U.S. Official Dispels Concerns Over Hidden Agenda In Jamaica Travel Advisory

U.S. Official Dispels Concerns Over Hidden Agenda In Jamaica Travel Advisory

Uzra Zeya, the undersecretary for civil security, democracy, and human rights, assured reporters at the Jamaica Observer that Washington’s recent travel advisory has no hidden agenda.

“I can assure you, having worked in this very consulate myself, having begun my career here, there’s no hidden agenda when it comes to protecting American citizens, and ultimately, what I’ve seen first-hand in my visits today is a mutual vocation between the US and Jamaica for advancing the safety and the welfare of all our citizens, and we’re really proud to support that through our partnerships to support civilian security,” Zeya said.

Jamaica’s high crime rate and dearth of medical resources prompted the U.S. State Department to advise Americans against traveling to Jamaica from January 23. Additionally, it has restricted government employees from visiting several areas due to heightened security risks.

“Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts,” the advisory said.

It further stated that when arrests are made, cases are rarely prosecuted to a final punishment and that police officers frequently fail to adequately respond to serious offenses.

Additionally, it stated that private hospitals demand payment in full before accepting patients and might not be able to offer specialized care, while public hospitals are underfunded and sometimes unable to offer high-quality or specialized care.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, however, “seemed genuinely perplexed” by the timing and content of the advisory, according to Travel Weekly.

The Financial Times had written a positive story about the island two weeks before the advisory’s release, praising it as “arguably one of the most remarkable and radical but underappreciated turnaround stories in economic history.”

Undersecretary Zeya reaffirmed on Tuesday that the travel advisory system is a crucial instrument and component of the U.S. government’s obligation to protect the well-being and safety of American citizens.

Zeya stated that while the advisory’s level remained unchanged, information about medical and health considerations had been updated. This data is gathered objectively and based on facts. 

“The United States is proud of the fact that American nationals represent the vast majority of tourists to Jamaica, and we believe that Jamaica is and will remain a major tourist destination for the American people, but our travel advisory system, [and] the work of our consulate here is intended to help make those journeys safe and secure,” she told reports.

Ambassador of Jamaica to the United States Said Travel Advisory Is “Inaccurate”

Ambassador Audrey Marks of Jamaica to the United States expressed the country’s strong objection to the advisory on Facebook, criticizing it for misrepresenting the situation in Jamaica and distorting facts. To counter the advisory’s claims, Marks provided a fact sheet from Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade.

Ambassador Marks highlighted the use of exaggerated language in the advisory, suggesting it inaccurately portrays Jamaica as undergoing a significant violent crisis. She emphasized that Jamaica recorded its lowest crime rate in over two decades in 2023 and pointed out that illegal drug and gun trafficking, primarily from the U.S. and Latin America, contributes to 80% of serious crimes in Jamaica. Marks also noted that over 90% of illicit firearms in Jamaica originate from the U.S., underscoring the complexities of the crime situation and the efforts toward its amelioration.