NEWARK – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued a statement regarding a group of American citizens that were able to safely return to the United States after being trapped in a mandatory coronavirus quarantine at a hotel in Cusco, Peru. Last week, Peruvian authorities imposed a quarantine on the Pariwana Hostel in Cusco, after two guests tested positive for COVID-19. Rather than remove the COVID positive guests, local authorities locked dozens of guests under a mandatory 28-day quarantine. Among the 15 American citizens trapped in the hostel was New Jersey native Kacie Brandenburg, whose family contacted Senator Menendez’s office for help. Menendez became personally involved in the case and helped facilitate the successful evacuation that is taking place today.
“As the United States and the world grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of American citizens have found themselves trapped overseas amidst travel restrictions imposed by foreign governments. In this case, Ms. Brandenberg and her friends were quarantined inside a hotel in close conditions with guests who tested positive for the coronavirus. This alarming situation required urgent attention and I repeatedly brought it to the attention of the highest levels of the U.S. and Peruvian governments,” said Senator Menendez. “I am incredibly pleased that we have secured a flight home for Ms. Brandenberg and that her group is returning safely to the United States today. During this global pandemic, as a father and grandfather, I cannot imagine the incredible anxiety of having a family member trapped overseas. I am proud to have been able to help the Brandenberg family end this nightmare.”
In recent weeks, Senator Menendez has worked with dozens of New Jersey families trapped overseas to help them return from Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Morocco, and other countries. Senator Menendez has engaged senior levels of the State Department and U.S. embassies overseas, as well as foreign governments, to help U.S. citizens safely travel back to the United States.
As part of his ongoing efforts, Senator Menendez spoke to Peruvian ambassador Hugo De Zela to ask for urgent approval for charter flights requested by the United States Government. Yesterday, Senator Menendez continued his advocacy by raising the case of the remaining American citizens stuck in the Cusco hostel during a call with the State Department’s Undersecretary for Management, Brian Bulatao. Following their discussion, the State Department approved the use of a medical flight that conducted this morning’s evacuation of the group.
“I want to recognize and thank the leadership of the dedicated State Department professionals that responded to this particular case. While it should have never taken this long to help evacuate our citizens, my sense is that the State Department is in a much better place to finish evacuating the thousands of Americans waiting to come home. The scope and scale of this unparalleled challenge—and the obligation we owe our fellow citizens—demands our continued attention,” concluded Menendez.