State Department’s New Travel Advisory System for Cuba and Other Countries          

On January 10, the U.S. State Department announced its new system for travel advisories for all other countries in the world.[1] The sources in footnote 1 describe this new system. Here are the highlights from a Department briefing.

General Information

First, the Department “needed to make it more accessible to people. And that’s why in November we went to a mobile-friendly design for our website. We also needed to make sure that the information was more easily understood, putting it into plain language, making it clearer why we were ranking countries, why we were citing them as a threat or a risk, and making that very obvious to people. And finally, making the information more actionable. We often got questions from people saying, ‘Well, I’ve read your Travel Warning, but what does it mean? What am I supposed to do?’”

“We have gone to a Travel Advisory for every country . . . . And within that Travel Advisory, we have gone to a four-level ranking system, starting with a Level 1, which is ‘Exercise normal precautions’ (e.g., Aruba);  Level 2, ‘Exercise increased caution’ (e.g., Jamaica); Level 3, ‘Reconsider travel’ (e.g., Cuba); and level 4, ‘Do not travel’” (e.g., Mexican states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas due to crime).

“And for each country that has a Level 2 or above, we will specify what we think those risks or threats are, why is it that we’re telling people to consider – reconsider travel or to exercise caution or not to travel at all. And those risks and conditions and circumstances are going to be very clearly spelled out with icons – C for crime, T for terrorism, U for civil unrest, H for health issues, N for natural disasters, E for time-limited events such as elections or major sporting events, and O for other, which is our catch-all for the things that don’t fit into those other categories.”

 Travel Advisory for Cuba.[2]

The new Travel Advisory for Cuba  has the “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” ranking, rather than its previous warning not to go to Cuba. Here is what the new Advisory says:

“Reconsider travel to Cuba due to health attacks directed at U.S. Embassy Havana employees.”

“Over the past several months, numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees appear to have been targeted in specific attacks. Many of these employees have suffered injuries as a consequence of these attacks. Affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms including ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, and difficulty sleeping.”

“Because our personnel’s safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk. Attacks have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and at Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri in Havana.”

“On September 29, 2017, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members to protect the safety of our personnel. Due to the drawdown in staff, the U.S. Embassy in Havana has limited ability to assist U.S. citizens”.

“Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.”

“If you decide to travel to Cuba:

In the State Department briefing on the new system, the spokesperson said the following about Cuba:

  • “As we were putting all this together, we did a very careful assessment. We talked to all of our experts, and this is where we came out on Cuba.” The new Advisory “eliminated a reference to the responsibility of the Cuban government to prevent attacks on U.S. diplomats, which was included in the previous one.”
  • We “have significantly reduced our staffing at our embassy in Havana. Whenever we do that, traditionally we have always issued a Travel Warning, and that has not changed. This is reflected now in the Level 3 ranking that we’ve given to Cuba.” We now “have a very small footprint in our embassy in Havana. We have very, very limited consular resources and our ability to help people in an emergency is extremely limited. So that’s another factor that plays into it.”

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[1] State Dep’t, Fact Sheet: New Travel Advisories for U.S. Travelers (Jan. 10, 2018); State Dep’t, Briefing on the Department of State’s New Travel Advisories (Jan. 10, 2018).

[2] State Dep’t, Travel Advisory: Cuba—Level 3: Reconsider Travel (Jan. 10, 2018); Torres, State Department softens travel warning to Cuba, recommends ‘reconsidering’ trip, Miami Herald (Jan. 10, 2018).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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