While you are traveling in Venezuela, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. For example, in Venezuela it is illegal to take pictures of sensitive installations to include the presidential palace, military bases, government buildings, and airports. Just as in the United States, driving under the influence can land you immediately in jail. Criminal penalties will vary however. There are also acts that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. Drug trafficking is a serious problem in Venezuela and treated as such by Venezuelan authorities. Convicted traffickers receive lengthy prison sentences, usually eight to ten years. If you do something illegal in Venezuela, your U.S. passport won’t help. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Security within Venezuela’s prisons is lax to nonexistent. Prison populations are largely under the control of prison gangs with little or no interference from prison authorities. Drugs and weapons are freely available, and prison authorities generally do not provide even basic protections and amenities, including food, so individual prisoners must deal with gang leaders through payments or other mechanisms just to survive. Additionally, the Embassy has received reports from U.S. citizens incarcerated in Venezuelan prisons claiming to have been beaten as well as having had their medication withheld.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Venezuela, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy of your arrest and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy.
Consular Access: Although Venezuela is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Venezuelan government sometimes fails to notify the U.S. Embassy when U.S. citizens are arrested, and/or delays or denies consular access to arrestees. Therefore, U.S. citizens cannot assume a consular officer will visit them within 24-72 hours of an arrest.
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