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Thursday, April 19, 2007


The unprecedented killing spree that left 33 deaths, including the deranged gunman, at Virginia Tech this week makes me wonder whether it's time for the U.S. State Department to scrap its travel warnings about countries that it deems too dangerous for Americans to visit. Read the full column here to find out why, and let us know what YOU think.


Blogger Unknown said...

I found your column today very upsetting. Your statement that the US should issue travel warnings against traveling to the US based upon the acts of one sick individual and comparing this tragedy to the ongoing violence in other countries as justification for your statement is disgusting. If the USA is such a horrible country and despised so much around the world, then why does everyone one to migrate here? Perhaps the hypocrisy lies with the countries who spit on the US while simultaneously taking our billions in monetary aid, while their violence runs unchecked and unpunished. We Americas may not be perfect, but we continue to support the law and our justice system. Shame on you Mr. Oppenheimer!!!

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from: Paul Thørsen

Oh come on, åndêrs, nobody I know, including myself, look at state department advisories when considering where to travel to. We base our opinions on what we see on TV news and in newspapers. We read things like this:
September 29, 2006
His trip began in Bolivia, where he had spent the previous year volunteering at an orphanage and helped put up a building.
From there it was through the Andes and into Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
In Colombia -- fluent in Spanish, along with English and his native Norwegian -- he got friendly with army troops and police officers. They let him stay in the jailhouse on nights he had nowhere to sleep. Otherwise, he set up his tent where he could, until one evening when several men attacked him in his tent.
Grabbing his knife, he cut open his tent and "yelled like Rambo." The would-be robbers fled, leaving Monstad shaken but unhurt.
Submitted by Peter on Tue, 11/11/2003 - 19:05.
By Jason Spellberg, 2002-10-27
I just got back from a 2-week trip to Columbia--I visited Cartagena, Barranquilla, Bogota, and Cali. This was my first time in Columbia, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I have lots of friends who are Columbian (most of them removed from Columbia by at least one generation, though), and a couple of gringo friends who have been to Columbia, but not recently. Everybody I talked to pretty much told me that going there was a very bad idea. They said that I was very likely to get robbed, maybe even mugged at gunpoint, and that there was a very real chance that I could even be kidnapped. A gringo friend of mine told me that he couldn't sleep in his Bogota hotel room 4 years ago because he heard gunshots all night long. He told me that he was lucky to get out of Columbia alive and with his wallet.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from: Paul Thørsen

Oh come on, åndêrs, you must know that Latin America manipulates crime data:
February 17, 2007
Critics: Colombia manipulates crime data
BOGOTA, Colombia -- Critics say President Alvaro Uribe's government is manipulating statistics to make Colombia appear safer than it is, casting doubt on achievements that have made him popular both at home and with the U.S. government.
One of the leading critics is Cesar Caballero, who said he quit as director of the federal statistics office in 2004 because Uribe's office told him not to release a study that found sharply higher homicide rates in major Colombian cities.
"The president's policy is that you have to maintain the perception that security has improved, no matter what the case," Caballero said.
In his November speech, Burns also cited a sharp drop in the number of Colombians displaced by political violence. But the United Nations has said Uribe's administration is underestimating the internal refugee problem by more than a million people.
The government's figure - 1.9 million - counts only those who were forced to flee their homes by actual violence - not just threats. The U.N. says the real number is 3 million and that the number has risen since Uribe took office, basing its estimate on data compiled mostly by the Roman Catholic Church.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I travel all over the world ; the main reason people avoid visiting the US is not the threat of violence there but rather the fact that educated global citizens simply do not want to have to deal with idiotic American bureaucrats at US immigration etc who make you feel unwelcome and make you take off your shoes, your belt and ask you idiotic questions etc.

Typically these American customs bureaucrats are recently arrived immigrants or minorities from low income backgrounds- those are the worst kind of Americans to deal with. Very often foreign visitors will speak better English than these American bureaucrats ; typically your average foreign visitor is also far better informed about the US than these low income poorly informed American immigration and security bureaucrats.

All of the above is absolutely true; talk to any highly educated or travelled global citizen and they can confirm to you that everbody is avoiding travelling to America like the plague.

