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Haiti Unrest Spurs US to Authorize Departure of Embassy Employees - 2004-01-31

The United States has authorized the voluntary departure of non-essential embassy employees and diplomatic dependents from Haiti because of political unrest in the Caribbean country. The announcement was coupled with a new travel warning advising Americans to defer travel to Haiti.

Announcement of the "authorized departure" of diplomatic personnel came in an updated U.S. travel warning for Haiti, which cautioned Americans about the potential for violent confrontations between forces loyal to embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his political opponents.

It said Haiti's security environment "has been deteriorating" as Mr. Aristide has continued to politicize the national police, and used government resources to pay for violent gangs to attack opposition demonstrators."

It said the government has not been able to maintain order in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and in other cities and said Americans should be vigilant about their personal security, and mindful that the U.S. embassy's ability to assist them is very limited.

Haiti has been in political stalemate since disputed elections in 2000. The United States has urged Mr. Aristide to support reconciliation efforts led by the country's Roman Catholic church leaders.