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Americans were warned about Venezuela travel before latest sanctions

Potential travelers to Venezuela may want to check out the State Department's warning about the country

If Venezuela is on your travel list this year, you may want to consider the warning about the country's violent crime that was issued by the U.S. State Department late last year.

The Dec. 11 travel warning came well before President Obama on Monday called Venezuela an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to the U.S. and imposed sanctions against seven of its officials.

The warning says the South American nation generally and the capital Caracas specifically have a homicide rate that is among the highest in the world. It cited Caracas' rate of 134 homicides per 100,000 people.

It says kidnappings are "a serious concern throughout the country" and that carjackings and kidnappings are common along main roads that link cities.

"In addition, there is cross-border violence, kidnappings, drug trafficking, and smuggling along Venezuela’s western border," the warning says.

The warning advises Americans to be vigilant of their surroundings wherever they stay or visit, to travel in groups of two or more, and to avoid wearing jewelry or carrying large sums of money.

Actions last week by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro now may make it more difficult for Americans to enter the country.

Maduro decided to start requiring Americans to obtain visas before visiting the country, removing the U.S. from the list of countries that are exempt from visa rules. It's unclear how Americans would obtain visas and how much they would cost, according to media reports.

In the latest U.S. action, Obama called out seven officials for alleged human rights violations. Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late Hugo Chavez, responded by announcing that he wanted the number of U.S. diplomats in his country reduced from 100 to 17.

Also, Venezuela recently accused the U.S. of plotting a coup to destabilize the country -- accusations that Washington denies.

More information is available from the Venezuela Travel Warning and the White House's Venezuela Executive Order.

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