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Bolivia

Bolivia US Consular Information Sheet
July 19, 2006

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bolivia is a constitutional democracy and one of the least-developed countries in South America. Tourist facilities are generally adequate, but vary greatly in qualit
. The capital is La Paz, accessible by Bolivia's international airport in El Alto. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Bolivia for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A U.S. passport valid for at least six months from the date of proposed entry into Bolivia is required to enter and depart Bolivia. U.S. citizen tourists do not need a visa for a stay of one month or less (that period can be extended up to 90 days upon application to the Bolivian immigration authorities). Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Bolivia must obtain a replacement passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to a Bolivian government immigration office in order to obtain permission to depart. For more information on replacement passport procedures, please consult the U.S. Embassy's Web site at . An exit tax is charged when departing Bolivia by air. Travelers with Bolivian citizenship or residency pay an additional fee upon departure. While the Bolivian Government does not require travelers to purchase round-trip air tickets in order to enter the country, some airlines have required travelers to purchase round-trip tickets prior to boarding aircraft bound for Bolivia. Some tourists arriving by land report that immigration officials did not place entry stamps in their passports, causing problems at checkpoints and upon departure. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Bolivia and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Bolivia web site at for the most current visa information (please note that the web site is primarily in Spanish).

Bolivian consulates are located in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at (please note that the web site is in Spanish), fax/telephone (591-2) 211-0960, street address Avenida Camacho entre Loayza y Bueno, La Paz, Bolivia. See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the international child abduction . Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS: In an effort to prevent international child abduction, the Bolivian Government has initiated procedures at entry/exit points. Minors (under 18) who are citizens or residents of Bolivia and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Bolivian Embassy or a Bolivian consulate within the United States. If documents are prepared in Bolivia, only notarization by a Bolivian notary is required. Using these documents, a t ravel permit may be obtained from the Juzgado del Menor. This requirement does not apply to children who enter the country with a U.S. passport as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Bolivian citizenship or have been in Bolivia for more than 90 consecutive days.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The countrywide emergency number for the police, including highway patrol, is 110. The corresponding number for the fire department is 119. The National Tourism Police has an office in La Paz, with plans to expand to Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, providing free assistance to tourists 24 hours a day. These services include English-speaking officials who may assist tourists in filing police reports of lost/stolen documents or other valuables. The La Paz office is located at Plaza del Stadium, Edificio Olympia, planta baja, Miraflores, telephone number 222-0516.

Protests, strikes, and other civic actions can occur at any time and disrupt transportation on a local and national level. This is particularly true before, during and after elections or other changes in government. While protest actions generally begin peacefully, they have the potential to become violent. The police have used tear gas to break up protests. In addition to rallies and street demonstrations, protesters sometimes block roads; they sometimes react with force when travelers attempt to pass through or go around roadblocks and occasionally have used the threat of explosives to press their point.

U.S. citizens should avoid roadblocks and demonstrations. Demonstrations protesting government or private company policies occur frequently, even in otherwise peaceful times. Roadblocks and demonstrations in June 2005 led to the closure of the El Alto airport in La Paz, resulting in cancellation and diversion of flights and other inconveniences to travelers. U.S. citizens planning travel to or from Bolivia should take into consideration the possibility of disruptions to air service in and out of La Paz and other airports. Americans should monitor Bolivian media reports for updates. The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas where roadblocks or public demonstrations are occurring or planned. Political rallies should similarly be avoided in light of press reports of violence at some rallies in various parts of Bolivia.

U.S. citizens who find themselves in a roadblock should not attempt to "run" a roadblock, as this may aggravate the situation and lead to physical harm. Taking alternative, safe routes, or returning to where the travel started may be the safest courses of action under these circumstances. U.S. citizens embarking on road trips should monitor news reports and may contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz at (591)(2)(216-8297 or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba at (591)(4)425-6714 and/or Santa Cruz at (591) (3) 351-3477 for updates. Given that roadblocks may occur without warning and have stranded travelers for several days, travelers should take extra food and water. The U.S. Embassy also advises its employees to maintain at least one week's supply of drinking water and canned food in case roadblocks affect supplies, as occurred in June 2005. For more information on emergency preparedness, please consult the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) Web site at . That Web site includes a Spanish language version.

Americans living 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 in advance of travel. Information on registering may be found at the Department of State's Consular Affairs website .

In February and October 2003, approximately one hundred people died during violent demonstrations and protests in downtown La Paz and the nearby city of El Alto. These demonstrations also affected Cochabamba and other towns and villages in the Altiplano. While the protests and demonstrations subsided, many of the underlying social, political, and economic causes remain, and in March 2005, several intercity roads, including Bolivia's major east-west highway, were closed by blockades for several weeks.

Since 2000 the resort town of Sorata, located seventy miles north of La Paz, has been cut off by blockades on three occasions, ranging from one week to one month. Visitors contemplating travel to Sorata should contact the Consular Section in La Paz prior to travel.

In the Chapare region between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and the Yungas region northeast of La Paz violence and civil unrest, primarily associated with anti-narcotics activities, periodically create a risk for travelers to those regions.

Confrontations between area residents and government authorities over coca eradication have resulted in the use of tear gas and stronger force by government authorities to quell disturbances. Pro-coca groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests. U.S. citizen visitors to the Chapare or Yungas regions are encouraged to check with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy prior to travel. Violence has also erupted recently between squatters unlawfully invading private land and security forces attempting to remove them.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site , where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement , Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 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).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad .

CRIME: The U.S. Department of State currently classifies Bolivia as a medium to high crime threat country. Street crime, such as pick pocketing and theft from parked vehicles, occurs with some frequency in Bolivia. Theft of cars and car parts, particularly late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles, is common. Hijacking of vehicles has occurred, and travelers should take appropriate precautions to avoid being victimized. In November 2003, an American citizen was murdered during an attempted carjacking in Santa Cruz.

Bolivian police state that there are currently eight organized criminal groups operating in the La Paz area. The techniques employed by these groups vary, but there are a few major patterns that can be identified.

There have been reports of "false police" -- persons using police uniforms, identification, and even buildings modified to resemble police stations -- intercepting and robbing foreign tourists. Under Bolivian law, police need a warrant from the "fiscal" or prosecutor to detain a suspect. Any searches or seizures must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the fiscal. The warrant requirement also applies to suspected drug trafficking cases, although such searches and seizures may occur without a fiscal present. If detained, U.S. citizens should request to see the warrant and demand immediate contact with the nearest U.S. Consular Office (in La Paz, Cochabamba or Santa Cruz).

According to press reports, criminals using the "false police" method focus on foreigners in areas frequented by tourists including bus terminals and tourist markets such as Sagarnaga Street in La Paz. The perpetrators will identify a potential victim and have an accomplice typically driving a white taxi offer taxi services to the potential victim. They focus on European/American tourists who are not wearing a traditional "trekker" backpack and are traveling without a large number of bags. A few blocks after the potential victim boards the taxi another accomplice, pretending to be a recently arrived tourist, boards the taxi with the potential victim. With all the accomplices then in place, the "false police" stop the taxi, "search" the passengers, and rob the victim. As part of this scam, the false police may take the victim to a "false police" station.

