The U.S. State Department ordered the families of American diplomats to leave the Venezuela capital of Caracas due to "social unrest, violent crime and pervasive food and medicine shortages," according to a Thursday evening statement. The federal agency also issued movement restrictions to protect the safety of personnel and their families. Such provisions include requesting approval to travel outside of Caracas and to refrain from inter-city travel by car during 6pm to 6am.
The updated travel policy, which replaces one issued in December 2016, surfaced just days before President Maduro's government holds a vote to elect a constitutional assembly tasked with overhauling the country's charter.
Since April 2017, the political situation in Venezuela has led to multiple protests, violent clashes with police, and even death. It cautioned Americans of the country's tendency to erupt in unpredictable and, often, dangerous situations.
"Disruptions to traffic and public transportation are common," the State Department warned. "Demonstrations typically elicit a strong police and security force response that includes the use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons and rubber bullets against participants, and occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism. Armed motorcycle gangs associated with the government frequently use violence to intimidate demonstrators. Clashes between these groups have resulted in serious injuries and over 70 deaths. U.S. citizens have reported being arrested, detained, and robbed while in close proximity to protests."
There are also instances of prevalent criminal activity, including armed robberies and kidnappings. On top of that, Americans should be prepared to equip themselves with their own medicine and medical supplies if they choose to stay, since Venezuela's failing economy has led to a shortage of such materials.