Peru closes Machu Picchu as anti-government protests grow

LIMA, Peru (AP) – Peru closed the tourist site of Machu Picchu indefinitely on Saturday in the latest sign that anti-government protests that began last month are increasingly engulfing the South American country.

The Ministry of Culture said it had closed the country’s most famous tourist attraction, as well as the Inca Trail leading up to the site “to protect the safety of tourists and the general population.”

There are 417 tourists stuck in Machu Picchu who cannot get out, more than 300 of them are foreigners, Luis Fernando Helguero, the tourism minister, told a news conference.

The closure of the Inca citadel, which dates back to the 15th century and is often referred to as one of the new seven wonders of the world, comes as protesters descended on the capital Lima, mainly from remote Andean regions, to demand that the retires. President Dina Boluarte.

Police raided Peru’s main public university in Lima on Saturday to evict protesters from outlying provinces who were housed on campus as they took part in large demonstrations that began in the capital on Thursday.

Protests, which until recently had been concentrated in the country’s south, began last month shortly after President Pedro Castillo, Peru’s first leader of rural Andean origin, was impeached and jailed after he tried to dissolve Congress. More than 55 people have died in the ensuing unrest.

The latest death occurred on Friday night, when one protester was killed and at least nine others injured in clashes with police in the southern Puno region.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of Boluarte, the former vice president who was sworn into office on December 7 to replace Castillo. They also want Congress dissolved and new elections held. Castillo is currently in custody on charges of sedition.

Some of the tourists stranded in Machu Picchu have chosen to leave by walking to Piscacucho, the nearest village, “but it involves a walk of six, seven hours or more, and only a few people are able to do it,” said Helguero.

The train connection to Machu Picchu has been closed since Thursday due to damage to the tracks. Some visitors choose to get to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, which involves a multi-day hike.

This is not the first time tourists have been stuck in Machu Picchu since the protests began.

Cusco, home to Machu Picchu, has been the site of some of the most intense clashes between protesters and law enforcement, leading to significant revenue losses for the tourism sector. The Cusco airport was briefly closed this week after protesters tired of storming the facilities.

Tourists who had already bought tickets to Machu Picchu from Saturday until a month after the end of the protests will be able to get full refunds, the culture ministry said.

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