A similar variation also introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This introduction can take place on a bus, taxi, train, or just walking down the street. The "tourist" will befriend the victims and might seek assistance in some manner. After a period of time, the "police" intercept the victims and the "tourist." At this point, the "police" discover some sort of contraband (usually drugs) on the "tourist." The entire group is then taken to the "police station." At this point, the "police" seize the documents, credit cards, and ATM cards of the victims. The perpetrators obtain pin numbers, sometimes by threat of violence, and the scam is complete.

Another technique again introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This "tourist" can be any race or gender and will probably be able to speak the language of the victims. This meeting can happen anywhere and the goal of the "tourist" is to build the trust of the victims. Once a certain level of trust is obtained, the "tourist" suggests a particular mode of transportation to a location (usually a taxi). The "taxi" picks up the victims and the "tourist" and delivers the group to a safe house in the area. At this point the victims are informed that they are now kidnapped and are forced to give up their credit cards and ATM cards with pin numbers.

Bolivian police sources state that two Austrian citizens fell victim to this scam and had their bank accounts emptied through use of their ATM card. The perpetrators then suffocated the victims and buried them in clandestine graves, where police found their bodies on April 3, 2006. During that timeframe, a Spanish citizen also purportedly fell prey to this scam, and his body was found nearby.

In most instances, the victims are released, but the murder of the victims is still a possibility. The techniques and the perpetrators are convincing. Authentic uniforms, badges, and props help persuade the victims that the situation is real and valid. All tourists visiting Bolivia should exercise extreme caution. Visitors should be suspicious of all "coincidences" that can happen on a trip. If the tourist has doubts about a situation, the tourist should immediately remove him/herself from the scene.

Thefts of bags, wallets, and backpacks are a problem throughout Bolivia, but especially in the tourist areas of downtown La Paz and the Altiplano. Most thefts involve two or three people who spot a potential victim and wait until the bag or backpack is placed on the ground, often at a restaurant, bus terminal, Internet café, etc. In other cases, the thief places a disagreeable substance on the clothes or backpack of the intended victim, and then offers to assist the victim with the removal of the substance. While the person is distracted, the thief or an accomplice grabs the bag or backpack and flees. In such a situation, the visitor should decline assistance, secure the bag/backpack, and walk briskly from the area. To steal wallets and bags, thieves may spray water on the victim's neck, and while the person is distracted, an accomplice takes the wallet or bag. At times the thief poses as a policeman, and requests that the person accompany him to the police station, using a nearby taxi. The visitor should indicate a desire to contact the U.S. Embassy and not enter the taxi. Under no circumstances should you surrender ATM or credit cards, or release a PIN number. While most thefts do not involve violence, in some instances the victim has been physically harmed and forcibly searched for hidden valuables. Visitors should avoid being alone on the streets, especially at night and in isolated areas.

Five years ago female tourists reported being drugged and raped by a tourist guide in the city of Rurrenabaque in the Beni region. Visitors should be careful when choosing a tour operator and should not accept any type of medication or drugs from unreliable sources. The Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults against female hikers in the Yungas Valley, near the town of Coroico. Visitors to Coroico are advised to avoid hiking alone or in small groups.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime .
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in large cities is adequate for most purposes but of varying quality. Ambulance services are limited-to-non-existent. Medical facilities are generally not adequate to handle serious medical conditions. Pharmacies are located throughout Bolivia, and prescription and over the counter medications are widely available. Western Bolivia, dominated by the Andes and high plains (Altiplano), is largely insect-free. However, altitude sickness (see below) is a major problem. Eastern Bolivia is tropical, and visitors to that area are subject to related illnesses. In March 2005, several cases of yellow fever were reported in the Chapare region. News media periodically report outbreaks of rabies, particularly in the larger cities.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at . For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at . Further health information for travelers is available at .

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Most medical evacuation flights cannot land at the airport serving La Paz due to the altitude; instead flights may need to use the international airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas .

HIGH-ALTITUDE HEALTH RISKS: Official U.S. Government travelers to La Paz are provided with the following information: The altitude of La Paz ranges from 10,600 feet to over 13,000 feet (3,400 to 4,000 meters) above sea level. Much of Western Bolivia is at the same altitude or higher, including Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni, and the cities of Oruro and Potosi. The altitude alone poses a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, if you have a medical condition that affects blood circulation or breathing.

Prior to departing the U.S. for high-altitude locations (over 10,000 feet above sea level), travelers should discuss the trip with their personal physician and request information on specific recommendations concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitudes. Coca-leaf tea is a popular beverage and folk remedy for altitude sickness in Bolivia. Possession of this tea, which is sold in bags in most Bolivian grocery stores, is illegal in the United States.

The State Department's Office of Medical Services does not allow official U.S. Government travelers to visit La Paz if they have any of the following:

Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: 30 percent of persons with sickle cell trait are likely to have a crisis at elevations of more than 8,000 feet.
Heart disease: A man 45 years or older, or a woman 55 years or older, who has two of the following risk factors (hypertension, angina, diabetes, cigarette smoking, or elevated cholesterol) should have a stress EKG and a cardiological evaluation before the trip.
Lung disease: Anyone with asthma and on maximum dosage of medication for daily maintenance, or anyone who has been hospitalized for asthma within the last year should not come to La Paz and surrounding areas.
Given potential complications from altitude sickness, pregnant women should consult their doctor before travel to La Paz and other high-altitude areas of Bolivia.
All people, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) upon arrival at high altitude. Most people will have increased respiration and increased heart rate. Many people will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes. Many travelers limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after arrival and avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival.

For additional information, travelers should visit the World Health Organization's website at as well as the CDC's travel warning on high altitude sickness at .

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bolivia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. U.S. citizens planning on driving in Bolivia, despite the hazards described below, should obtain an international driver's license through their local automobile club before coming to Bolivia.

Road conditions in Bolivia are hazardous. Although La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba are connected by improved highways, the vast majority of roads in Bolivia are unpaved. Few highways have shoulders, fencing or barriers, and highway markings are minimal. Yielding for pedestrians in the cities is not the norm. For trips outside the major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended. Travel during the rainy season (November through March) is difficult, as most routes are potholed, and some roads and bridges are washed out. Added dangers are the absence of formal training for most drivers, poor maintenance and overloaded vehicles, lack of lights on some vehicles at night, and intoxicated or overly tired drivers, including commercial bus and truck drivers.

The majority of intercity travel in Bolivia is by bus, with varying levels of safety and service. In recent years there have been major bus crashes on the highway between La Paz and Oruro, and on the Yungas road. The old Yungas road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world. Taxis, vans, and buses dominate intracity transportation. From a crime perspective, public transportation is relatively safe and violent assaults are rare. However, petty theft of unattended backpacks and other personal items does occur. For reasons of safety, visitors are advised to use radio taxis whenever possible.

