No Entry: Why Peru has shut Machu Picchu for tourists


The famous tourist site Machu Picchu and Inca Trail have been closed indefinitely following widespread protests in Peru. The demonstrations broke out in the South American nation last December after the ouster of then-president Pedro Castillo

The nationwide anti-government protests in Peru have led to the indefinite closure of its famous tourist site Machu Picchu.

Peru’s culture ministry said on Saturday (21 January) that Machu Picchu and Inca Trail leading up to the site have been shut “to protect the safety of tourists and the population in general,” as per Associated Press (AP).

According to tourism minister Luis Fernando Helguero, 418 visitors were stranded in Machu Picchu.

Some tourists left by walking to Piscacucho, the nearest village, which Helguero said, “involves a walk of six, seven hours or more and only a few people are able to do it”, reported AP.

However, by Saturday night, 148 foreigners and 270 Peruvians were safely evacuated on trains and buses, reported BBC citing the tourism ministry.

Last Thursday, rail services to Machu Picchu were suspended after tracks were damaged.

How have protests rocked Peru which led to the shutdown of the famed ancient ruins of Machu Picchu? Let’s understand.

Protests in Peru

Tensions have flared in Peru since December last year after the removal and arrest of then-president Pedro Castillo.

The protesters are calling for fresh elections, closure of congress, and demanding the resignation of the new president, Dina Boluarte, which she has refused.

Boluarte, who was Castillo’s vice-president, succeeded him for the top post after he attempted to dissolve congress and rule by decree on 7 December.

As of 12-13 January, 71 per cent of Peruvians expressed displeasure with Boluarte’s government as compared to 68 per cent in December, a poll by Ipsos Peru published in newspaper Peru 21 claimed, as per Reuters.

On Saturday, the Peruvian police raided the country’s most important public university in the capital city Lima to remove protesters accused of illegally entering the campus, reported AP.

The riot police fired tear gas as the demonstrators threw stones and glass bottles.

Students of San Marcos University told The Guardian they were pushed, kicked and struck by batons as they were forcefully removed from their dormitories.

Dubbed the “takeover of Lima”, the protests saw several people from southern Peru reaching the capital, reported The Guardian.

Interior minister Vicente Romero said that over 100 people were detained.

Alfonso Barrenechea, who works with the crime prevention division of the prosecutor’s office, told local radio station RPP that 205 people at the San Marcos University were arrested for “illegally trespassing” and allegedly stealing electronic goods, according to a Reuters report.

On Saturday evening, hundreds of protesters – chanting “Freedom” and “We’re students, not terrorists” – assembled outside the law enforcement offices where detainees were being held, reported AP.

As per The Guardian, at least 60 people have died so far in the unrest, 580 injured and over 500 arrested.

On Friday night, a protester was killed and at least nine others injured in the clashes with police in the southern region of Puno.

Last week, Boluarte extended the state of emergency for another month in Lima and the southern regions of Puno and Cusco.

The emergency grants police special powers and restrict people’s freedoms such as the right to assembly, noted Reuters.

Machu Picchu closed

The closure of 15th Century Machu Picchu, located on a mountain in the Andes, came as anti-government protesters travelled to Lima.

Considered one of the new seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu attracts nearly a million people every year, as per BBC.

Amid the widespread unrest, a statement released by cultural authorities in Cusco – where Machu Picchu is located – said that “in view of the current social situation in which our region and the country are immersed, the closure of the Inca trail network and Machu Picchu has been ordered, as of 21 January and until further notice”.

The statement also said that those who had already purchased the tickets for Machu Picchu would be able to use them one month after the end of the protests, or get a refund, BBC reported.

Cusco has seen some intense clashes between security personnel and protesters, hitting tourism revenue, as per AP.

EU condemns violence

The European Union (EU) on Saturday condemned the large-scale violence in Peru and the “disproportionate” use of force by police.

A spokesperson for the EU said the 27-member bloc “deplores the very large number of casualties since the start of the protests”, reported AFP.

“The EU calls on the government and all political actors to take urgent steps to restore calm and ensure an inclusive dialogue with the participation of civil society and affected communities as the way out of the crisis,” the EU said in a statement.

Urging the Peru government to “guarantee the integrity and due process of all people”, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed “concern over the police incursion, eviction and massive detentions” at the university in Lima, reported AP.

With inputs from agencies

This article originally appeared on and was reproduced here with permission


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