Shoot­ings spur other na­tions to warn about trav­el­ing to US

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Scott Smith

CARA­CAS, Venezuela — The United States of­ten takes a lead­ing role in call­ing out the world’s most dan­ger­ous places, warn­ing its peo­ple about the risks of trav­el­ing to coun­tries that are at war, un­der ter­ror­ist threats, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing civil un­rest or dis­play­ing sig­nif­i­cant anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment.

The lat­est mass shoot­ings have brought about a sharp role re­ver­sal, with three coun­tries warn­ing their cit­i­zens about the risks of trav­el­ing to the United States.

Japan, Uruguay and Venezuela is­sued warn­ings to vary­ing de­grees af­ter the deaths of 31 peo­ple last week­end in El Paso, Texas and Day­ton, Ohio. Each warn­ing noted U.S. gun vi­o­lence, and at least one was laced with a dose of po­lit­i­cal pay­back.

With­out nam­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the govern­ment of Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro blamed the surge in vi­o­lence on speeches em­a­nat­ing from Wash­ing­ton that are “im­preg­nated with racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and ha­tred against im­mi­grants.”

It urges Venezue­lans to post­pone U.S. trips.

The so­cial­ist Maduro is rul­ing over the worst eco­nomic cri­sis in Venezue­lan his­tory amid an es­ca­lat­ing po­lit­i­cal bat­tle with the White House, which backs op­po­si­tion leader Juan Guaido’s bid to oust him.

Travel in­dus­try an­a­lyst Henry Harteveldt said Venezuela’s warn­ing came off more like a “po­lit­i­cal jab” than a gen­uine con­cern for its cit­i­zens’ safety. It came hours be­fore Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that hit Maduro’s govern­ment with yet an­other round of pun­ish­ing fi­nan­cial sanc­tions de­signed to end his rule.

“Venezuela cer­tainly has more than a lit­tle po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion to is­sue its ad­vi­sory,” said Harteveldt, pres­i­dent of San Fran­cis­cobased At­mos­phere Re­search Group. “I think peo­ple will see there’s a tit-for­tat go­ing on.”

Coun­tries such as Aus­tralia, New Zealand and the Nether­lands have not is­sued new warn­ings in re­cent days, but they have long-stand­ing ad­vi­sories for trav­el­ers of mass shoot­ings and gun vi­o­lence.

The State De­part­ment is ob­li­gated to in­form the pub­lic about po­ten­tial threats un­der a “no dou­ble stan­dard” rule that calls for such in­for­ma­tion to be shared equally with govern­ment em­ploy­ees as well as the pub­lic.

The U.S. de­nies that any of its travel warn­ings are po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, but that does not stop fre­quent com­plaints from for­eign coun­tries. The im­pact of an ad­vi­sory that warns Amer­i­cans against trav­el­ing to a cer­tain coun­try can be sig­nif­i­cant, par­tic­u­larly if that coun­try re­lies heav­ily on tourism for rev­enue.

In the State De­part­ment travel ad­vi­sory sys­tem, ev­ery coun­try gets an ad­vi­sory rang­ing from level one, rec­om­mend­ing Amer­i­cans ex­er­cise nor­mal pre­cau­tions, to the max­i­mum level four, which un­am­bigu­ously warns: “Do not travel.”

Venezuela also ad­vanced to this high­est warn­ing level in April, af­ter the U.S. evac­u­ated its em­bassy. Amer­i­can Air­lines, the last U.S. car­rier to make the three-hour trip be­tween Cara­cas and Mi­ami, sus­pended its flights, cit­ing con­cerns by the pi­lots’ union.

Uru­gay’s for­eign min­is­ter last week urged peo­ple trav­el­ing to the U.S. to avoid large gath­er­ings, such as amuse­ment parks and sport­ing events “given the au­thor­i­ties’ in­abil­ity to pre­vent th­ese sit­u­a­tions” in­volv­ing firearms.

For its part, Japan’s Con­sulate in Detroit is­sued a more gen­eral warn­ing to its cit­i­zens in the United States fol­low­ing the shoot­ing in Day­ton. It noted the po­ten­tial for gun vi­o­lence given the preva­lence of weapons, call­ing the U.S. a “gun so­ci­ety.”

Ja­panese cit­i­zens are ad­vised to pay at­ten­tion to the po­ten­tial for gun­fire “ev­ery­where” in the U.S.

Guns are highly re­stricted in Japan, a coun­try with one of the low­est rates of gun crime in the world.

ALI OS­MAN PEKOGLU/DREAMSTIME

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