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Innocence Abroad in Peru can be dangerous and costly, even fatal!

Australian 'terrified' by Amazon pirate attack
August 11

Twelve Australians were on board a small cruise ship robbed by pirates on the Amazon River. MV Aqua, owned by Aqua Expeditions , was ransacked by pirates in Peru last week. They took advantage of heavy rain and poor visibility to stage their raid.

Ms Ibbotson and her partner Keith Lawson, both financial planners of Melbourne, waited, terrified, as the pirates ransacked the cruise ship MV Aqua on the Amazon in Peru, working their way from cabin to cabin. "It was just a terrifying, terrifying experience," she reported back from Peru to ABC Online

There were two undercover policemen on board after the previous attack but both were quickly overpowered by the six bandits despite their grenades and automatice weapons! They were robbed at gunpoint of all their cash, cameras and jewellery.
Speaking from Peru, Melbourne woman Ms Christina Ibbotson, 60, reported to Sydney Morning Herald reporters that the worst thing was not being told that there had been a similar attack on the same boat in the same place the week before. Ms Ibbotson said most of the passengers were angry they had not been warned of the first pirate attack and said they had not heard anything from the Peruvian company Aqua Expeditions since.

The boat's owner and the police were reported to have been slow to react!
Police reinforcements arrived after crew radioed for help. Officers later recovered some of the holidaymakers' belongings after discovering them in the gang's jungle base camp, where they also confiscated guns and walkie-talkies the armed gang are believed to have used to coordinate their well-planned attack.

Crime amoungst police, and collaboration between police and criminals, is not uncommon in Peru!

Read the statements from Aqua Expeditions on the 'bandit attack'

In a similar attack on 6th August gunmen stormed Aqua Expeditions tourist cruise ship in Peru in a dawn robbery.

Masked men with guns and hand grenades stormed a cruise ship (the same criminals?) stealing thousands of pounds worth of valuables from tourists, including several Britons, in the dawn raid.

Nine armed bandits bound the hands and feet of the 20 holidaymakers, including Britons, Americans, Australians and Spaniards, on a small cruiser heading up the Ucayali River in the Peruvian Amazon to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.

The Peruvian Minister for Tourism, Martin Perez, has reportedly vowed to provide Coast Guard and National Police escorts for cruises in the region, to step up patrols and to increase security officers on board vessels in a bid to salvage the area's tourism reputation.

Aqua Expeditions has reportedly changed its itinerary to avoid the area of the latest raid. Aqua Expeditions has a section on safety on its website which says: "A crew member is assigned on our navigation deck to keep watch around the clock, 24/7, whether the vessel is sailing or docked." Was this enough?

Under new legislation, submitted to the British Cabinet in July, 2009, the State will be entitled to recover “all or part of the expenses ... for rescue operations abroad for people who have deliberately exposed themselves to risks which they could not ignore”.

The authorities will be able to take action against travel agents, shipping companies and insurance companies accused of encouraging journeys to areas deemed hazardous.

If a new French law gains currency around the world, all cruising sailors who visit countries which are on a list of countries 'considered to be dangerous' could be faced with a bill if they get into trouble. Regions considered dangerous are published on the Foreign Ministry website in a regularly updated list. French travellers are at present advised against visiting countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and parts of Peru , Tanzania, Colombia, Sudan and Venezuela.

If you travel for any length of time in Latin America, chances are the police will attempt to extract a bribe. Police are often underpaid and find tourists an easy source of income, so any foreign vehicles or people on the road will often be targeted.
The easiest way out at this point is for you to hand over the bribe in cash, or at least bargain him down further.

While there are statistics about the frequency of such crimes, they are sketchy because the offenses often go unreported, or they are not reported outside national media! U.S. officials say they are concerned about the increasing sophistication of such crimes. In what used to be an uncommon occurrence, groups of tourists recently have been attacked on the road and even in crowded hotels, officials say.

In Peru, crimes against tourists are a fact of life, and Peru's crime problem is not unique. It fits into the increasing trend in many South American countries and cities. (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Peru because of the high levels of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
Petty theft, including pick-pocketing and bag snatching, has been reported in public areas, including in hotels, conference centres, internet cafes and restaurants. You should remain vigilant in crowded public places.

Theft on inter-city buses, including buses on the Lima, Ica, Nasca and Cusco routes continues to increase, often when passengers are asleep or distracted. You should avoid placing luggage or other personal belongings on overhead racks or under your seats.

Violent crime including sexual assault, armed robbery, muggings and car-jacking occurs, particularly in the cities of Lima, Cusco and Arequipa. Travellers walking alone after dark, especially when leaving bars or nightclubs, have been targeted by criminals.

There has been a significant increase in reports of serious crimes, including robbery, assault and rape, against travellers using unlicensed taxi operators, particularly in Lima and Cusco. You should arrange transport at taxi counters within the international terminal when arriving at Lima's international airport and seek assistance from staff at hotels, hostels, restaurants or places of entertainment to book a licensed taxi. The name and contact details of the taxi company should be recorded.

'Express kidnappings', where victims are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release, have occurred.

Assault and armed robbery of hikers travelling on the Inca trail have been reported. Use of an experienced guide may reduce the risk of assault and robbery while hiking.
Travel by road outside of major cities after dark is dangerous due to the risk of criminal activity which has often involved the use of bogus road blocks or check points.
The real dangers of travelling in Peru and South America should be upgraded. Travel agents should warn of dangers, but there is a conflict of interest in revealing the real risks. It is a case of making sure that tourists themselves do the research before embarking on a tour where anarchy, corruption, crime and violence are way of life, the “norm”! Maybe tourists should have to pay for their rescue if they insist on travelling to "hot spots" on our globe and get into trouble?
Innocence abroad can be costly, even fatal!

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Peru has many fascinating and alluring aspects to make it a sought after tourist destination. There are three geographical and distinct regions: the Amazon rainforests with pirhanas and pink dolphins (being lost now due to human interference), the Andes (snow is disappearing due to climate change) and the coast (over-fishing has diminished the once abundant species and industry) where Incas and other ancient civilisations lived. However, Spanish Conquistadors destroyed and conquered the indigenous peoples and their culture with their brutality and crimes against Nature and humanity. Simon Bolivar "liberated" Peru and other South American countries from Spanish dominance, but still the Colonial mentality of Peru being a resource to squander, dominate, destroy and take exists today. Lawlessness is rife, and so is corruption - from the leaders down to the peasants! The Incas had fine architecture, agriculture, law and order and exquisite crafts. However, the gold was plundered and the Inquisition was part of the dominating process. Colonial churches and cathedrals can be visited today, and crypts with piles of bones can be viewed, showing the legacy of torture and deaths.

There are good reasons to visit Peru, a country of breath-taking scenery, historical cultures and natural wonders. However, this Eden has long lost pristine innocence!

I'm not sure if it's been covered exactly already, but sometimes I heard these pirates and even the operators? Are involved with the police. The latter return stolen items and capture the perpetrators - making it look all sorry and ok. Meanwhile, the attacks continue.