Bullshit: No Airline Is Selling Manifests to Criminals
In light of the incredibly irresponsible post and later resharing of that post about the two British tourists attacked at gunpoint in Buenos Aires, I felt compelled to write this up to make things clear.
Yes, a British tourist, Matthew Gibbard, was gunned down when he resisted during an armed robbery right outside the Faena hotel in Buenos Aires a few days ago, along with his stepson who was injured but survived.
Are airline employees selling manifesto information to gang members? No. Absolutely not. There’s literally no information leading to that ludicrous assertion that one dude made during a British news channel interview. At least not in connection with this one incident. Or any of the previously reported incidents. Repeating such an assertion and throwing it out there as if it were pertinent to this one conversation is sensationalist and nonsensical.
What We Know
The guy who killed Gibbard, a 21 year old Venezuelan citizen who illegally entered Argentina only last week, was apprehended onboard a bus headed to Bolivia attempting to flee the country. He was identified thanks to the Buenos Aires police force following the motorcycle and two other vehicles used during this incident on CCTV feeds throughout the city. Authorities have also determined that he was a member of a gang of about ten criminals who targeted tourists visiting Buenos Aires to rob them of their property.
The way they operated was by placing a ‘spotter’ in the arrivals hall of Ezeiza International Airport who would wait for flights arriving from the United States and Europe pretending to wait for a passenger on said flights. They would choose their potential victims based on clothing, watches and other jewelry that they used as markers of wealth.
Once the victim was identified, they would put a tail on them as the tourists made their way into their hotels in Buenos Aires. Many times they were aided by the fact the foreigners were being picked up by a specific hotel’s shuttle, which would give their destination away. The criminals would then follow the travelers to the hotels and either strike right then and there (like in the case of Gibbard) or follow their movements in and out of the hotel waiting for an opportunity to act.
No information was provided by any airline employee, and there’s obviously also no need for that information. The idea alone is laughable. Anyone who’s ever been to Argentina (or even heard of it at all) knows there are very few locals who speak English, wear expensive Rolexes, carries lavish Louis Vuitton luggage, and stay at internationally renowned hotels like the Faena, InterContinental, Hilton, etc. Not many locals can afford the rates a hotel in Puerto Madero would cost. It is obviously understood that the majority of people coming in and out of those hotels are wealthy by local standards.
Is Argentina Safe?
Absolutely. Just as safe as any other large metropolitan city in the world. In fact, I would recommend anyone to go visit. While crime rates might be going up as an indicator that the country’s economy is and has been in decline, it by no means implies it is a country you shouldn’t visit. For reference, over 111,000 British citizens traveled to Argentina in 2018 without any incidents, as per the British Foreign Office.
As usual, though, one needs to exercise common sense and avoid traveling with expensive items, large sums of cash and any other valuable objects that may turn you into a target. Obviously, if you’re like me, you’ll also like to stay at nice hotels, and that puts us in a slightly riskier position as it might highlight our wealthier status compared to locals. There really isn’t any way to avoid this, which is why one needs to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings, and this goes for Buenos Aires, Seattle, New York just as much as Paris, London and Madrid. Also, a quick reminder that nothing, absolutely nothing we carry with us is more valuable than our own lives, so if you are a victim or a robbery – particularly when abroad – never ever, EVER resist, lest you end up becoming a victim of extreme violence.
While I am extremely saddened by the passing of Mr Gibbard while visiting the city where I lived for eight years and I hold so dear and near to my heart, I am even more saddened by the irresponsible spread of misinformation that’s so commonplace to blow out of proportion.