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World Travel Watch

Bolivia roadblocks dead ends for tourists

Email|Print| Text size + By Larry Habegger and James O'Reilly
Globe Correspondents / September 28, 2003

Bolivia: Hundreds of tourists, including 11 Americans, were held at a rural roadblock for five days by peasants protesting a government plan to export natural gas to Mexico and the United States. They were all freed Sept. 21 when soldiers and police clashed with the protesters and at least four people were killed and more than 20 wounded. The incident occurred near Warisata, a village about 45 miles from La Paz.

Such blockades are a common means of protest and can happen at any time, on any road. Incidents have become more frequent around La Paz, the Altiplano and the Yungas. On Sept. 22 the main roads between La Paz, Lake Titicaca, and the Peruvian border crossings at Copacabana and Desaguadero were blocked. Often there are no alternative routes if you get stranded at a blockade.

Follow local press reports for current updates before traveling overland.

Maldive Islands: An unprecedented riot occurred in the capital city, Male, Sept. 20 when violence in the local jail spurred relatives and friends of injured prisoners to attack government buildings and burn police vehicles.

Officials imposed a curfew and police patrolled in armored vehicles, but the curfew was lifted Sept. 22. The incident did not affect tourists because the international airport is on another island, and most resorts are also on other islands. Tensions may linger, so avoid any demonstrations.

Mexico: In an effort to curb police corruption, the mayor of Ecatepec, a city of 2.5 million people just north of Mexico City, has eliminated all traffic and parking fines. So many police had been shaking down motorists for bribes that the mayor decided to abolish tickets, reasoning that if police couldn't threaten people with fines, they would have no excuse to demand a payoff.

Time will tell if this creative approach to solve an age-old problem will spread to the capital and other cities.

Sri Lanka: Peace talks have been stalled for months, but the cease-fire has held and hopes are high that talks will resume in October. Meanwhile, tourism numbers are up and hotels in the south are reporting full bookings in the low season, a dramatic change from a short time ago.

Travelers who might otherwise have gone to Bali or East Asia but were scared off by terrorism or SARS have turned to Sri Lanka because it appears to be rising above its almost 20 years of conflict.

Editor's note: Because conditions can change overnight, always make your own inquiries before you leave home. From the United States, contact the State Department via phone (888-407-4747; 317-472-2328; 202-647-5225), fax (202-647-3000), or website (http://travel.state.gov); abroad, check in with the nearest American embassy or consulate.

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