Drivers of vehicles involved in traffic accidents are expected to remain at the scene until the arrival of local police authorities. Any attempt to leave the scene is in violation of Bolivian law. The Embassy believes any attempt to flee the scene of an accident would place the driver and passengers at greater risk of harm than remaining at the scene until the arrival of local police. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bolivia as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Bolivia's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm . There are limited flights within Bolivia and to neighboring countries. Flight delays and cancellations are common. In February and March 2006, strikes at national carrier Lloyd Aereo Boliviano led to the cancellation of both national and international flights with resultant delays and other inconveniences for travelers.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In the run-up to the July 2006 Constituent Assembly elections, President Morales accused the United States military of infiltrating Bolivia with operatives disguised as "students and tourists." As an apparent result of these comments, some U.S. citizens have reported harassment by Bolivian officials and been subjected to unwanted media attention. In one case, a local Bolivian newspaper wrongly identified an American citizen as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. Americans planning on traveling to Bolivia should be aware of the political atmosphere and the possibility of unwanted attention from pro-governmental groups and other Bolivian officials.

For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at (please note that the Web site is in Spanish), fax/telephone (591-2) 211-0960, street address Avenida Camacho entre Loayza y Bueno, La Paz, Bolivia. In emergency cases, the Immigration Service may permit temporary residency applicants to retrieve their passports from those applications. However, under current regulations in such cases the applicant would need to commence the application anew, including paying the corresponding fees. Any U.S. documents, such as birth, marriage, divorce or death certificates, to be presented in Bolivia must first be authenticated in the U.S. at the nearest Bolivian Embassy or consulate. For information on those procedures, please consult the Department of State Office of Authentications web site, www.state.gov/m/a/auth , and the nearest Bolivian Embassy or consulate.

Please see our information on customs regulations .
MARRIAGE: Please see our information on marriage in Bolivia , available on the Embassy's Web site at
MOUNTAIN TREKKING AND CLIMBING SAFETY: U.S. citizens are advised to exercise extreme care when trekking or climbing in Bolivia. Since June 2002, four American citizens have died in falls while mountain climbing in Bolivia. Three of the deaths occurred on Illimani, a 6,402-meter peak located southeast of La Paz. Many popular trekking routes in the Bolivian Andes cross passes as high as 16,000 feet. Trekkers must have adequate clothing and equipment, not always available locally, and should be experienced mountain travelers. It is not prudent to trek alone. Solo trekking is the most significant factor contributing to injuries and robberies. The safest option is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm to provide an experienced guide and porter who can communicate in both Spanish and English. If you develop any of the following symptoms while climbing at altitude - severe headache, weakness, vomiting, shortness of breath at rest, cough, chest tightness, unsteadiness - descend to a lower altitude immediately. Trekkers and climbers are strongly encouraged to purchase adequate insurance to cover expenses in case of injury or death.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Bolivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bolivia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties .

It often takes years to reach a decision in Bolivian legal cases, whether involving property disputes, civil, or criminal matters. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court can order a defendant held in jail for the duration of the case. Prison conditions are primitive, and prisoners are expected to pay for food and lodging. For further information, please see the Annual Human Rights Report for Bolivia at . Lists of local Bolivian attorneys and their specialties are available from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and the Consular Agencies in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and may also be found on our Web site at .

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website . Pending U.S. implementation of the Hague Convention on International Adoptions, under Bolivian law U.S. citizens who are not resident in Bolivia are not permitted to adopt Bolivian children./p>

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consular Agency through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Bolivia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consular Agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consular Agency to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 2780 Avenida Arce in La Paz, between calles Cordero and Campos; telephone (591-2) 216-8297 during business hours 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or (591-2) 216-8000 for after-hours emergencies; fax (591-2) 216-8808; Internet . The U.S. Embassy in La Paz is open for American Citizen Services Monday through Thursday from 1:30PM to 5:00PM and Fridays from 08:30 to12:30 and from 2:00PM to 4:00PM, except U.S. and Bolivian holidays. Questions should be directed to the email address USCit.Services.Bolivia@gmail.com or consularlapaz@state.gov .

There are two consular agencies in Bolivia, which provide limited services to American citizens, but are not authorized to issue passports. Anyone requesting service at one of the consular agencies should call ahead to verify that the service requested would be available on the day you expect to visit the agency.

Santa Cruz: The Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is located at 146 Avenida Roque Aguilera (Tercer Anillo); telephone (591-3) 351-3477, 351-3479, or 351-3480; fax (591-3) 351-3478. The U.S. Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is open to the public Mondays from 09:00 to 12:30 and from 2:00PM to 5:00PM and on Tuesday through Friday from 09:00 to 12:30, except U.S. and Bolivian holidays.

Cochabamba: The Consular Agency in Cochabamba is located at Avenida Oquendo 654, Torres Sofer, room 601; telephone (591-4) 411-6313; fax (591-4) 425 -6714. The U.S. Consular Agency in Cochabamba is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, excluding U.S. and Bolivian holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 4, 2006 to update Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Marriage, Special Circumstances and web links.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 7 Aug 2019
Source: El Deber [in Spanish trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

Soldier LC, who completed his military service in the Bolivian Condors School (ESCONBOL) in Sanadita, died of [a] hantavirus [infection], according to laboratory results issued this [Wed 31 Jul 2019] by the National Center for Tropical Diseases (CENETROP) of the Tarija Department of Health Service (SEDES).

The Chief of Epidemiology, Claudia Montenegro, confirmed that the conscript died from this disease that is transmitted by the long-tailed rat and that he had been infected in a forest locality near to the Campo Largo community, where he was from.

According to Montenegro, this is the 15th hantavirus [infection] case reported in Tarija department in 2019; 5 of them died.

The hantavirus cases correspond to patients from Bermejo and the Chaco region where the rat that carries [the] hantavirus lurks.  [Byline: David Maygua]
=========================
[The case count is now up to 15 in Tarija department; 5 of them, including the case above, died. As noted in earlier posts, cases of hantavirus infections in Tarija department are not new. The department is endemic for hantaviruses, and cases occur there sporadically. Last year (2018), there were 11 cases. The previously reported 2015 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) that occurred in Tarija department were confirmed. As noted in the previous comments, earlier cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome have been reported from tropical, lowland areas of Bolivia, including 7 cases in Tarija during 2014. The specific hantaviruses involved in these or previous cases in Bolivia were not given.

In the lowland Amazon Basin of Bolivia, the rodent hosts of the hantavirus that might be involved in these hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) cases, with their images, include the following:
- Laguna Negra virus (small vesper mouse, _Calomys laucha_ <http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomyslaucha.html> and large vesper mouse, _C. callosus_
- Bermejo (Chaco rice rat, _Oligoryzomys chacoensis_
- Oran (long- tailed pygmy rice rat, _O. longicaudatus_

Since previous cases in Tarija department have occurred in Bermejo, perhaps Bermejo hantavirus was involved.

