US Embassy security alert for Cusco & Machu Picchu
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Feb 19, 2013 5:07 AM Last Post By: IncaKola
Feb 14, 2013 3:50 PM
After 9-11, the US government has been hyper-vigilant to issue such warnings whenever they receive any threats to its citizens It might just be wild rumors, but since the threat is current, it’s apparent that they couldn’t wait to determine its credibility. The public notice also puts a lot of pressure on Peruvian security forces to go on full alert since the Cusco / Machu Picchu area is such a popular tourist destination. In other words, expect more delays as you travel through this area because everything and everyone will be under heavy scrutiny by the police, military, and private security forces.
I personally would not change my travel plans if I was going there, but I’d keep my eyes and ears open and always know the quickest exit to safety.
Feb 14, 2013 8:21 PM
Feb 14, 2013 11:40 PM
Feb 15, 2013 4:28 AM
3Embassy warnings always err on the side of caution but shouldn't be totally ignored. The reaction may be a bit out of proportion but something set it off. This one seems a bit vague and the normal precautions someone would take anyway seem to be the path to follow; just remain aware of what is going on around you. Interestingly, scrolling down that link, there was a similar warning for Iquitos same time last year.
Feb 15, 2013 8:11 AM
4Obviously the "something" that set it off was that isolated, single freak incident where some campers were roughed up sleeping on the land of native people.
The great failing – and it's quite shameful, considering the importance their words carry – of the Embassy alerts is that the US warnings virtually never put incidents in context, or discuss resolutions, or rationally look at risks in an area. They (or someone trapped behind a desk in Lima who cannot stand being stuck there for another second) distort and put forth inaccurate information.
Considering the daily kidnappings which go on in the US, you'd think that it would have its own
+expect more delays as you travel through this area because everything and everyone will be under heavy scrutiny by the police, military, and private security forces. +
Utter nonsense of course... but it's good to get it out there and shoot it down then to have made up stuff floating around out there for folks to get scared about.
Feb 15, 2013 9:16 AM
5For some there’s a tendency to dismiss such warnings from their embassy as “more fear and hysteria, than reality.” I spoke to a friend who used to work at US embassies in Asia about this particular warning. He pointed out something that I missed - the warning is very specific in time, duration, and location of the threat. This means that they’ve been tracking this group of “criminals” and kidnapping is probably one of their methods to raise cash. If you’re going to kidnap a tourist, Cusco / Machu Picchu area is a “target rich” environment.
I was also told that in most cases, such warnings come from the host country (Peru) to the US Embassy which does its own threat assessment No such travel warning would be given without first notifying the Peruvian government since Peru is considered a friendly nation and the US wound not want to unnecessarily jeopardize its relations by damaging its tourism industry. As of yet, I haven’t read or heard of any protest or denial by the Peruvian government to this travel warning so there must be something to it.
For me, travel warnings are like road sign warnings. If I’m driving 60 mph (96 kph) and I see a road sign to slow down to 25 mph (40 kph) because of a sharp curve in the road, I will not ignore the warning. I might not slow down to 25 mph, but I will slow down and I will grip the steering wheel a bit harder.
Feb 15, 2013 10:47 AM
6I'm living in Cusco and I haven't seen any heightened police presence or heard of abnormal delays (normal delays are still as frequent as ever though).
Feb 15, 2013 1:57 PM
Feb 15, 2013 1:58 PM
Feb 15, 2013 3:10 PM
9Cusco is pretty quiet at the moment - but it's February and the Inca Trail is closed so that's pretty normal.
What is more worrying is that bookings for the Inca Trail throughout the year are much lower than normal - you can still book Inca Trails for March which hasn't been the case for the last couple of years at least.
Feb 15, 2013 4:05 PM
10I was also told that in most cases, such warnings come from the host country
You were lied to and need to find new friends. In the vast majority of cases, especially smaller ones, the country does not wish for certain areas to become stigmatized abroad... far from it. Someone is making excuses and you're buying it.
If you’re going to kidnap a tourist, Cusco / Machu Picchu area is a “target rich” environment.
Yeah, and so is New York... but guess what? It's not an issue in Cusco and it will not be, not now and not "till the end of February." Yet again, vague information – are they talking about express taxi robberies? What kind of group? Any solid details? No. Just some absurd warning without any context, clearly not supported by the Peruvian government.
Yet again an example of how these embassy warning systems are broken. In a place like Cusco, they have tourists to spare. In other spots like Atitlan, Guatemala or Zacatecas, Mexico, it's not the case, and ignorant, underinformed "warnings" can do real harm to people eking out a living there.
As an example of just how useless this "warning" is, here's what they're telling people to do:
“Review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security and follow instructions of local authorities.”
Obvious advice for ANY travel ANYwhere, ever. "Useless" would be too kind a word for the work of these people, because it would imply that it's not actively dangerous.
They actually state that "personal travel by U.S. Embassy personnel to the Cusco region, including Machu Picchu, has been prohibited and official travel is severely restricted as a result of this threat." Utterly stupid, irresponsible, and wrong.
Feb 15, 2013 4:08 PM
Feb 15, 2013 4:09 PM
12...one really has to ask, if the threat is so "specific," why not specify it? It's not some undercover sting. They should put their money where their mouth is and state what would cause them to inflict grievous harm on a certain region's tourist industry. Perhaps they know that if they actually revealed that, folks would see how flimsy their case is.
I've seen this stuff pulled in country after country; underpaid, uninterested parties involved in making these warnings without basis, and often doing real damage in the process.
Feb 15, 2013 4:10 PM
Feb 17, 2013 10:11 PM
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