I personally still make an exception and will gladly visit New York City as I consider that to be the only city in the US with some culture worthy of a visit; other than that you can give me any other country in the world but I simply do not want to go through the hassle of having to deal with all these idiotic American security and immigration bureaucrats; life is too short to have to deal with such morons.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think the comparison of Bogota and New York City is flawed. Having been to Bogota many times, the city is overrun with Colombian Military Officers which sure is not the case in New York City. Also, you are trying to compare the developed world with a developing country (Colombia) which is very difficult to do on several levels. While I agree that the US Travel Warnings should be more impartial, the data is intended for use by US Citizens and often have valid security warnings. One example would be the overall homicide and kidnapping statistics in Colombia which have improved under Uribe but are still cause for concern. Additionally, the homicide rate in Colombia is still 10x the rate of the US per capita. Why would the US put itself on a travel warning list when the Dept. of State comes up with list (international travel is assumed here). If foreign governments want to publish warnings about travel to the US, they can do that but it is my experience that many countries are too busy fighting their own battles against narco-trafficking, money laundering, terrorism, kidnapping, homicide, corruption, impunity and poverty to name a few in the Americas Region.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Sebastián Gómez said...

Hello Andres, I've commeted once before cause totally agreed with you back then. But now, I must say I don't agree at all. And I find rude of you to make such comments. I found very useful the statistics you gave, but there's no need to bring the Virginia Tech incident.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Andres,

I just read your column about travel advisories issued by the state department (I read the column on-line in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, a paper for which I used to work). When I was in Guatemala in 1994, when there was a travel advisory issued for that country, I heard something quite interesting.

I was hanging out in Antigua, which as you probably know has a large Norteamericano expat population. One of the guys who'd been living there for a while said he knew somebody at the embassy in Guatemala City. He said that embassy employee told him that if a country is selected for a travel advisory, the pay level of each employee at the embassy is increased by a certain percentage for "hazardous duty."

Makes sense to me.

Jim Satterly
DeLand FL

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont care..

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You’re my favorite Miami Herald writer…..well, you were.,, I don’t have time to read and keep up with the news in Latin America and it’s hard to find an unbiased factual opinion so I turn to your columns every time I can to understand what’s “really” happening on that side of the world. I even was a big fun and promoter of your book. My father, who has a long commute, gets his news, and views, from the “crazy and biased Spanish-radio talk heads”. One day I bought your book “Cuentos Chinos” and gave it to him as a way to show him how there are thoughtful unbiased writers like you that can tell facts from fiction. I believed you were the kind of writer that stayed away from those that prefer flashy headliners with poor arguments and shoddy statistics. I thought you were the eyes and voice of the educated bilingual, bicultural reader with a keen eye on Latin America; yet, living like all of us, the American reality. But then, reading on April 19th, the Miami Herald I could not believe the headline “US may have to include itself in travel warnings” Using the acts of a crazy man to defend the improvements of my country of origin!!!!. The conclusions you draw really have a lot to be desired. I was sick and tired of the media here covering such a crazy act! ….and I could not believe what I was reading from you!
Why did it hit me so hard!!!!I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and my parents moved to the US when I was 18 years old because of the violence and insecurity. It was difficult at 18 to leave such a great country; yet, at 42 I’m a proud American who lived 14 years in Washington D.C. where I went to school, live and work for many years. I worked in Colombia for 1 year in 1999 managing a project with 40+ non-Colombians and experienced first hand the security challenges. We had a few American-born Americans visit us frequently and it was always a security challenge. However, I went back to Colombia with my wife and kids in 2006 and enjoyed the “new” Colombia so much that we may send the kids for summer school there again. By the way the kids were born in Virginia. Although safer I know there’re risks involved. The same risks that Va. Tech parents and all parents sending their kids away know that exist. But please do not correlate such tragedy with the politics of the US Department, Colombia and the shootings in Anacostia in D.C. The story hit me hard! Finding your blog I read your article on president Uribe, and the fact that you ask him about “his next 4 years”, and the way you questioned avoiding your question gives me hope that the Va tech headline and article was one of those days that you were just off. By the way, I saw today that the headline and probably the message of the article was different in Spanish….may be you had an off day? Is someone else translating for you????….but Andres, you have people like me that can’t afford those days off! Please don’t use “cuentos chinos” with people like me…..your avid readers.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I calculate that this administration spends $4.67 per citizen on alternative energy research. I spend more going to McDonalds for a hamburger and fries.

Maybe pain at the pump is the only motivating factor to get people to do something about this potentially major national, social, and environmental issue. People seem happy to go to work and fill their tanks with Chavez controlled oil. Why are we supporting these dictators while ruining our environment at the same time?

Keep up the good work.


3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?

7:41 PM  

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