Dr Jan Clement commented earlier that there is a need to be able to differentiate Seoul orthohantavirus (SEOV) as a causative agent, but that is hampered by the fact that most current commercial ELISA or WB (Western Blot) formats no longer contain a SEOV antigen, so that a preliminary presumption of a hantavirus infection can even be missed in non-research laboratories (Clement J, LeDuc JW, Lloyd G, et al. Wild rats, laboratory rats, pet rats: global Seoul hantavirus disease revisited. Viruses. 2019; 11(7): 652; pii: E652; <https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/11/7/652/htm>; and Reynes JM, Carli D, Bour JB et al. Seoul virus infection in humans, France, 2014-2016. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017; 23(6): 973-7; <https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/23/6/16-0927_article>.

SEOV is widely distributed around the world in the brown rat and is likely found in Tarija department. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Bolivia:
Date: Wed 17 Jul 2019
Source: El Deber [in Spanish trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

The 1st 3 cases of Chapare arenavirus haemorrhagic fever were detected between December 2003 and January 2004, but the vector [reservoir] was not identified. The affected individuals had febrile and cardiac symptoms.

The New World Chapare arenavirus haemorrhagic fever, which has recently affected 5 people in La Paz [department], 3 of whom died, had its 1st outbreak in 16 years in a rural locality in the Cochabamba tropics; however, since then, until now, the vector [reservoir] has not been identified.

It is known that arenaviruses are transmitted by rodents, and because of this the latest investigations in northern La Paz, where the 1st case was reported (that now is known as the Chapare genotype), was focused on searching for _Calomys callous_ [the large vesper mouse. - ProMED Mod.SH], which transmits Machupo virus, but it may also be transmitted by other rodent families, say knowledgeable people.

The chief of epidemiology of the Departmental Health Services (SEDES), Roberto Torrez, recalled that Chapare virus was identified more than a decade ago, after 3 people presented with haemorrhagic fever symptoms in the rural community of Samusaveti (Cochabamba tropics) between December 2002 and January 2004. The ill individuals presented with febrile and haemorrhagic symptoms and, mainly, cardiac problems. The investigation results indicated that they were dealing with a virus that was "very related" to Machupo, but was genetically distinct. In 2006, it was given the name Chapare, for the locality of its origin.

Torrez explained that the focus [of infection] was controlled, but the vector [reservoir] was not identified. Until now, it is still unknown how the virus has reappeared in northern La Paz, although the possibilities are that the vector [reservoir] has migrated from the Cochabamba tropics or has been inhabiting northern La Paz and that recently infected people have presented [with the disease]. "We know that it is transmitted by rodents, but we do not know the vector [reservoir] of the original Chapare virus, neither of the Cochabamba one, nor of the La Paz one," he said.

The chief of epidemiology discarded the idea that Santa Cruz department is at risk of an outbreak, since that "cases of the disease have never been registered nor have rodents of the _Calomys callous_ family [sic; genus and species] infected with Machupo virus been encountered." Torrez said that many years ago, in San Ignacio de Velasco, in the [municipal] limits of Piso Firme, _Calomys callous_ rodents were taken with Latino virus, which is not a human pathogen.

Technicians of the Ministry of Health have captured rodents in the areas of Caranavi and Guanay, where the 1st fatal case (a farmer) lived and worked. Since calomys rodents were not encountered, the investigation was expanded to other types of rodents.

[A hospitalized medical student who died 4 Jun 2019 was first diagnosed with dengue and later with a fatal arenavirus infection. The legal dispute between the patient's family and the hospital physicians is not translated here, since it adds nothing to the understanding of treatment or of epidemiology of the infection. - ProMED Mod.TY]  [byline: Deisy Ortiz, Miguel A Melendres]
====================
[New World arenavirus haemorrhagic fever virus Chapare, that has recently infected 5 patients in La Paz [department], 3 of whom died, brought to mind the 1st outbreak 16 years ago in a rural area of Cochabamba; however, since then it has not been possible to identify the animal reservoir. At that time, 3 people presented with symptoms of haemorrhagic fever in the rural community of Samusaveti (Cochabamba tropics) between December 2003 and January 2004. - ProMED Mod.JT]

This report definitely identifies the virus involved in these cases as Chapare arenavirus. Symptoms of Chapare and Machupo virus infections include: early clinical manifestations consist of nonspecific signs and symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue, myalgia, and arthralgia. Within 7 days, patients may develop haemorrhagic signs, including bleeding from the oral and nasal mucosa and from the bronchopulmonary, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts. Case fatality rates range from 5% to 30% (see ProMED-mail post Bolivian haemorrhagic fever - Bolivia: background http://promedmail.org/post/20190705.6553672).

The original cases were investigated by a team of Bolivian health authorities, US Navy health experts based in Lima, Peru, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus was characterized as Chapare arenavirus, a previously unrecognized arenavirus, discovered in serum samples from a patient in rural Bolivia who eventually died of the infection. A full report of the study was published 18 Apr 2008 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens cited below.

Reference
---------
Delgado S, Erickson BR, Agudo R, et al. Chapare virus, a newly discovered arenavirus isolated from a fatal hemorrhagic fever case in Bolivia. PLoS Pathog. 2008; 4(4): e1000047; <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277458/>

It is unfortunate that the rodent reservoir of Chapare virus is still unknown. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Bolivia:
Date: Thu 18 Jul 2019
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Haemorrhagic Fever in Bolivia [edited]

Watch-level 1. Practice usual precautions
-----------------------------------------
Key Points:
- An outbreak of haemorrhagic fever was recently reported in Bolivia.
- The outbreak is caused by an arenavirus that appears similar to Chapare virus, which causes Chapare haemorrhagic fever.
- Travellers to Bolivia should avoid contact with rodents, with rodent urine or faeces (droppings), and with people who are sick.

What is the current situation?
Health officials in Bolivia have reported an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever associated with an arenavirus similar to Chapare arenavirus. The 1st case was in a man from Caranavi Province. A health care provider who treated him became ill and was transferred to La Paz. Currently, several additional cases have been reported; all have been in health care providers or family members of the 1st patient.

Testing suggests that the virus is genetically similar to Chapare virus, a New World arenavirus that was 1st documented in Bolivia in 2003. During that outbreak, a small number of people became ill, and one died. Since then, no additional cases have been reported. Additional testing is ongoing to determine the exact cause of this outbreak.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?
- Although the animal source for this virus has not been confirmed, travellers should avoid contact with rodents and rodent urine or faeces.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Travellers going to Bolivia to provide health care to local populations may be at risk and should wear full personal protective equipment when treating suspect hemorrhagic fever cases.
===========================
[The above CDC precaution is in response the recent occurrence of Chapare arenavirus hemorrhagic fever in the La Paz department of Bolivia (see Chapare virus - Bolivia: (LP) http://promedmail.org/post/20190719.6573996). The initial 3 cases of Chapare arenavirus hemorrhagic fever were detected between December 2003 and January 2004, but the vector [reservoir] was not identified. The virus recently affected 5 people in La Paz [department], 3 of whom died, had its 1st outbreak in 16 years in a rural locality in the Cochabamba tropics; however, since then, until now, the vector [reservoir] has not been identified.

