By Christopher Condon
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton urged Haitian officials and politicians to “respect and protect their democracy” in a Twitter post that follows escalating unrest in the Caribbean nation.
Bolton said he’d met on Friday with Foreign Minister Edmond Bocchit to express U.S. support for Haiti.
I met with Haitian Foreign Minister @BocchitEdmond yesterday to express the United States’ enduring support for and friendship with Haiti. We urge all of Haiti’s political actors to respect and protect their democracy, engage in dialogue, and put an end to the political violence.— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) February 16, 2019
The State Department issued a do-not-travel advisory on Thursday, its highest threat level, warning U.S. citizens against visiting Haiti due to “crime and civil unrest,” and announcing the evacuation of non-emergency U.S. personnel and their families from the country.
“Protests, tire burning, and road blockages are frequent and unpredictable. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common,” State said in its advisory. “Emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent.”
The advisory was updated on Friday, advising all U.S. citizens who remained in Haiti “to strongly consider departing as soon as they safely can do so,” and providing advice on what to do if they encounter demonstrations or roadblocks.
Haitian protesters, driven to the streets by anger over corruption and rampant inflation, have called for the resignation of President Jovenal Moise, who’s refused to step down. The protesters have blocked streets, causing businesses to close and triggering a growing shortage of fuel, food and medical supplies, according to multiple reports.
The unrest also appears to be accompanied by growing criminal activity.
“Travelers are sometimes targeted, followed and violently attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport,” the State Department said.
The U.S. Department of Commerce says tourism reportedly accounts for about 5 percent of Haiti’s economy. The country’s government has made expanding tourism a priority; many of those visiting from abroad are traveling with international aid organizations and non-profits.