US defends decision to issue travel advisory for Trinidad and Tobago

The United States on Sunday sought to explain its decision to issue a travel advisory against Trinidad and Tobago earlier this month after Port of Spain said it was taken aback by the advisory, which urged Americans to avoid the capital due to regular violence and shootings.

In a statement, the US Embassy in Trinidad said that the travel advisory was updated on October 5, “due to a change in health restrictions for COVID-19,” adding “the security and safety aspects of the advisory did not change”.

“Travel Advisories do not target specific countries.  Each country is assigned an overall Travel Advisory Level from 1-4.  The Department’s Travel Advisory levels are based on established risk indicators such as health, crime, terrorism, kidnapping or hostage taking, civil unrest, natural disasters, and other potential risks,” the Embassy said.

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“Each country’s level is based on an assessment of domestic conditions that might affect the welfare or safety of U.S. citizens,” it added.

In its advisory, while Washington maintained a Level 2 for Trinidad and Tobago, it issued a Level 4 advisory for Port of Spain that advises US citizens not to travel there.

Further, it said US government personnel are prohibited from travelling to several areas including all beaches and said “violent crime, such as murder, robbery, assault, sexual assault, home invasion, and kidnapping, is common” and that “gang activity, such as narcotics trafficking, is common. A significant portion of violent crime is gang-related.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.”

But National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said Trinidad and Tobago has not had any major terrorist activity “for many many years, perhaps not since 1990″.

However, the US Embassy insisted that advisories are updated when a change in any part of the advisory occurs or when the advisory is lowered.

“The Department of State has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of US citizens overseas.  We are committed to providing US citizens with the most up-to-date, fact-based, accurate, and transparent information to keep US citizens informed when they are abroad,” the Embassy added.

CMC/

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