As noted earlier, the original cases were investigated by a team of Bolivian health authorities, US Navy health experts based in Lima, Peru, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus was characterized as Chapare arenavirus, a previously unrecognized arenavirus, discovered in serum samples from a patient in rural Bolivia who eventually died of the infection. A full report of the study was published 18 Apr 2008 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens cited below.

Citation
--------
Delgado S, Erickson BR, Agudo R, et al. Chapare virus, a newly discovered arenavirus isolated from a fatal hemorrhagic fever case in Bolivia. PLoS Pathog. 2008; 4(4): e1000047;

The rodent reservoir of Chapare virus is still unknown. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Fri 5 Jul 2019
Source: GIDEON (Global Infectious Disease Epidemiology Network) [edited]

Re: ProMED-mail Undiagnosed illness - Bolivia (02): (LP) Bolivian haemorrhagic fever conf. http://promedmail.org/post/20190704.6551379

In 2019, a small outbreak of Bolivian haemorrhagic fever was reported at a hospital in La Paz [department], Bolivia. The following background data on Bolivian haemorrhagic fever are abstracted from Gideon www.GideonOnline.com and the Gideon e-book series.[1,2] Primary references are available from the author.

Bolivian haemorrhagic fever (BHF) is caused by Machupo virus (Arenaviridae, Tacaribe complex, _Mammarenavirus_). The disease was initially described in 1959 as a sporadic hemorrhagic illness in rural areas of Beni department, eastern Bolivia, and the virus itself was 1st identified in 1963. BHF is most common during April to July in the upper savanna region of Beni. Principal exposure occurs through rodents ([the large vesper mouse] _Calomys callosus_), which enter homes in endemic areas.

BHF is one of several human _Arenavirus_ diseases reported in the Americas: Argentine haemorrhagic fever (Junin virus), Brazilian haemorrhagic fever (Sabia virus), lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever (Guanarito virus) and Whitewater Arroyo virus infection. (At least 2 related diseases are reported in Africa: Lassa fever and Lujo virus infection.)

Infection of _C. callosus_ results in asymptomatic viral shedding in saliva, urine, and feces; 50% of experimentally infected _C. callosus_ are chronically viremic and shed virus in their bodily excretions or secretions. _C. callosus_ acquires the virus after birth, and start shedding it through their urine and saliva while suckling. When mice acquire the virus as adults, they may develop immunity and no longer shed the virus.

Although the infectious dose of Machupo virus in humans is unknown, exposed persons may become infected by inhaling virus in aerosolized secretions or excretions of infected rodents, ingestion of food contaminated with rodent excreta, or by direct contact of excreta with abraded skin or oropharyngeal mucous membranes. Nosocomial and human-to-human spread have been documented. Hospital contact with a patient has resulted in person-to-person spread of Machupo virus to nursing and pathology laboratory staff.

In 1994, fatal secondary infection of 6 family members in Magdalena, Bolivia from a single naturally acquired infection further suggested the potential for person-to-person transmission.

During December 2003 to January 2004, a small focus of haemorrhagic fever was reported in the area of Cochabamba. A 2nd _Arenavirus_, Chapare virus, was recovered from one patient with fatal infection.

Early clinical manifestations consist of nonspecific signs and symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue, myalgia, and arthralgia. Within 7 days, patients may develop hemorrhagic signs, including bleeding from the oral and nasal mucosa and from the bronchopulmonary, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts. Case fatality rates range from 5% to 30%.

Ribavirin has been used successfully in several cases of BHF. The recommended adult regimen is 2.0 g intravenously (IV), followed by 1.0 g IV every 6 hours for 4 days, and then 0.5 g every 8 hours for 6 days.

Note that the etiologic agent and clinical features of BHF are similar to those of Argentine hemorrhagic fever (AHF). Neurological signs are more common in AHF, while hemorrhagic diatheses are more common in BHF. A vaccine available for AHF could theoretically be effective against BHF as well.

References
1. Berger S. American hemorrhagic fevers: global status, 2019. Gideon e-books.
2. Berger S. Infectious diseases of Bolivia, 2019. 342 pages, 87 graphs, 495 references.
Communicated by:
Steve Berger
Geographic Medicine
Tel Aviv Medical Center, Israel
=======================
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr. Berger for the overview of Bolivian haemorrhagic fever presented above. As noted in the previous comment, and above, Bolivian haemorrhagic fever, caused by Machupo virus, occurs sporadically in lowland Bolivia, especially in Beni department. There was a case there in 2013, and in 2012 ProMED-mail reported that 13 people had been infected with Machupo virus and 7 had died as a consequence of the disease. In Beni department at that time, 5 municipalities, including Magdalena, were reported to have had large populations of _Calomys callosus_ mice, the reservoir host of Machupo virus, which can persistently infect the mice. It is not surprising to find cases in lowland areas of La Paz department again, where the current cases are occurring. The drylands vesper mouse, _C. musculinus_ mentioned in the previous post, although present in southern Bolivia, is unlikely to be the reservoir rodent involved in the current cases. _C. callosus_ mice are the recognized reservoir hosts of Machupo virus. Health officials can provide information about rodent control and assist in implementing it to reduce the risk of exposure to Machupo virus, but effective long-term implementation of rodent control ultimately rests with local residents.

An image of _C. callosus_, the large vesper mouse and reservoir host of Machupo virus, can be seen at

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Wed 3 Jul 2019 11:53 BOT
Source: La Razon [in Spanish trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

[The Ministry of] Health confirmed that a virus that killed a hospitalized patient and 2 physicians from La Paz is an arenavirus transmitted by rodents. The disease, after 7 days, causes haemorrhagic fever, a symptom presented by the patients hospitalized in intensive care in 2 health centers in La Paz.

One of the viruses in this family is Machupo that causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, a disease that, according to hypotheses, is affecting the patients that are under observation, La Razon reported this [Wed 3 Jul 2019] in its printed edition.

"In laboratory terms, from national laboratories such as INLASA [Instituto Nacional de Laboratorios de Salud; National Institute of Health Laboratories] and CENTROP, [Centro de Enfermedades Tropicales; Tropical Diseases Center] they have identified an arenavirus," said Gabriela Montano in a press conference.

The report is also backed by a report from the [US] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta [CDC], Georgia, USA.

"We have a preliminary result from the CDC in Atlanta that also mentions an arenavirus. All of these elements together allow us to provide this information to the public today," the official added.

This virus is transmitted by rodents, specifically called the corn rat or _Calomys musculinus_, and it may also be transmitted person-to-person.  [Byline: Ruben Arinez]
=========================
[Bolivian haemorrhagic fever, caused by Machupo virus, an arenavirus, occurs sporadically in lowland Bolivia, especially in Beni department. There was a case there in 2013 and in 2012, ProMED-mail reported that 13 people had been infected with Machupo virus and 7 had died as a consequence of the disease. In Beni department at that time, 5 municipalities, including Magdalena, were reported to have had large populations of _Calomys callosus_ mice, the reservoir host of Machupo virus, which can cause persistent infections in the mice. It would not be surprising to find cases in lowland areas of La Paz department as well, where the current cases are occurring. The drylands vesper mouse, _C. musculinus_ mentioned above, although present in southern Bolivia, is unlikely to be the reservoir rodent involved in these cases. _C. callosus_ mice are the recognized reservoir hosts of Machupo virus. Health officials can provide information about rodent control and assist in implementing it, but effective long-term implementation ultimately rests with local residents.

