U.S. State Department kicks up a storm in Peru with report about restricted travel for U.S. government employees

Peruvian Premier Yehude Simon and several regional presidents are rejecting a U.S. State Department report warning tourists that it restricts travel by U.S. government employees in eight Peruvian departments because of danger from Shining Path terrorists and drug traffickers.

“The report is completely erroneous, completely mistaken, someone doesn’t understand what’s going on in this world,” said Simon. “If some things are true, they don’t deserve to be exaggerated in order to, one way or another, affect us (negatively).” he said.

“We’ve had our difficulties,” said Simon in comments to Radio Programas radio. “But a strike is one thing, and (restricting travel to) eight provinces is another.”

“(This report) is so far from the truth… they are completely confused,” Simon said. “The best place for tourism is in Peru… and I will be communicating with the U.S. ambassador (Michael McKinley) to find out where this less than accurate information came from.”

The U.S. Embassy in Lima issued a statement that the State Department report did not amount to a warning to U.S. citizens to avoid Peru. The report was in accordance with the Peruvian government’s own designation of emergency zones, the statement continued, and was meant to educate U.S. citizens so they could make informed travel decisions.

The report, published on Dec. 17, says travel by U.S. government employees is restricted in certain provinces and territories of Ayacucho, Cuzco, Huancavelica, Huánuco, Junín, San Martín, Ucayali, and Loreto where “terrorist groups and narcotics traffickers have recently resorted to violent actions. ”

Most of the locations specified by the report are in lawless zones in Peru’s hinterlands, far from the country’s most popular tourist routes. The list includes the isolated swath of territory in the western section of the department of Cuzco leading into the Apurímac and Ene river valleys, or VRAE, the Ayacucho provinces of  La Mar and Huanta, and the road into the jungle town of San Francisco — all hotspots of cocaine production where roadside ambushes against police and military patrols are frequent.

Overland travel at night outside major urban areas is also prohibited for U.S. government personnel “because of the risks posed from robbery and unsafe road conditions.”

The report also warns U.S. travelers in Peru that violent crime, including carjacking, assault, and armed robbery, is common in Lima and other large cities, and cautions travelers to be “especially careful” when visiting any location in downtown Lima, including Peru’s famed Plaza de Armas.

This is a complete exaggeration, said Ayacucho Regional President Ernesto Molina. “My department is completely safe and peaceful,” he said.

“There is much more security in Peru than in the U.S.,” where news agencies are constantly reporting that armed university students are killing each other, concluded Simon.

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