February 4, 2023

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Tourists stranded in Machu Picchu amid protests in Peru

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(Eureka News Now) – About 300 tourists from around the world have been stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu after Peru was placed under a state of emergency following the ouster of the country’s president, according to the mayor.

Former President Pedro Castillo was charged and arrested in early December after announcing his plan to dissolve Congress. The unrest sparked by his arrest has prompted international warnings against travel to Peru.

Darwin Baca, Mayor of Machu Picchu, said Peruvians, South Americans, Americans and Europeans were among the stranded travelers.

“We asked the government to help us and set up helicopter flights to evacuate the tourists,” Baca said on Friday. The only way to get in and out of the city is by train, and those services are suspended until further notice, he said.

As a glimmer of hope for those affected, a statement from the Machu Picchu Municipality released late Friday said stranded tourists are expected to be evacuated on Saturday.

“The municipality, through the Department of Tourism, is conducting the necessary coordination for the selection and prioritization of children and vulnerable people for transfer onto humanitarian flights, work that has been carried out in coordination with the National Police and the District Health Center,” the said statement.

Trains to and from Machu Picchu, the main access route to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, have been suspended Tuesday, according to a statement from PeruRail, Peru’s rail operator in the country’s southern and south-eastern regions.

“PeruRail said they are still reviewing the situation,” explained Baca.

The United States is in touch with American citizens stranded in Peru, a State Department spokesman told Eureka News Now on Friday.

“We are all providing appropriate consular assistance and are closely monitoring the situation. For privacy and security reasons, we will not elaborate on the number of US citizens who have come forward,” the spokesperson added.

The U.S. Embassy in Peru said in a statement early Friday that the Peruvian government is organizing an evacuation of foreigners from Aguas Calientes, a city that serves as the main entry point to Machu Picchu.

“We will post a message with instructions once the relief plan is confirmed. Travelers staying in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Village should follow the advice of the local authorities if they decide to stay put for assistance traveling to Cusco, as well as any other travelers who are can choose to travel on foot,” the statement added.

Food shortages in Machu Picchu

Meanwhile, Mayor Baca warned that Machu Picchu is already suffering from food shortages due to the protests and the local economy is 100% dependent on tourism.

Baca called on the government, led by the new President Dina Boluarte, to start a dialogue with the local population in order to end the social unrest as soon as possible.

PeruRail said it would assist affected passengers to change their travel dates.

“We regret the inconvenience these announcements are causing to our passengers; however, they are due to situations beyond our company’s control and seek to prioritize the safety of passengers and workers,” the company said in a statement.

Travelers wait outside Cuzco airport on Friday after it was temporarily closed due to protests.

Paul Gambin/Reuters

Peru’s Transport Ministry said on Friday that flights from Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport have resumed after being temporarily suspended amid protests in the country.

“Passengers who need to move around during the curfew can use their tickets as safe conduct,” the ministry said.

Operations to and from Alfredo Rodríguez Ballon International Airport in Arequipa remain suspended.

“LATAM is constantly monitoring the political situation in Peru to provide relevant information on how this may impact our flight operations,” LATAM Airlines Peru said in a statement.

“We are awaiting the response of the relevant authorities, who will have to take corrective measures to ensure safety for the development of flight operations.”

It added: “We regret the inconvenience this situation beyond our control has caused our passengers and we reiterate our commitment to flight safety and connectivity in the country.”

Alerts from the US, UK and Canada

Tourists stranded in Machu Picchu amid protests in Peru

Demonstrators clashed with police at a protest in Lima on Thursday.

Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters

The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel advisory for citizens traveling to Peru, which it has listed as a tier three “Reconsider Travel” destination.

“Demonstrations can result in the closure of local roads, trains and major highways, often without prior notice or estimated timetables for reopening.

“Road closures can significantly limit access to public transport and airports, disrupting traffic both within and between cities,” she warns.

The Department of State is asking travelers in Peru to sign up for US Embassy STEP notifications if they have not already done so.

The British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has also warned its citizens about the situation.

“British nationals should take special care to avoid all areas of the protests. If possible, stay in a safe place. … They should plan ahead for serious disruptions to all plans,” the FCDO said on its website Friday night.

It told travelers arriving in the capital, Lima, that there was no way to travel to or from many regional areas — including Cusco and Arequipa — and that further disruption was possible.

British nationals have also been warned to respect Peru’s curfews and to monitor local news and social media for more information.

Canada’s Department of Global Affairs has warned its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution” in Peru and avoid unnecessary travel to numerous regions. Canada’s Global News spoke to a Canadian stuck in the small town of Ica in southern Peru and said he is now away from civil unrest but was robbed in a taxi.

Amy Madden, a US traveler in Peru, recounted a long hike she and other stranded tourists took through the country’s Sacred Valley to get out of the area after days of unrest.

The trip included a scare when her tour group had to stop at an improvised roadblock in a village near Ollantaytambo on Friday, she told Eureka News Now via text message.

After the tourists exited the van, a group of a dozen men and some women attacked the empty vehicle, she said, with a man slashing the tires with a scythe. She and the other tourists ran away and were not injured, she added. Another van picked them up later and took them to Ollantaytambo.

Madden said she’s now safely made it to Cusco and is looking – without much luck – for flights abroad.

While she feels safe at the moment, she is restless. “There’s just a lot of unknowns,” she said.

Tourists are running out of medicine

American tourist Kathryn Martucci spoke to Eureka News Now about being stuck in Machu Picchu, Peru.

American tourist Kathryn Martucci spoke to Eureka News Now about being stuck in Machu Picchu, Peru.

Courtesy of Kathryn Martucci

Another American tourist stuck in Machu Picchu is out of medication and unsure when she can leave the small town and get new ones, she told Eureka News Now.

Florida resident Kathryn Martucci, 71, was on a group tour with 13 other Americans when Peru was placed under a state of emergency, she said.

According to Martucci, her tour group couldn’t catch the last train out of the small town before the railroad shut down.

Her son Michael Martucci, who lives in the US, also spoke to Eureka News Now and is trying to help his mother find a way out.

“They’ve been there since Monday and now she and the other people she’s with are running out of medication that they need,” Michael Martucci said. “There is nothing in the tiny town they are stuck in. They are safe and fortunately have food, but there is no way to get more medicine.”

Kathryn Martucci said her group was to stay in Machu Picchu for two days, so they were told to pack light and bring only a two-day supply of medicine.

On Friday morning, Martucci said her tour guide took her group to City Hall for a medical, hoping local officials would understand their situation and help them find a way out.

“There were about 100 tourists in line, and we waited two hours before we saw the doctor,” Martucci said. “They told me that I was a priority and that they would try to get me out of Machu Picchu in a helicopter in the next two days.”

However, Martucci is not sure if that will happen, she told Eureka News Now.

“There are several people who need help and a helicopter can only carry 10 people. We don’t know what’s going on.”

Pictured above: Stranded tourists queue at the train station in the city of Machu Picchu, Peru, on December 14. (Photo by Jesus Tapia / AFP via Getty Images)

Eureka News Now’s Forrest Brown and Sharif Paget contributed to this report.