An image of _C. callosus_, the large vesper mouse and reservoir host of Machupo virus can be seen at
<http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomyscallosus.html>.

An image of _C. musculinus_, the drylands vesper mouse, can be seen at
<http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomysmusculinus.html>. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Bolivia:
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:08:10 +0200 (METDST)

Manila, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Parents lined up from sunrise holding sleeping infants as the Philippines launched a campaign on Monday to vaccinate millions of children against polio, which has re-emerged nearly two decades after the nation's last cases.   Years of falling vaccination rates, made worse by the botched rollout of a dengue vaccine, culminated in an outbreak of the preventable disease in September.   "This is for the welfare of my child," Ruth Miranda told AFP after the vaccine was squirted into her child's mouth at the Manila slum they call home.

Miranda's child is among scores who are unprotected in the capital of about 13 million people, where vaccination rates of young children plunged from 77 percent in 2016 to a mere 24 percent in June.   The atmosphere at the event in Manila was festive -- with ice cream vendors and music -- but the stakes for the campaign are high.

Polio, which can cause paralysis and can be fatal in rare cases, has no cure and can only be prevented with several doses of oral and injectable vaccines.   Two cases were detected in September, the first polio infections in the Philippines since 2001, adding to the woes of a country already hit by deadly measles and dengue epidemic.   The risk of the disease spreading within the Philippines is high, according to World Health Organization, due to low immunisation coverage partly blamed to a dengue vaccine scandal.

The Philippines was the first nation to use Dengvaxia in a mass programme in 2016, but a botched rollout led to claims that children had died after being vaccinated.   A dramatic drop in vaccine confidence followed, with trust plunging from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018, according to a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.   The Philippines polio outbreak has been traced back to the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which is excreted by people for a time after they receive it.   According to the WHO, that form can mutate and spread in the surrounding community when immunisation rates get too low.
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 10:25:38 +0200 (METDST)
By Shingo ITO, Sara HUSSEIN

Tokyo, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of rescue workers in Japan battled on Monday to find survivors of a powerful typhoon that killed at least 43 people, as fresh rain threatened to hamper efforts.   Typhoon Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, unleashing high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country's 47 prefectures, and triggering landslides and catastrophic flooding.   "Even now, many people are still unaccounted for in the disaster-hit area," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency disaster meeting on Monday.   "Units are trying their best to search for and rescue them, working day and night," Abe said.

But even as rescuers, including troops, combed through debris, the country's weather agency forecast rain in central and eastern Japan that it warned could cause further flooding and new landslides.   "I would like to ask people to stay fully vigilant and continue watching for landslides and river flooding," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.   In Nagano, one of the worst-hit regions, rain was already falling and was expect to intensify.   "We are concerned about the impact of the latest rain on rescue and recovery efforts," local official Hiroki Yamaguchi told AFP.   "We will continue operations while watching out for secondary disasters due to the current rain."

- 43 dead, 16 missing: NHK -
By late Monday afternoon, national broadcaster NHK said the toll had risen to 43 dead, with 16 others missing and over 200 people injured. The government gave lower figures but was continuing to update its information.   The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least seven crew from a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, a coast guard spokesman said.   Four others, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, were rescued when the boat sank and the coast guard was still searching for a last crew member.   While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, it was the heavy rains that caused most damage.

A total of 142 rivers flooded, mainly in eastern and northern Japan, with river banks collapsing in two dozen places, local media said.   In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor.   As water slowly receded Monday, television footage showed patients being transferred by ambulance from a Nagano hospital where some 200 people had been cut off by flooding.   Elsewhere, rescuers used helicopters to winch survivors from roofs and balconies, or steered boats through muddy waters to reach those trapped.

- Japan dedicates rugby win to victims -
By Monday afternoon, some 75,900 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages.   The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.   "Everything from my house was washed away before my eyes, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or real," a woman in Nagano told NHK.   "I feel lucky I'm still alive."   The storm brought travel chaos over the holiday weekend, grounding flights and halting commuter and bullet train services.

By Monday, most subway trains had resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.   The storm also brought havoc to the sporting world, forcing the delay of Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches.   But a crucial decider pitting Japan against Scotland went ahead, with the hosts dedicating their stunning 28-21 win to the victims of the disaster.   "To everyone that's suffering from the typhoon, this game was for you guys," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2019 23:31:57 +0200 (METDST)

Kinshasa, Oct 13, 2019 (AFP) - Doctors will use a second Ebola vaccine from November in three eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the deadly virus, medical officials said Sunday.   "It's time to use the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson's Belgian subsidiary," said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who leads the national anti-Ebola operation in the DRC.    It will arrive in the eastern city of Goma, in North Kivu province, on October 18 and be used from the beginning of next month, he added.   DRC's latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

Muyembe said the communes of Majingo and Kahembe had been selected to receive the vaccine as they were considered the epicentres of the epidemic.   "We will extend this vaccination to our small traders who often go to Rwanda to protect our neighbours," he added.   "If it works well, we will expand vaccination in South Kivu and Ituri."   DR Congo's eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu sit on the borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.   The Belgian laboratory will send a batch of 200,000 doses to neighbouring Rwanda and 500,000 doses in the DRC, Muyembe said.   More than 237,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma company Merck Sharpe and Dohme since August 8, 2018. 

The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC's former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.   But Ilunga's resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine. He currently faces charges that he embezzled funds intended for the fight against Ebola.   In his letter of resignation Ilunga said "actors who have demonstrated a lack of ethics" want to introduce a second vaccine, but did not elaborate.    Muyembe, who took over the Ebola fight in the DRC in July, said "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the most science-based data."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 20:02:59 +0200 (METDST)
By Robbie COREY-BOULET

Addis Ababa, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - A palace that once housed Ethiopia's emperors and also served as a torture site under the communist Derg regime is to open to the public in a controversial government tourism project.    The palace compound in Addis Ababa, which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government has rebranded "Unity Park", was formally launched Thursday and will be open from Friday.    Abiy's office said on Twitter Thursday that the project "symbolises our ability to come together".

But critics have dismissed it as vanity project for Abiy that could prove divisive.   Backed by the United Arab Emirates, the project cost more than $160 million (145 million euros), Ethiopian officials told reporters at a briefing earlier this week.    Built in the late 1800s by Emperor Menelik II, who founded Addis Ababa, the palace was the residence of Ethiopia's rulers for more than a century.   Abiy himself does not live there, and it has seen little activity in recent years.    Abiy's advisers say he has taken a keen interest in transforming the palace into a tourist attraction since coming to power in April 2018 -- visiting the site every day in recent weeks to monitor progress.

