December 6, 1999
Hundreds of Czech tourists mobbed, robbed in Venezuela

                  PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Hundreds of young Czechs have been
                  assaulted and robbed in Venezuela over the past two weeks during an
                  unprecedented influx of Czech tourists to the South American country, an
                  official said Monday.

                  Over 400 young Czechs arrived in Venezuela between Nov. 16-19 courtesy
                  of ultra-cheap plane tickets sold by the German airline carrier Lufthansa in a
                  special promotion.

                  Eighty tourists have lost most of their belongings in armed robberies,
                  Svatopluk Cumba, consul of the Czech Embassy in Caracas, told The
                  Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday.

                  No one has been injured, although three people have suffered cuts and
                  bruises in three separate incidents, Cumba said.

                  "These people were absolutely unprepared for South America," Cumba
                  said. "Some were robbed as many as three times in four days, many of them
                  while getting a tan on the beach."

                  Most of the robberies have occurred in Caracas and the northern seaside
                  resort of Puerto Cabello, Cumba said.

                  In addition to the robberies, over 50 people got stranded in a traffic jam on
                  their way to the Caracas airport and missed their flights home.

                  Venezuela is one of the more exotic destinations for Czechs, with only
                  several hundred of them going there every year, as the air fares are several
                  times higher than the average Czech salary.

                  In a scheme called "Velvet Tickets" on the occasion of the 10th anniversary
                  of the Nov. 17, 1989 student-led "Velvet revolution" that toppled
                  communism here, Lufthansa offered Czech students special round-trip plane
                  tickets to attractive South American and Asian destinations for as little as

                    Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.