Guatemala Public Announcement
Issued by US Department of State
Oct 31, 2004
This Public Announcement is being issued to remind U.S. citizens of the serious security situation in Guatemala. Although the majority of tourists visit without mishap,violent criminal activity on the highways in Guatemala has increased. Crimes against foreigners have included murder, rape, and armed robbery, increasingly in conjunction with highway banditry. This Public Announcement expires on May 1, 2005.
Although the majority of tourists visit without mishap, violent criminal activity on the highways in Guatemala has increased and tourists, among others, have been targeted. Buses of all categories, tour vans and private vehicles have been stopped, with drivers and passengers robbed, sometimes with violent results. Armed robbers have intercepted vehicles on main roads in broad daylight. Crimes against foreigners have included murder, rape, and armed robbery, increasingly in conjunction with highway banditry. Recent cases of highway banditry have included the rape of women and female minors.
The police force suffers from corruption, inexperience and lack of funds, and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient. Criminals, armed with an impressive array of weapons, know there is little chance they will be caught and punished. In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating some elements of the police might be involved. In several recent cases, the assault occurred within minutes of the tourists vehicle being stopped by the police. Gangs are also a growing concern, both in Guatemala City and in rural Guatemala. Gang members are often well-armed and they sometimes use unprovoked violence. Gang members are believed to be responsible for a substantial increase of frequently violent robberies on inter- and intra-city buses that resemble U.S. school buses; U.S. Mission personnel are not permitted to travel on these buses. Mission personnel continue to observe heightened security precautions in Guatemala City and on the roads outside the capital city.
U.S. citizens are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when traveling in Guatemala. Criminals look for every opportunity, so all travelers should remain constantly vigilant and take appropriate measures to limit risk and losses. Any perception by assailants of resistance by victims may provoke a violent response. The most common highway robberies involve pickup trucks pulling up next to the victims moving vehicle with occupants brandishing weapons, or isolated roads being blocked and the tourists vehicle forced to stop. Travel on secondary roads increases the risk of a criminal roadblock; robbers have used mountain roads advantageously to stop buses, vans and cars in a variety of ways.
U.S. citizens who are victims of crime are urged to contact the Consular Section of the Embassy for advice and assistance. U.S. citizens should update their contact information at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_registration.html or at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City. The Embassy is located at Ave. la Reforma 7-01, Zona 10. The Embassy telephone number is (502) 2331-1541, the fax for the office of American Citizen Services is (502) 2332-4353, the Embassy website is http://usembassy.state.gov/guatemala/, and the e-mail address is: [email protected]
More information about tourist security is available from the Tourist Protection Office of INGUAT (the Guatemalan Tourist Board) at 7a Avenida 1-17, Zona 4 Centro Cívico, Ciudad de Guatemala. The direct telephone line for tourist assistance is (502) 2-421-2810, the PBX is (502) 2-421-2879, and the fax is (502) 2-421-2891. The e-mail addresses are [email protected] or [email protected] For emergencies, INGUAT may be reached 24 hours, seven days a week at (502) 5202-5389. Tourist groups may request security assistance from INGUAT, Attention: Coordinator of the National Tourist Assistance Program. The request should be submitted by fax, e-mail, or special messenger service and should arrive at INGUAT at least three business days in advance of the proposed travel, giving the itinerary, names of travelers, and model and color of vehicle in which they will be traveling.
Updated information on travel and security for Guatemala may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the U.S., or from overseas, 1-317-472-2328. U.S. citizens should consult the Consular Information Sheet for Guatemala, the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, and the travel publication "A Safe Trip Abroad," all of which are available on the State Department's Internet site at http://travel.state.gov.