The government's "Home-Grown Economic Reform" agenda, unveiled last month, describes tourism as a primary engine of potential job creation.    On Thursday, government officials and the diplomatic corps toured the expansive site before attending a banquet that was expected to draw five regional heads of state and other dignitaries.    The restored rooms feature items like Menelik's sword and a life-size wax replica of former Emperor Haile Selassie, who lived at the palace and was then etained there after the Derg overthrew him in 1974.

The site also includes a sculpture garden with installations representing Ethiopia's nine regions, and a zoo is expected to open by the end of the year.    Aklilu Fikresilassie, an Ethiopian employee of the United Nations who attended the launch Thursday, said he was "really fascinated" to set foot inside a place that had been closed to the public his entire life.    "For us it's like a government house, so now when you enter that palace it tells you that we are getting somehow closer to our leaders," he said.

But not everyone is convinced the palace will succeed in bringing Ethiopians together.   In a country grappling with ethnic divisions, some worry that the palace could alienate ethnic Oromos who contend that their ancestors were forced off their land when Addis Ababa was built.    Journalist and former political prisoner Eskinder Nega said the renovations were undertaken "without consultation from the public", which he called "a huge mistake."    "This is all about heritage, about preserving heritage. The people should have had a say in it," he said.    "Like everything else this was decided from the top and implemented only by the decision of the prime minister."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 13:13:57 +0200 (METDST)

Hanoi, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Selfie-snapping tourists railed against the closure of Hanoi's 'train street' on Thursday after police blocked off the Instragram-famous tracks for safety reasons.   The narrow railway corridor in central Hanoi has become a hotspot among visitors seeking the perfect holiday snap on the tracks -- often dodging trains that rumble through daily.    But Hanoi authorities said this week they would block people from the tracks to avoid accidents, and police on Thursday erected barricades to keep out disappointed visitors.    "I'm very frustrated because today I can't go in and take a picture," Malaysian tourist Mustaza bin Mustapha told AFP, vowing to come back later.

Dozens of other tourists were turned away, though some managed to get onto still-open sections of the railway, moving out of the way as an afternoon train chugged past.    Built by former colonial rulers, the railway once shipped goods and people across France's former Indochina colony and remains in use today by communist Vietnam's state-run railway company.    The stretch of the tracks was once known as a rough part of town, occupied by drug users and squatters until their recent discovery by camera-wielding holidaymakers who have splashed images of the area across social media.

Cafe owners complained that business would be hurt thanks to the new regulations, and that tourists always moved out of the way for oncoming trains.   "There has never been any regretful accidents here," said Le Tuan Anh, who runs a cafe from his home along the tracks.   "Compared to traffic density elsewhere in the city, this is much safer," he said, referring to Hanoi's chaotic, motorbike-clogged streets.   New signs were installed in the area Thursday, warning passersby not to take photos or videos in the "dangerous area", much to the chagrin of British tourist Harriet Hayes.   "People come from all over the world to Hanoi just to see the train go past," she told AFP.   "It's such a shame that we come and have been told that we have to leave."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 06:51:42 +0200 (METDST)
By Holly ROBERTSON

Sydney, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Large numbers of tourists are rushing to scale Uluru -- also known as Ayers Rock -- ahead of a looming ban on climbing a site sacred to indigenous Australians.   Photographs of hundreds of people clambering up the giant red monolith have provoked a social media backlash, with critics lashing as "ignorant" those going against the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu.   "A mass of morally and ethically bankrupt people," indigenous woman Laura McBride tweeted alongside an image showing a queue of people snaking up the side of Uluru.    "One even hiking a toddler up, teaching the next generation how to be ignorant."   "Imagine rushing to climb Uluru before it closes just so you could brag about disrespecting the oldest living culture in the world," tweeted National Indigenous Television journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber, who called the scenes "embarrassing".

Officials say the ban, which comes into effect on October 26, is intended to show respect for cultural practices, protect the site from further environmental damage and to ensure visitors' safety.    More than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park in the 12 months to June 2019, according to Parks Australia, about 20 percent more than the previous year. Around 13 percent of those who visited during that period made the climb, park authorities said.    More recent figures are not available but Tourism Central Australia CEO Stephen Schwer said there had been a "significant jump" in the number of people visiting in recent weeks, with the period leading up to the ban coinciding in part with school holidays.   "Its been very busy, particularly down in the national park precinct itself," he told AFP.   "We've had quite an issue with accommodation availability, because there's a lot of people want to climb Uluru before it closes. It's been a busier than normal holiday period."   Japanese visitors and Australians on driving holidays were most likely to want to scale Uluru, Schwer said, though he urged them not to do so.

Australian tourist Belinda Moore, 33, drove to Uluru from her home in central Queensland state to ascend the rock, an experience she said she "absolutely loved".   "It's always been something to tick off the bucket list and when we heard it was closing, we knew it was now or never," she told AFP.   Moore said she did not think her climb was disrespectful to traditional owners as she was not Aboriginal.    "It may be for their own people, because it's their sacred site," she said.   "I'm pretty sad that they're closing it, but it's still amazing just to see it. I would still recommend it."   The climb will be permanently closed as of October 26, the anniversary of ownership being handed back to the Anangu people.

Uluru has great spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous Australians, with their connection to the site dating back tens of thousands of years.   Though visitor numbers were expected to decline once the ban was in place, Schwer said local tourism operators were "not particularly concerned" as it would return the area to normality.   "People need to remember that in central Australia we're a very interconnected community," he said. "The people who are requesting the climb closure are our friends and colleagues.   "We're just looking forward to being able to have the climb consigned to the annals of history."
Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2019 22:01:17 +0200 (METDST)

Kinshasa, Oct 9, 2019 (AFP) - Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo after torrential rains hit the capital Kinshasa, flooding several neighbourhoods. a local official said.    The bodies were found between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.    Five people were killed in the capital's Selembao municipality where around 30 houses collapsed, local mayor Augustin Mankesi told Top Congo radio station.   One woman died in the Pelende district after she was electrocuted, he added.    "Our community is stricken," Mankesi added, calling on the Congolese authorities for help.   Fatal floods and rains are frequent in Kinshasa. In January last year 48 people were killed in landslides, floods and after houses collapsed, according to authorities.    Residents told AFP the road from the sea port district of Matadi to the Kinshasa turnoff has been closed due to erosion caused by the rain.    The passage is Kinshasa's main supply route for imported goods and also serves as an exit point for exports.
Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2019 04:13:25 +0200 (METDST)
By Margioni BERMÚDEZ

Caracas, Oct 8, 2019 (AFP) - The small waiting room at the home of self-styled healer "Brother Guayanes" in Caracas' rundown Petare district fills up quickly with patients -- business has never been better.   With Venezuela's chronic medicine shortages and hyperinflation, more and more people are turning to alternative medicine to treat common ailments in the crisis-wracked South American country.   "We go to the hospital and there's nothing there. They don't have medicines, or they're too expensive, what are we to do?" said Rosa Saez, 77, who has come to get treatment for a painful arm.   Carlos Rosales -- he uses the more ceremonious "Brother Guayanes" for his business -- is finishing up a "spiritual intervention" on a patient in what passes for his surgery.   The patient lies, eyes closed, on a cot as, in a series of swishes and clicks, the healer waves five pairs of scissors one after another over his prone body.    The healer says he performs 200 such interventions a week in a dim, candle-lit room that features two camp beds and an array of plaster statues that Rosales says represent "spiritual entities".   A regular visitor to the spiritual center, Saez says she has faith in Rosales' methods: "He healed my kidneys."

