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Armed bandits rob 300 tourists on Venezuela beach

arapito_beachFrom Caribbean News Now

CARACAS, Venezuela — Just days after Venezuela’s tourism minister announced a plan to attract more tourists to the country, a group of seven armed bandits robbed some 300 people relaxing on a Caribbean beach in eastern Venezuela.

The attack took place around noon on Friday at Arapito Isla Beach.

Local media reported that, according to the victims, the assailants landed on the beach in a boat whose motor wouldn’t start when they tried to leave, so they stole a fisherman’s boat for their getaway.

The daily El Tiempo in nearby Puerto La Cruz said the robbers hid their faces with ski masks and “carried R-15 (military) rifles.”

“They started shooting in the air,” then ordered “all their victims to keep calm because otherwise blood would be spilled.”

“One of the bandits ordered the tourists to open their purses and hand over all their belongings, while the others kept their victims at gunpoint,” the newspaper said.

No one was hurt in the incident.

Earlier this month, tourism minister Andres Izarra said that Venezuela is seeking to improve its image and promote its diverse natural attractions to make tourism a major source of revenue.

The goal is to increase tourism’s current 4 percent contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) to 9 percent by 2019, he said during the 2014 Venezuelan International Tourism Fair.

The national strategic plan for the tourism industry calls for adding 60,000 hotel beds by 2019, enhancing the quality of tourism services and tripling the number of foreign visitors to two million a year.

However, along with political issues and public safety concerns, Venezuela has never been able to present an appealing image for international tourism like Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Cuba have done.

Predictably, Izarra blamed the situation on the international media.

According to the World Bank, only 710,000 foreigners visited Venezuela in 2012, a number below the 904,000 visitors who travelled to the small Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, and a far cry from the almost 23.5 million tourists visiting Mexico.

IMAGE: Arapito Isla Beach. Getty Images

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