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Travel Advisory

Robbery, Murder Risk in Guatemala

January 25, 1998|EDWARD WRIGHT | Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

Central America

Guatemala: Americans were murdered, raped and robbed in recent weeks here, adding to Guatemala's reputation as one of Central America's most violent countries:

* An American woman who lived in Guatemala was found shot to death a week after being kidnapped in a town 70 miles west of Guatemala City. Her 6-week-old daughter, also abducted, died after being abandoned by the kidnappers.

* Five American women were raped after their bus was ambushed by gunmen on Guatemala's Pacific Coast highway about 40 miles southwest of Guatemala City. The bus carried 16 students and teachers from St. Mary's College in Maryland, and all were robbed.

* Four members of an American family, driving a rental car, were robbed and assaulted by a gang of armed men in three pickup trucks on Guatemala's Atlantic Coast highway.

* Several American tourists have told the U.S. Embassy of being robbed at gunpoint in the Guatemalan resort town of Panajachel.

Violent crimes against U.S. citizens are increasing in Guatemala, the State Department warns, and victims often complain of inadequate assistance from the police.

Africa

South Africa: At least four foreigners were among the recent victims of violent crime in South Africa, according to media reports:

* An American from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and his South African girlfriend were found shot to death hours after they drove away from Cape Town's trendy Victoria and Albert Waterfront. Two other South African couples were also murdered within a two-day period in Cape Town.

* A German tourist was stabbed to death in front of his two sons as they walked along the Durban beach shortly after midnight.

* Two Swiss sisters were mugged in Kruger National Park and robbed of valuables.

Crime "is reported on a routine basis" in South Africa, the State Department says in its standing consular information sheet on the country. Travelers should be especially careful in areas around hotels and transportation centers.

Asia

Indonesia: A plunge in the value of Indonesia's currency earlier this month led to fears of civil unrest, and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta cautioned Americans to avoid any demonstrations. The Indonesian military was put on alert against the possibility of rioting, and there were reports of panic buying and hoarding. Times correspondent Maggie Farley reported from Jakarta that ethnic Chinese, who control much of Indonesia's wealth, have been targets of violence. Many Americans and other expatriates, she said, have been preparing for the worst by stockpiling food and making arrangements for plane tickets and exit documents in case they are needed.

Briefly . . .

Bahamas: A British tourist was shot to death in the parking lot of a popular restaurant in Freeport during an apparent attempted robbery. . . . China: On two occasions in recent months, Americans who took taxis from Shanghai's Hard Rock Cafe were driven to isolated spots where at least half a dozen assailants robbed them of money and credit cards, according to the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai.

Hot spots: Citing a deteriorating security situation, the State Department has added Tajikistan to its list of places considered dangerous for Americans. Others on the travel-warning list are Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Colombia, Congo (formerly Zaire), Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Montserrat, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.

The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225; the fax line is (202) 647-3000. Internet address: http://travel.state.gov.

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