American tourists stranded near Machu Picchu may not be home by Christmas as protests sweep Peru

Hundreds of tourists remain stranded in a town near the ruins of the mountain town of Machu Picchu as protests sweep the country of Peru.

Americans, Europeans and South Americans cannot leave the town of Aguas Calientas near the base of Machu Picchu because the government has suspended train services indefinitely. Machu Picchu Mayor Darwin Baca said he was trying to set up helicopter transport to get them out, according to Axios.

“We asked the government to help us and set up helicopter flights to evacuate the tourists,” Baca said.

Among the tourists trapped on the mountain are two Chicago police officers, a pregnant couple from Acworth, Georgia, and a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue captain, who told Florida’s Local 10 News that around 200 American citizens were in the stay town. Thousands more are unable to travel across the country due to protests.

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“As far as I know, the rest of the country isn’t doing too well,” said Fire Rescue Capt. said Brian Vega. “They riot, burn things down.”

Demonstrators carry a sign that reads "closure of the coup congress," amid violent protests following the ouster and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo in Ayacucho, Peru on December 15, 2022.

Demonstrators carry a sign that reads “Closing down the coup congress” amid violent protests following the ouster and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo in Ayacucho, Peru, December 15, 2022.
(Reuters/Miguel Gutierrez Chero)

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo on Wednesday dissolved the country’s congress and called for new elections in another attempt to impeach him. He set up a new emergency government and said he would make changes to the way the judiciary, police and constitutional court are run.

The move to oust Castillo concerned corruption allegations, with six investigations launched into the president.

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Castillo’s actions, seen as an attempt to retain power, prompted Congress to oust him entirely and replace him with Dina Boluarte, his former vice president. The appointment proved incredibly unpopular, with many voters considering Castillo “one of us”, while Boluarte remained aloof and unknown to them.

Boluarte dispatched authorities to crack down on protests, but that only fueled a surge in violence, resulting in the deaths of at least seven people and wounding over 50 others as of Thursday night. A judge ordered a prison sentence of up to 18 months while prosecutors prepare a case against him.

Demonstrators stand on an airport tarmac amid violent protests following the eviction and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo in Ayacucho, Peru December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Miguel Gutierrez Chero.

Demonstrators stand on an airport tarmac amid violent protests following the eviction and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo in Ayacucho, Peru December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Miguel Gutierrez Chero.
(Reuters/Miguel Gutierrez Chero)

Demonstrators are now demanding Castillo’s release, Boluarte’s resignation and new elections to choose a president and congress. They have burned down police stations, blocked freeways and taken over airport runways.

Boluarte on Friday declared a state of emergency to contain the unrest and dispatched the military to disperse the protests, taking the death toll to over 22 people, the New York Times reported.

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Two ministers resigned over the deaths of Peruvian citizens, with outgoing Education Minister Patricia Correa saying the government’s deaths of citizens had “no justification”.

Vega said the riots have left the country – and tourists – in a state of total chaos as local authorities can’t tell him if they can evacuate people by Christmas. He appealed to US lawmakers to work out an airlift.

Soldiers stand in formation after arriving as reinforcements amid violent protests following the eviction and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo in Ayacucho, Peru December 15, 2022.  REUTERS/Miguel Gutierrez Chero.

Soldiers stand in formation after arriving as reinforcements amid violent protests following the eviction and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo in Ayacucho, Peru December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Miguel Gutierrez Chero.
(Reuters/Miguel Gutierrez Chero)

“Hopefully they can help us in some way and get us back safely to the United States so we can see our friends and family,” he said.

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Around 5,000 tourists were stranded in the city of Cusco while waiting for flights to resume, the mayor of Machu Picchu told AFP news agency.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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