Hundreds of tourists stranded near Machu Picchu in Peru could soon be on their way out of the country, according to reports, after the main railway into the region began restricted operations following its closure over political unrest.
The US Embassy in Peru issued a press release Saturday afternoon saying the Peruvian government has resumed restricted rail services to help travelers exit the village of Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu.
Trains would then depart to a “designated point on the railway” where passengers would then be responsible for disembarking and making the rest of the way to Cusco in other vehicles.
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On Sunday, the US embassy said flights departed from Cusco Airport (CUZ) at normal volume, although anyone heading to the airport was advised not to do so unless they have confirmed flights scheduled to depart on time.
Other airports in areas such as Ayacucho (AYP), Arequipa (AQP), Juliaca (JUL) and Andahuaylas (ANS) remain closed, the US embassy said, although Arequipa is scheduled to reopen on Monday.
Among the US tourists trapped on the mountain were 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 about 200 American citizens were in town. Thousands more have been unable to travel across the country due to protests.
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On Dec. 7, Peru’s President Pedro Castillo dissolved the country’s Congress and called for new elections ahead of renewed efforts to remove him from office. Castillo created a new emergency government and said he would change leadership to the police, constitutional court and judiciary.
Efforts to remove Castillo were rooted in corruption allegations, with six ongoing investigations into the president.
Castillo was replaced by his former vice president, Dina Boluarte, because the president’s actions were viewed by Congress as an attempt to retain power.
But Boluarte’s appointment was unpopular because it was unknown to the people, while Castillo was seen as one of the people.
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As protests erupted across Peru, Boluarte dispatched authorities to crack down on them, although that only made matters worse. Violence broke out and at least seven people died on Thursday night and 50 people were injured.
A judge ordered him to be detained for up to 18 months while prosecutors begin a case against him.
On Friday, Boluarte declared a state of emergency to contain the unrest, dispatched the military to the protests and took the death toll to over 22 people, the New York Times reported.
The 30-day state of emergency means the right of assembly and freedom of movement are suspended and a night-time curfew is imposed in many major Peruvian cities.
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Around 5,000 tourists were stranded in the city of Cusco as they waited for flights to resume, the mayor of Machu Picchu told AFP news agency.
Peru has been mired in political crises since 2016, with congresses and presidents trying to eliminate each other.