- Natural healing -
All across Venezuela, but particularly in poor areas like Petare, patients cannot hope to afford the price of medicines that due to the economic crisis, have become exceedingly rare.  Venezuela's pharmacists' federation say pharmacies and hospitals have on average only about 20 percent of the medicine stock needed.   Rosales' clinic is muggy with the smell of tobacco. A crucifix suspended from a chain around his neck, he practices a seeming mixture of smoke-blowing shamanism, plant-based medicine and mainstream religion.    Posters hung near the entrance remind clients to arrive with a candle and tobacco and "Don't forget that payment is in cash".   Much like a general practitioner, Rosales spends time consulting with his patients, examining them with a stethoscope, before offering a diagnosis. Often he prescribes potions based on plants and fruit, such as pineapple and a type of local squash known as chayote.   "We know medicines are necessary," he says. "I'm not against medicine, but my medicine is botany."

- Plants replace drugs -
At her stall in a downtown Caracas market, 72-year-old Lilia Reyes says she has seen her trade in medicinal plants flourish.   "I can't keep up with the demand," she said at her stall, bathed in the aroma of camomile, one of the 150 plants she sells.   Careless consumption of some herbs can be deadly, warns Grismery Morillo. A doctor at a Caracas public hospital, she says she has seen many cases of acute liver failure in people who have eaten certain roots.   According to Venezuela's opposition parties, some 300,000 chronically ill people are in danger of dying from the shortages of medicines.

But despite the risks, people like Carmen Teresa say they have no alternative.    In the kitchen of her restaurant which closed down three years ago as the economic crisis took hold, the 58-year-old Colombian prepares an infusion of fig leaves to treat "diabetic neuropathy".   The painkillers needed for the condition are "too expensive" and prices are going up due to hyperinflation, so she is cutting back on the pills and supplementing her treatment with herbal infusions.   She needs at least four tablets a day to keep her diabetes at bay. Her mother, bedridden since breaking a leg a year ago, suffers from Alzheimer's disease and needs five pills a day for hypertension.   "I'm still taking my pills, but I reduced the dose," says Teresa, who is also replacing cholesterol pills with lemon juice.
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 2019 12:04:37 +0200 (METDST)

Riyadh, Oct 6, 2019 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together as the ultraconservative kingdom begins offering up tourist visas for the first time.   The tourism authority said in a statement published on Twitter that Saudi women travelling alone would also be able to check into a hotel by presenting valid ID.

In the past, couples wanting to stay in a hotel had to prove they were married.    "This is no longer required for tourists," the statement said.   Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it was opening its doors to holidaymakers with the goal of diversifying its oil-dependent economy.   The kingdom had previously only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers, and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.   Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations.   On September 28, Saudi authorities warned that tourists who violated "public decency", including with immodest clothing and public displays of affection, would be subject to fines.
Date: Sat, 5 Oct 2019 03:30:17 +0200 (METDST)
By Giovanna FLEITAS

Petorca, Chile, Oct 5, 2019 (AFP) - For Erick Hurtado, the worst thing about the drought that has devastated his family farm in Chile is the dead animals.   "Going out and seeing the animals dead on the ground is so horrible," Hurtado says as he gazes across the dusty paddocks of his farm in Petorca, near the coastal city of Valparaiso.

Farmers are counting the cost of one of the driest austral winters in six decades, which has destroyed crops and left tens of thousands of farm animals dead in the fields of central Chile.   Hurtado's farm, owned by his grandfather, has lost half its 60 head of cattle.   So far, 106,000 animals have died due to lack of water and fodder, mostly goats, cattle and sheep, according to the agriculture ministry.   President Sebastian Pinera, who last month announced a $5 billion plan to improve water distribution, this week set up a crisis group of government agencies to tackle the water crisis, which he said had become "more extensive and more intense."

In Colina, north of the capital Santiago, the drought has been hard on small farmers. Scrawny cattle pick at sprigs of strawy grass on pastures that have turned to dust. Cows, goats and horses roam hungry on hills have turned to a dry muddy brown.   "The drought has been disastrous for us," said Sandra Aguilar. Her family owned about a hundred head of cattle. Today, only half survive thanks to a trickle of water provided by a neighbor who still has some reserves.   "The situation is complicated," said Javier Maldonado, governor of the province of Chacabuco, where several agricultural areas have been hit particularly hard by the drought.    "We have to be realistic, climate change is here to stay," he said.

- Water shortages -
Dominga Mondaca points out the deep fissures that run through the garden behind her house in the village of La Ligua near Valparaiso. The garden used to be full of strawberries and citrus trees; now it's cracked earth.    "We have had many years with little water. But the last year, it didn't rain at all," said the 73-year-old, one of more than 600,000 people the government is supplying by tanker trucks as part of emergency measures.   She says she has had to give up raising chickens, in order to keep what little water she and her husband receive for their own consumption, washing and cleaning. Whatever is left, she uses to sprinkle on herbs in a small kitchen garden.   The agriculture ministry says 37,000 family farms need assistance in the central Chile.

- Thirsty avocados? -
In Petorca, some rivers have run dry, and the landscape has been left parched, but lush avocado and citrus plantations are nevertheless thriving.   Locals in Petorca say the real, long-term problem is the mismanagement of water resources.    "There is an excess of monoculture plantations that consume all the water," said Diego Soto of the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection (MODATIMA) told AFP.   Avocados need a lot of water to grow, said Soto.   "An avocado tree needs 600 liters of water per week, whereas humans consume 50 liters a day, or 350 liters a week," he said.   Producers refute these figures and say the real problem is a lack of infrastructure to store water, both above and below ground.    "The avocado is not a crop that needs more water," insisted Francisco Contardo, chairman of the local producers' committee.   Avocados are a key export for Chile, mostly to the US and China, but drought has reduced exports by 25 percent.

- Less snow -
For many though, the changes being wrought by climate change are overwhelmingly obvious. Snow in the highlands of central Chile was relatively scarce this year.    Scientists predict an average decrease of between five and 10 percent snowfall every 10 years in almost the entire Andes mountains, one of the country's main sources of water.   "The central zone of Chile is highly dependent on the summer melt season, its snow and glaciers, which means that if the snow cover is reduced, there is also a reduction in the availability of water resources," said Paul Cordero, climate change expert at the University of Santiago.   Weak snowfall forced the country's main ski resorts to use artificial snow machines much earlier and more often this season than in previous years.    "Chile has been living as if it were a country with an abundance of water," said Pinera.   "Climate change and global warming have changed this situation probably forever."