The United States Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago has responded to comments made by the United National Congress (UNC) with regards to the Department of State’s travel advisory to US citizens.
The Travel Advisory for Trinidad and Tobago is now ‘Level Four Do Not Travel’ due to restricted travel options put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In a press release on Friday, the Opposition noted that the US Embassy advised its citizens to avoid areas that have previously been identified as “criminal hotspots” near the capital including Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, Cocorite and the interior of the Queen’s Park Savannah.
According to the UNC, these areas have been ruled by the People’s National Movement (PNM) since 1956 and reflects “65 years of dereliction of duty and abuse of trust”. It added that this further represents the ruling party’s inability to protect the nation as a whole.
The UNC said: “We need to connect these dots and correct our actions to save our country. If [Dr] Keith Rowley, Fitzgerald Hinds, and Stuart Young have failed so spectacularly to provide security for the people of Port-of-Spain and Cocorite after 65 years of rule, then it is impossible for them to now provide safety and security for Trinidad and Tobago as a whole. We witness this truth every single day under the PNM and Rowley’s misrule.”
However, criticising the press release, the US Embassy hit back at the UNC and denied issuing a travel advisory for political reasons.
It stated: “The Department’s Travel Advisories are apolitical in nature, and in no way reflect our relationship with any country or with any specific political party within a country. We recently adjusted our Travel Advisory system to give more weight to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Following this update, approximately 80% of countries worldwide have a Travel Advisory Level of 4: Do Not Travel.”
Meanwhile, the US Embassy said the naming of specific neighbourhoods in the travel advisory comes from a specific provision of US law which states there can be no double standard for citizens versus employees of the Department of State.
It continued: “Safety information we make available to our Embassy staff, by law must also be given to the greater US public. Since the Embassy is located in Port-of-Spain, we warn our employees only about the areas in or around Port-of-Spain. There are other areas of the country that are dangerous for non-residents to visit as well, including beaches around Trinidad and Tobago, based on police reports of criminal activity. We strongly disagree with any attempt to politicise the Department of State’s travel advisory system.”