Protests strand 5,000 tourists in Machu Picchu gateway city

Around 5,000 tourists have been left stranded in Cusco, the Peruvian gateway city to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, due to protests against the ousting of president Pedro Castillo, a local mayor said Friday.

Cusco international airport, which serves numerous tourist sites in the region, has been closed since Monday when protesters tried to storm the terminal. It is Peru’s third largest airport.

Several major roads in Cusco, the old Inca capital, have also been blocked by protesters.

“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 nearby town of Machu Picchu, told AFP.

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

Around 200 mostly American and European tourists have left the town on foot along the train tracks in a bid to reach the town of Ollantaytambo, 30 kilometers (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 Baca.

Trouble broke out in Peru last week after Castillo was impeached and arrested following his attempt to dissolve parliament and rule by decree.

Initially detained for seven days, Castillo was on Thursday ordered to spend 18 months in pre-trial detention.

The leftist former schoolteacher stands accused of rebellion and conspiracy, and could be jailed for up to 10 years if found guilty, according to public prosecutor Alcides Diaz.

Castillo’s successor Dina Boluarte has declared a nationwide state of emergency for 30 days.

Authorities say 18 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces over the last week.

Another six people have died in incidents related to road blocks, such as being prevented from reaching a hospital.

At least 340 people have been injured in the clashes, according to Peru’s rights ombudsman. Police say more than 200 officers are among the injured.

Agence France-Presse