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Diplomat Defends Travel Advisory


A top U.S. diplomat is defending his embassy’s decision to issue travel advisories about crime in The Bahamas, noting that he has an obligation to ensure that American citizens are fully aware of potentially dangerous situations.

In January, the U.S. Embassy warned Americans living in or travelling to The Bahamas to be on guard due to an increase in armed robberies.

Many Bahamians weighed the ramifications of the advisory, noting that it had the potential to scare away much needed American tourists.

But, U.S. Chargé d’ affaires John Dinkelman said the vast majority of communications which the U.S. Embassy in Nassau makes to American citizens are merely repeated advisories that have been published by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF).

He said his priority is ensuring Americans are safe.

“There are over five million of my countrymen, who every year at least put one foot on any one of the islands in this country. It is my and my staff’s responsibility that they [are] aware of what is going on,” he said.

“We read the papers like anybody else. The police force tells people quite dutifully that something has happened in this location or that location. And we understand that and when we see a pattern we make sure that this is relayed, but it is relayed to American citizens who have registered an interest to us via email to them about what is going on. This is not a press release to ABC, NBC or CBS telling them what was happening in The Bahamas. That’s your job in the media.”

He continued, “Our job is to make sure that citizens with an intention to come here or those already living here, which is most likely the case, who truly want to apprise themselves of the situation, whether it’s The Bahamas or China or Argentina or Canada, all of my colleagues at our various embassies and missions overseas have this regular, standardised responsibility of making sure that American citizens who seek out such information may find it easily and readily.”

Mr. Dinkelman said his embassy exists to promote and protect the interests of the U.S. Part and parcel of that, he said, is making sure that U.S. citizens travelling to or living in a particular nation are apprised of any situations that may present a problem for them.

“Whether it is a potential hurricane or whether there is a shooting on Carmichael Road I have a responsibility of making sure that information is funnelled through the Consular Section to Americans who at some point may have the opportunity to turn back to me if something goes wrong and say, ‘You, Mr. Chargé, were responsible for making sure that I had everything I needed as a citizen to make a decision about my travel to that country and you didn’t do it and this happened’,” he said.

Mr. Dinkelman was asked if the embassy’s travel advisories go too far and don’t account for the fact that The Bahamas is an archipelagic nation with safer islands besides New Providence.

“No one recognises that issue more than I. Coming from a country town in the far western United States being equated to the violence of New York City or Los Angeles bothered me greatly and I would often tell foreigners, ‘well, where I come from is not New York.’ And I can certainly understand why the average resident or inhabitant of a Family Island would look at things on New Providence and say ‘well, that’s not the place I know.’ But . . . I think that we are quite clear in specifying the nature of issues when they happen and what is going on,” he said.

Bahamas Post A “Diplomat’s Dream”

Mr. Dinkelman said in many ways his post at the embassy is “an American diplomat’s dream.”

“If you were to put yourself in my seat for a moment, I am not in a place where Americans are proactively being hunted down and shot at, which is a personal and professional relief for me right away. I’m also not in a country whose values or presets are diametrically opposed to my own. Rather, I am in a nation full of reasonably well-educated people who happen to be my neighbours, who happen – in the vast majority of [cases] – to have a loved one in my own country anyway who simply seek to maintain and continue good relationships with my country,” the diplomat said.

“I am in a country where people regularly visit my own country with no hindrance whatsoever other than throwing down a police certificate at an airport and saying ‘I am going to Miami for the weekend rather than the constant vigil to make sure that people are not trying to get through to hurt my nation. This is, in many ways, a dream come true.”

He continued, “And so when any of my predecessors or ambassadors said to you relations between our countries are wonderful they were not lying. There will always be issues, minor issues that come up, but just as a family with two brothers who get along together every once in a while may tell each other when their tie is not straight or when they’ve done something that bothers them, those minor gear grinds between the two organisations pale in comparison to the tremendously strong relationship that we have. Not just security, but in the legal aspects where we cooperate so closely, defence, which the Royal Bahamas Defence Force is a brilliant organisation filled with professionals, medically, educationally, socially, I dare say that there that there isn’t a church in these islands that doesn’t have a sister church somewhere in the United States.”

Mr. Dinkelman says he knows of no better relationship between neighbouring countries than the one the United States has with The Bahamas.

“And this is coming from someone who spent the last four years with another neighbour right on the border of the United States,” he said.

Mr. Dinkelman was a guest on the Love 97FM radio talk show, Jones & Company yesterday.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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