Monday, February 4, 2013

Just because they live in the boonies...

...doesn't mean that they are going to be nice to you. I just saw this account of a horrid experience that three North American tourist underwent at the hands of around 30 villagers in Peru.

Jennifer Wolfrom, her brother Jed and her sister-in-law Meghan Doherty were hiking in a village close to the southern Peruvian city of Cuzco when they were attacked by around 30 angry villagers.
The group were reportedly bound, beaten and robbed by the villagers during a two-day ordeal, beginning on New Year’s Day, which left the group physically and mentally traumatised.
But Ms Wolfrom alleges that staff at the US embassy failed to help the family until media began covering their story.

As a former consular officer, I have a reaction to their statement that they felt the U.S. Consulate didn't help them. The U.S. Consulate in Cuzco apparently didn't know about their ordeal until they had already escaped from it. Having been in the situation of dealing with U.S. citizens after they've suffered some sort of injury abroad, I can only say that there is often almost nothing that U.S. consular officers can do in situations where the host country police won't take action. Consular officers work to ensure that the host country--in this case Peru--gives U.S. citizens the same treatment that citizens of the host country would get; if at possible, they typically do try to cajole the host country into providing even better treatment, but there's no law that forces the host country to give it. Where the host country suffers from deep-rooted corruption and habits of indolence in the local police force, the police "service" rendered its citizens is often far below what we expect coming from the USA.

Getting their story out to the media was probably the most effective thing Ms. Wolfrom could have done in order to have their attackers suffer some sort of punishment. The villagers' action have embarrassed their country internationally and probably hurt tourism in a tourism-dependent area. I don't imagine their neighbors will thank them for it.

If you're planning a trip abroad, please read the consular travel information for your destination(s) and pay attention to the warnings.