Published On: Wed, Jul 13th, 2016

Bahamas government defends US travel advisory

Fred_MitchellNASSAU ,- The Bahamas ministry of foreign affairs has denied a suggestion that it was acting for political reasons when it issued a travel advisory on the heels of the fatal shootings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota last week, and after five police officers were killed and seven others were injured by a shooter who opened fire during a rally in Dallas.

On Monday, minister of foreign affairs and immigration Fred Mitchell sent The Nassau Guardian a statement his ministry sent to CNN after former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Assistant Director Tom Fuentes suggested that the reasoning behind the issuance of the advisory was political.

“This sounds like a political reason to put something like that out,” said Fuentes on CNN. “I would like to see what they based that on and how they justified that.”

Art Roderick, a law enforcement analyst who also commented during a CNN program, described the advisory as sad.

“It’s sad that we have come to this particular conclusion where we have actually foreign governments putting out these types of warnings, whether it is valid or not. I am not sure, but obviously the Bahamian government deems it necessary,” Roderick said.

In its statement to CNN, the ministry of foreign affairs said, “A guest on one of your segments today suggested that the advisory given to our citizens on the recent tensions in US cities connected with the deaths of young black Americans and police officers is for political reasons.

“There is no basis for this.

“The notice is quite clear in its terms. It means no more or less than what it says. The travel advisory is directed at Bahamian citizens who are in the United States or plan to travel there soon, that given recent tragic events, we caution our citizens to exercise good judgment, awareness, and respect for US laws and law enforcement officials.

“This notification is similar to others we have issued in the past and is part of our duty and legal obligation we have to our citizens. It is also similar to advisories that other countries have issued when necessary.”

In its advisory issued on Friday, the ministry of foreign affairs asked young Bahamian men in particular to “exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interaction with the police”.

The advisory, which was widely carried by US media on the weekend, said, “Do not be confrontational and cooperate. Bahamians have been advised to stay away from any political demonstrations under any circumstances.”

Dangerous nation

In some quarters, the advisory also resulted in the spotlight being placed on the high crime rate in The Bahamas.

On Sunday, an article appeared online by Mike Pesca of suggesting that Bahamians are safer in the United States than they are at home.

The article said, “The Bahamas is warning its citizens about the dangers of The United States: The truth is Bahamians are safer abroad than at home.”

It compares the 2015 murder rate in The Bahamas (149) to those in the United States.

“This murder rate of roughly 38 per 100,000 residents is comparable to the deadliest three or four American cities,” the article read.

“It is approximately ten times the murder rate of New York City and of the United States as a whole.

“It is also four times the homicide rate of Ferguson, Missouri, which Donald Trump recently identified as ‘among the most dangerous [places] in the world’.”

The article noted, “The US state department rates the criminal threat level for The Bahamas’ New Providence island as critical, noting that armed robbery and sexual assault are major criminal threats facing US citizens in New Providence.

“If you want to compare The Bahamas’ overall murder rate with the chances a black man has of being killed by a police officer in the United States, the Caribbean nation looks even more dangerous.”

By Keesha Bethell
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter

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