World Travel Watch: Protests in Nepal, Tensions in Nicaragua and More
World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news
11.05.09 | 7:47 AM ET
World Travel Watch is a weekly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel. Conditions can change overnight, so always make your own inquiries before you leave home. The U.S. State Department and embassies or consulates are good places to start.
China: Security Crackdown in Xinjiang
Authorities launched a crackdown in far western Xinjiang province where ethnic riots in July killed nearly 200 people. The government shut down long-distance phone lines and internet access in the region and is hunting down people who took part in the riots. The “Strike Hard” campaign is set to run through the end of the year and is also targeting “terrorists.” Hundreds of people have already been arrested and nine sentenced to death for their role in the riots. Security is likely to be high in the region at least until January.
Nepal: Maoists Protest in Kathmandu
Nepal has more tourists visiting now than it has had in more than a decade, but the opposition Maoist party may put a damper on peak season with a series of anti-government protests in Kathmandu. They hoped to paralyze the capital city and surrounding valley by blocking all roads leading into Kathmandu Valley and shutting down the international airport on Nov. 10, but called off the airport closure after their leader, Prachanda, met with foreign diplomats who stressed how damaging it would be to Nepal’s economy. Officials placed the army and police on high alert to prevent violence. The Maoists fought a 10-year insurgency before agreeing to a peace accord and winning the national election in 2008, but withdrew from the government when Prachanda’s attempt to fire the army head was overruled. A Maoist spokesman said the protests would be peaceful, but violence is possible and mass gatherings should be avoided. A large demonstration is planned for Kathmandu’s Singh Durbar area Nov. 12-13.
Nicaragua: Court Drops Presidential Term Limits, Tempers Flare
Political maneuvering by President Daniel Ortega and six Sandinista judges on the Supreme Court to eliminate a constitutional term limit created a political crisis that opposition leaders and the U.S. ambassador said was undermining the country’s democracy. According to opposition judges on the Supreme Court, only the legislature has the authority to change the constitution, so the ruling to scrap the limits should not be valid, especially considering that it was made after all of the other judges had left for the day. The crisis brought out large numbers of pro-Sandinista protesters who demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy for several days, throwing bottles and homemade explosives at the building and demanding the ambassador’s ouster. Tensions are likely to remain high. Ending term limits will allow President Ortega to run for reelection in 2011.
Serbia: U.S. Embassy Calls Seven Belgrade Bars and Clubs Off-Limits
Belgrade is considered a generally safe city, but the U.S. Embassy issued a list of establishments there that Embassy personnel and travelers should avoid because of repeated violent incidents. The seven bars and clubs are Stefan Braun, Vanila next to the SPS office building, H2O boat restaurant behind Hotel Jugoslavija, Mistik below Tasmajdan park, Blaywatch, Teatro across from the Hotel Rex and Ambis behind the Belgrade Fair. In September, a string of violent incidents in the city prompted the Embassy to issue an alert informing expatriates and tourists of the trend.
Venezuela: Water Shortage Results in Rationing in Caracas, Blackouts in the South
An unusually dry rainy season has created a water shortage in Caracas, where officials imposed rationing that could shut off water to large parts of the city for as long as 48 hours. The rationing is likely to remain in place for six months as the country awaits the next rainy season. The lack of water also means a reduction in hydropower, causing frequent blackouts in southern parts of the country and prompting government calls for conserving electricity. Both problems are likely to last well into the new year.