Did the kidnapping threat ever exist? Has the danger passed? Embassy officials aren't saying, but the tourism gates are back open apparently.
The U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, lifted a controversial travel warning that restricted embassy personnel from traveling to the Cusco and Machu Picchu area.
The Embassy posted a Security Message for U.S. Citizens — Reduction of Potential Kidnapping Threat in Cusco on its website and Facebook page today. It reads, in part:
“The U.S. Embassy has conducted a thorough review of current information surrounding the potential kidnapping threat against U.S. citizens in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area by members of a criminal organization. Based upon this review, the February 13 restriction on travel by U.S. Embassy personnel to the region has been lifted.
Peruvian newspapers reported that the February 13 warning grew out of intercepted messages from the Shining Path rebel group.
Peruvian officials condemned the February 13 warning and noted that it would negatively impact tourism to Peru, including to the traveler magnet, Machu Picchu.
The U.S. Embassy in Lima apparently believes that either its intelligence was erroneous or that the kidnapping threat has passed.
The full message reads:
Security Message for U.S. Citizens – Reduction of Potential Kidnapping Threat in Cusco
U.S. Embassy Lima, Peru
March 6, 2013
The U.S. Embassy has conducted a thorough review of current information surrounding the potential kidnapping threat against U.S. citizens in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area by members of a criminal organization. Based upon this review, the February 13 restriction on travel by U.S. Embassy personnel to the region has been lifted.
The Embassy continues to strongly recommend that when traveling in areas near the Peruvian “VRAEM” Emergency Zone, defined by the Government of Peru as parts of the Regions of Apurimac, Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica and Junin, U.S. citizens heighten their security awareness and implement additional security measures. You can find additional tips for safe travel here. The full listing of areas to which Embassy travel is restricted are included in the Threats to Safety and Security section of our Country Specific Information for Peru.
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.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Peru enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy.
Regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for Peru. For additional information, refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad” on the State Department’s website.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions. You can stay in touch and get Embassy updates by checking the Embassy Lima website or Lima ACS Facebook page. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and the Android market, to have travel information at your fingertips.
The U.S. Consular Agency in Cusco, Peru, can be found at Avenida Pardo 845, Cusco. The office can be reached by phone at (51) 984-621-369 or (5184) 231-474, and is open Monday through Friday, excluding U.S. and Peruvian holidays, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section, located in Monterrico, a suburb of Lima, at Avenida La Encalada, Block Seventeen; telephone 51-1-618-2000 during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or for after-hours emergencies; website at http://lima.usembassy.gov/. The Consular Section is open for emergency services, including registration, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekdays, excluding U.S. and Peruvian holidays. Non-emergency services are provided by appointment only.
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Photo Credit: The travel warning about visits to Machu Picchu undoubtedly didn't help Peru tourism. Shashi Bellamkonda / Flickr