Uruguay and Venezuela have discouraged their citizens from traveling to the United States, citing this weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio as indicators of danger and a rise in hate crimes.
In recent years, Germany, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand have issued similar warnings about travel to America.
In some cases, such alerts have been politically motivated responses to the United States declaring other countries dangerous, but a growing number of countries have taken America’s prevalence of mass gun violence as a serious threat to their citizens.
Venezuela’s warning to its citizens came amid political disagreements with the United States.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza urged Venezuelans to “take extreme precautions or postpone their travels in the face of the proliferation of acts of violence and hate crimes.” The Uruguayan foreign ministry, meanwhile, warned of the “the indiscriminate possession of firearms by the population” and told travelers to avoid taking children to crowded places like theme parks and sporting events.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry specifically referred to El Paso and Dayton in its statement Monday and blamed the Trump administration for stoking racism and xenophobia.
“These growing acts of violence have found echo and sustenance in the speeches and actions impregnated with racial discrimination and hatred against migrant populations pronounced and executed from the supremacist elite that hold political power in Washington,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Political motivations may underlie both the Venezuelan and Uruguayan warnings; the Trump administration has backed Venezuela’s National Assembly President Juan Guaidó’s quest to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power, and the U.S. State Department raised its own risk rating of Uruguay last week.
But they weren’t the first countries to issue such notices after mass shootings. Places like Ireland and Germany have previously cautioned travelers that guns are easily obtainable in the U.S., and that tourist destinations and crowded public places could be targeted.
New Zealand’s government warns in an online travel advisory that “there is a higher incidence of violent crime and firearm possession than in New Zealand” and “active shooter incidents occur from time to time in the United States.”
It points specifically to the Santa Fe, New Mexico, school shooting in May 2018 that killed 10 and injured 14; a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that killed 26; and the rampage at a Las Vegas concert in 2017 that killed 58 and injured more than 800.
“Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners,” its travel advisory for the U.S. reads, although it adds that attacks rarely involve tourists.
Ireland warns that the country has “witnessed a number of mass shootings in recent years.” Canada cautions that “incidents of mass shooting occur” and tells citizens to be aware of their surroundings, especially at night.
Police shootings of black men in the United States and a retaliatory shooting of police officers in Dallas in July 2016 prompted the Bahamas to advise young men in particular to tread carefully while visiting American cities.
“We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the U.S. but especially to the affected cities to exercise appropriate caution generally,” a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Issues reads. “In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.”
The vitriol present in American politics in recent years has also not escaped international notice. Germany and New Zealand both warn travelers to the U.S. of the potential for politics to turn deadly.
“A number of politically motivated attacks have occurred in recent years, causing multiple deaths and injuries,” the New Zealand government warns.
Close to 40 million foreigners traveled to the United States in 2018, according to the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office. The U.S. State Department maintains a database of travel advisories for Americans planning trips abroad, rating destinations according to the government’s assessment of risk from “Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions” to “Level 4: Do Not Travel.”
The site implores citizens to steer clear of Afghanistan due to crime and terrorism, for instance, or to “exercise increased caution” in France amid “civil unrest.”
While the State Department does not maintain such a risk rating page on the U.S. itself, an official map puts the U.S. at the lowest risk level.
Other countries, though, have begged to differ – particularly as shooters armed with high-powered rifles mowed down victims at schools, concerts, nightclubs and Walmarts.
The United States has the 28th-highest rate of deaths from gun violence in the world, according to a 2017 report by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Four or more people have been killed in a mass shooting in the U.S. every 47 days since June 2015, a Washington Post analysis found.
The shootings in El Paso and Dayton marked the 30th and 31st such shootings since then. An attack on a Walmart and shopping center in El Paso on Saturday left 20 dead and dozens wounded, and another shooter killed nine in Dayton, Ohio just 13 hours later. The death toll in the El Paso shooting has since risen to 22.
Authorities are treating the El Paso shooting as a domestic terrorist attack and the 21-year-old suspect could face federal hate crime charges. Law enforcement officials are investigating an online manifesto published ahead of the attack complaining of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and detailing plans for a shooting. In the wake of the shooting, many Democrats have blamed President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration stance for fueling white supremacy.
Travel warnings about terrorist threats are unlikely to deter travelers in the long term, the World Travel and Tourism Council found. The organization found that while terrorism does affect tourism, it’s impact on the industry is less than natural disasters, civil unrest and health epidemics, according to a statement.
Still, mass shootings can decrease tourism in the short term. It took three months for Orlando’s tourism industry to recover after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016, according to the WTTC’s vice president for research Rochelle Turner, and a year for Las Vegas’s to bounce back after a mass shooting turned a music festival into a bloodbath there in 2017.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Claire Parker