A few days ago, the U.S. Embassy in Peru issued a statement
about risks of possible kidnapping of American tourists in the area of Cusco and Machu Picchu. We have spoken with U.S. Embassy officials in Peru and they are unwilling to provide the basis of this statement. Coincidentally, the statement was issued after three young American trekkers who were traveling to Peru independently in January were attacked by local people in a remote Andean village after they attempted to camp on communal lands, as reported widely in the US media. It's always important to make every effort to fully understand the context of events when the security of tourists is violated to determine if there are patterns of such incidents indicating whether or not a prevailing threat exists for other travelers.
We have made our own inquiry based on information received from colleagues living in and around the Cusco area, including trekking guides who are intimately familiar with the specific region of Mt. Ausangate in southern Peru and the Quechua villages where this incident occurred. We have concluded that this unfortunate incident is the result of the particular manner in which this situation unfolded, and in a very remote area in which Wildland travelers would never find themselves.
In this case, the three independent backpack travelers camped alone on private communal land in a remote area of the Andes unaccompanied by any Peruvians, especially a Quechua-speaking guide. According to the travelers’ news interviews, community members who own the land asked them for identification. When the campers refused to show their passports moments of confusion ensued including an attempt by the visitors to flee the scene in their pick-up truck. This resulted in crashing their truck and creating a confrontation with the native community. In the face of confusion, anger and fear in the middle of the night the foreign campers used Mace (a spray used in urban areas) exacerbating the tension and anger among community members. While trying to escape the visitors were captured and beaten. They were held by the community for questioning in the communal hall for the rest of the night. Certainly, retaining American citizens is an illegal act and this might be what the U.S. officials construe as the threat of "kidnapping".
Another reason this ugly incident may have reached the highest levels of the US government at home and in Peru is that one of the members of the tourist party was related to the Governor of Wyoming. Our colleagues in Peru have decades of experience managing the safety of travelers throughout their country with the added benefit of their own network of ears and eyes at the village level in remote regions throughout Peru wherever our travelers might go on more adventurous trekking trips in Peru
It is important to note that the US State Department has not issued a Travel Warning
against Peru. There have been no further incidents of kidnapping since the event with the three American campers in or around the Cusco region or elsewhere in Peru. Wildland guests traveling to Peru
accompanied by a guide and vehicle with professional driver on a known and planned itinerary have little concern for their general safety. We are confident that on a Wildland Adventure in Peru, you are in good hands and will indeed be safe.
Finally, while we are not privy to information the US Embassy may have concerning the uncertain threat of kidnapping, it is important to note that this most recent statement is in effect through the month of February 2013.
keeping it wild and safe,
Got questions about traveling to Peru? Ask our Peru Program Director Kirsten Gardner