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Peru: Protests leave ‘thousands of tourists stranded’ in gateway city to Machu Picchu | World News

Thousands of tourists have reportedly been left stranded in the Peruvian city of Cusco along with hundreds of others in the area around the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu because of anti-government protests.

The demonstrations were sparked by the ousting earlier this month of former president Pedro Castillo who is set to be held in jail for 18 months ahead of his trial on rebellion and conspiracy charges.

He denies the charges and insists he remains the country’s lawful leader. But he could be jailed for up to 10 years if found guilty, according to a public prosecutor.

The nation’s new president, Dina Boluarte, the former VP, was sworn in on Wednesday last week after Mr Castillo tried to dissolve parliament and rule by decree until new elections, before he was removed from office by politicians.

In a vote in congress, they accused Mr Castillo of “permanent moral incapacity”.

Clashes between protesters and police in the capital Lima
Clashes between protesters and police in the capital Lima

There have been angry protests by Mr Castillo’s supporters demanding a fresh presidential election, which has resulted in police using tear gas and gunfire to try to quell the unrest. At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

Protesters forced the closure of five Peruvian airports, including the third largest, Cusco international, which serves a number of tourist sites including Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

On Monday, some demonstrators tried to storm that airport which was then shut, leading to many tourists being stranded. It has reportedly now reopened to resume flights.

“There are 5,000 tourists stranded in the city of Cusco, they are in their hotels waiting for flights to restart,” Darwin Baca, mayor of the town of Machu Picchu, told the AFP news agency.

And a rail service has been suspended since Tuesday, leaving around 800 tourists stranded in Machu Picchu town at the foot of the mountain where the Inca citadel stands.

Ousted president Pedro Castillo (pictured wearing a blue top) sits in a car after leaving a police station
Ousted president Pedro Castillo (pictured wearing a blue top) sits in a car after leaving a police station

The mayor has asked Spain, the US and Mexico to help evacuate the tourists by helicopter to Cusco, said the La Vanguardia news website.

About 200 mostly American and European tourists have left Machu Picchu on foot along train tracks to try to get to the town of Ollantaytambo, 20 miles away, from where they would be able to take a train to Cusco.

“What they fear is getting to Cusco and then not being able to go to their country because this could get worse,” said the mayor.

Travellers wait for news about flights at Cusco airport
Travellers wait for news about the resumption of flights at Cusco airport

There have so far been no reports of any tourists being attacked but there is concern about some guests being forced to extend their stays.

La Vanguardia reported a backpacker from Catalonia saying a hostel owner had asked 60 tourists to stay and help barricade the front door with beds and other objects in anticipation of looting that never materialised.

President Boluarte’s government announced a state of emergency on Wednesday, granting police special powers and limiting freedoms including the right to assembly.

But it appears to have had little effect in stopping the protests.

Left-wing politician Mr Castillo, a former teacher and son of peasant farmers, narrowly won an election last year running under the banner of the Marxist Free Peru party.

Four nations with leftist presidents – Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico – have backed a joint statement declaring Mr Castillo to be “a victim of undemocratic harassment”.

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