800-POLINAC (7654622). The latter is a National Police Emergency Command Center hotline. These calls will not be answered by English speakers; Venezuela’s national language is Spanish.
The Bolivarian National Police (PNB) answers to the Ministry of Popular Power for Interior, Justice and Peace and is responsible for general crime prevention and patrolling around government buildings and diplomatic facilities. Although a national police force, the PNB 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 and is responsible for traffic safety and patrolling major roads and highways in the country. The government plans to increase the size of the PNB so that it can operate across the country, but there is no clear timeline for the proposed expansion.
The Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) is part of the Venezuelan armed forces and reports to the Ministry of Popular Power for Defense. They provide support for drug investigations and anti-drug operations while also providing security at borders, ports, and airports.
Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas (CICPC) is part of the Ministry Interior, Justice and Peace. As the main national investigative body, CICPC is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is responsible for investigating most crimes (property crimes, violent crimes, fraud, kidnapping). CICPC has specialized units, similar to SWAT, responsible for dangerous arrests and hostage situations. It also serves as Venezuela’s representative to INTERPOL.
SEBIN (Bolivarian National Intelligence Service or Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional) serves as a counter-intelligence force, investigating crimes against the government and providing protective details for government officials. SEBIN has specialized tactical units, as well as an explosive ordinance disposal capability. SEBIN also serves as the government’s civilian intelligence and counterintelligence agency.
The National Antidrug Office (ONA) reports to the Ministry of Popular Power for 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.
Many U.S.-trained and/or English-speaking physicians left the country in 2017. Nevertheless, Venezuela still offers a significant pool of trusted providers. Health clinic and hospital personnel usually do not speak English. The medical infrastructure is quickly deteriorating, and all public facilities have been impacted. Private clinics are struggling to maintain operations and quality, an effort compounded by the difficulty of finding supplies as well as hyperinflation, which severely affects insurance coverage. Hospitals are being underused. Most offices work on a first-come first-serve basis. Long wait times are common; however, this may subside as an increasing number of patients lack the financial wherewithal to pay for medical visits. Medical supplies are strictly controlled by the government; medicines and medical equipment availability at local facilities is unpredictable at best and completely absent at worst.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Private clinics/hospitals are the only facilities advised to be used by U.S. government personnel.
For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Av. Libertador, Edf. 75 Ofic. PH-2B
Telephone: +58 (212) 761-6998
Av. Venezuela, Edf. EXA, PB Local 17
Telephone: +58 (212) 953-1195
Telephone: +58 (212) 731-0930; +58 (414) 183-9519; +58 (416) 805-0150; +58 (412) 024-2845
Av. Orionoco and Calle Mucuchies Centro Médico
Telephone: +58 (212) 992-3665
Rescarven (private ambulance)
Telephone: +58 (212) 610-0000
Salud Baruta (public ambulance)
Telephone: +58 (212) 944-2357 and 171
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Tap water is not considered potable; therefore, bottled water should be used for drinking and brushing teeth. Travelers are also advised to avoid fruit that cannot be peeled and all raw vegetables.
The CDC recommends that travelers ensure they have the following up-to-date vaccinations at least four weeks before traveling: measles/mumps/rubella (MMR); diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT); polio; hepatitis A and B; typhoid; rabies; and yellow fever (only for travelers over nine months of age).
Travelers should also be aware that dengue fever and malaria are endemic in some parts of Venezuela. Cases of Zika and chikungunya decreased in 2017; however, as of early 2018, dengue incidents were on the rise. In 2016, there were also outbreaks of chikungunya and Zika reported throughout Venezuela. Given the presence of these mosquito-borne illnesses, protective measures such as insect repellent and mosquito nets are advised. Travelers to malaria-prone regions will want to procure antimalarial drugs before arriving.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Venezuela.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Caracas Country Council is active and meets on a monthly basis. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
Calle F and Calle Suapure
Urbanización Colinas de Valle Arriba
Baruta, Miranda, Venezuela
The Embassy is open Mon-Fri, 0800-1700, except for Venezuelan and American holidays
Embassy Contact Numbers
Embassy Operator: +58 (212) 975-6411
Marine Post One: +58 (212) 907-8400
The after-hours Embassy Duty Officer can be reached by calling Marine Post One.
U.S. citizens may be detained/deported by immigration officials for not complying with visa or immigration regulations. U.S. citizens must have a valid visa that is appropriate for their specific type of travel.
U.S. citizens traveling to Venezuela should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.
Venezuela Country Information Sheet