by Mark Albert
U.S. State Department illustration
WASHINGTON (TVR) – The U.S. State Department has overhauled its travel advisory system, unveiling new, simplified alerts that break down threats for Americans in countries across the globe in four, color-coded categories.
Often beset by confusion and lagging often-whirlwind geopolitical changes, the travel warnings had sometimes befuddled U.S. citizens seeking clear and unambiguous guidance about a country’s safety risk.
The State Department’s top leadership acknowledged that its travel alerts, travel warnings, and travel advisories — all separate products with separate definitions — “were not readily understood.”
“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,” Michelle Bernier-Toth, Bureau of Consular Affairs Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary For Overseas Citizens Services, explained in a teleconference for reporters this month.
The department considers its new advisory system “the cornerstone of our efforts to keep U.S. citizens safe while they travel or live abroad.”
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WATCH: Reporter Mark Albert on KARE-TV in Minneapolis talking about the new State Department travel advisory system:
The new system ranks countries based on the level of safety risk in one of four categories: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4.
For the counties and regions within nations included in the Level 4 category, the State Department’s advice is blunt: “Do Not Travel.”
Americans considering traveling to Level 4 countries are warned there are “greater likelihood of life-threatening risks” and that should they get in trouble, the U.S. government has “very limited ability to provide assistance.”
Most Americans are no longer allowed to visit North Korea, due to a ban implemented and enforced by the Trump administration.
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Under the new travel advisory system, parts of Mexico-a country perennially popular with Americans seeking to escape winter’s chill-are now included in Level 4, the most severe.
Regions in Mexico that the State Department now considers as dangerous as Iraq and Syria — both war zones — due to crime are Colima; Guerrero, which includes the popular tourist spot Acapulco; Michoacán; Sinaloa, which includes Mazatlan; and Tamaulipas.
The State Department has issued a string of cautions for its southern neighbor in the past year, including a travel warning and an advisory about tainted alcohol suspected of sickening Americans at popular Mexican resorts.
20 year-old Abbey Conner of Wisconsin, who traveled to Mexico, died in January 2017 and tainted alcohol is suspected in her death, CBS News reported.
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