Pinoys in Venezuela told: Prepare for possible evacuation

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Friday, March 7, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) asked on Friday over 100 Filipinos in troubled Venezuela to prepare for possible evacuation, as it raised the crisis alert level there to 2.

From alert level 1, which is precautionary phase, the DFA brought it up to 2, which means restriction phase, due to violent street protests that led to 20 deaths in one month.

Demonstrators in Venezuela have been staging rallies since February 12 to demand the resignation of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

"Filipinos in the area are advised to limit non-essential movements, to avoid public places, and to prepare for possible evacuation," the DFA said Friday.

Venezuela street protest
A demonstrator (right) launches marbles with a slingshot towards Bolivarian National Police officers as another prepares a molotov bomb, during clashes in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP)

Alert level 2 is issued when there are real threats to the life, security, and property of Filipinos arising from internal disturbance or external threat.

The DFA said the Philippine Embassy in Mexico, which has jurisdiction over Venezuela, has already dispatched a consular officer to Caracas to provide on-the-ground assessment, to coordinate with the Philippine Honorary Consul General in Venezuela, and to assist the estimated 104 Filipinos in that country.

Under alert level 2, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) only allows overseas Filipino workers with existing contracts to return to their host country.

Violent protest in Venezuela
A demonstrator lights a molotov bomb as he readies to throw it against Bolivarian National Police officers during clashes in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP)

In a phone interview, Dole Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration is already set to impose the mandatory ban for newly-hired overseas Filipino workers bound for Venezuela.

"The ban will be for new hires," said Baldoz. "(Returnees) are not yet covered under alert level 2."

Malacanang, for its part, assured on Friday that no Filipino was injured amid the civil disturbance in Venezuela.

“So far, we have not gotten reports of any Filipino who has been injured or at least involved in the mass actions and hopefully, it stays that way,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a Palace media briefing.

The rallies in Venezuela have been snarling traffic with barricades of garbage, furniture and burning tires. President Maduro's administration though shows no signs of crumbling from several weeks of nearly daily demonstrations, but the country appears in a stalemate.

Protesters are mostly from the middle and upper classes although they do include poorer Venezuelans who don't protest in their home districts for fear of pro-government paramilitaries, said an Associated Press report. (SDR/HDT/PNA/AP/Sunnex)

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