Shootings spur other nations to warn about traveling to US
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.