express kidnappings in la paz bolivia

WARDEN MESSAGE
U.S. EMBASSY LA PAZ, BOLIVIA
April 21, 2009

This warden message is being issued to inform U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Bolivia about “express kidnappings” and other recent kidnappings in the Zona Sur of La Paz.

Express Kidnappings are common in La Paz. The areas where these crimes are known to occur include Plaza Humbolt (Zona Sur), Plaza Abaroa, Plaza del Estudiante and Plaza Isabel La Catolica (all downtown).

Typically, the victim boards a taxi in which the driver is an accomplice. Once the victim is inside, an additional person or two (the kidnappers) board the vehicle. At this point, the victim is robbed of his/her belongings and/or driven to an ATM machine where he/she is forced to provide PIN numbers for debit and credit cards withdrawals.

To avoid becoming a victim, always call radio taxis instead of hailing a taxi off the street. Also avoid traveling alone, particularly if you are intoxicated or it’s late at night.

Kidnappings in Zona Sur – The U.S. Embassy has been informed of a number of recent kidnappings targeting private high school students in the Zona Sur. The victims either drive expensive vehicles or walk to/from home alone, often displaying valuables such as cellular phones, iPods, etc.

In these incidents, well-dressed individuals claiming to be government officials or agents approach the victims, present false credentials and advise the victims that they are under investigation for involvement in drug activity or other false crimes. They then force the students into cars, transport them to a safe house, contact the parents or family members and demand large ransoms. The parents or family members are threatened with death if they report the kidnappings to the police, causing most cases to go unreported. Victims have included both Bolivians and foreigners. The kidnappers are very professional and experienced.

U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register and update their contact information at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and/or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Registration may be done online and can be done in advance of travel. Information on registering may be found at the Department of State's Consular Affairs website: https://travelregistration.state.gov.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current worldwide caution, travel warnings and travel alerts can be found. Additional information is available in the country specific information for Bolivia at http://travel.state.gov and on the embassy web page at http://bolivia.usembassy.gov.

Current information on travel and security in Bolivia may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or, from overseas, 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). U.S. citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to register with the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate on the State Department's travel registration web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov.

U.S. citizens may contact the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, via e-mail at consularlapaz@state.gov or by telephone at (591-2) 216-8297 during business hours (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or (591-2) 216-8500 after hours and on weekends. The consular section is located in the U.S. Embassy at 2780 Arce Avenue in La Paz, Bolivia, and is open to the public (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 8 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.). The Santa Cruz consular agency can be reached by telephone at (591-3) 351-3477, and the Cochabamba consular agency can be reached by telephone at (591-4) 411-6313.

We hope this information is useful to you. If we may provide further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

American Citizen Services Unit

U.S. Embassy La Paz, Bolivia

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