Thousands of tourists have been stranded in Peru due to ongoing political protests in the South American nation, according to a local mayor.
The tourists have been stranded in Cusco, a key stop on the way to the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu, a popular tourist destination, according to Darwin Baca, the mayor of Machu Picchu. The visitors’ predicament comes as Peru faces violent protests over the removal of leftist former President Pedro Castillo after he attempted to dissolve Congress.
“There are 5,000 tourists stranded in the city of Cusco, they are in their hotels waiting for flights to restart,” Baca said.
In addition to those stranded in Cusco, some tourists have been stranded in Machu Picchu, which is located high in the Andes mountains. “We have asked the government to help us and establish helicopter flights in order to evacuate the tourists,” said Baca.
PeruRail this week paused its trip up to the ancient city due to the violence, though it said it would attempt to help those stranded get to safety. “We regret the inconvenience that these announcements generate for our passengers; however, they are due to situations beyond the control of our company and seek to prioritize the safety of passengers and workers,” the company said.
Other tourists in the country, including children and elderly people, have been stranded as well, with some reportedly receiving violent threats from protesters. Sixty tourists attempting to go to Bolivia have been stuck in the mountainous town of Checacupe.
Costa Rican-Venezuelan alpinist Wilmaris Villarroel told Reuters that his group had been threatened by protestors. “They said if we tried to pass they would burn us alive,” he claimed.
“We’re not to blame for what’s happening in the country,” he added. “It is a beautiful nation and we just want to continue our journey.”
Villarroel’s group includes people from Argentina, Chile, France, Japan, England, and the U.S.
Machu Picchu was introduced to the world by explorer and future Connecticut Republican Senator Hiram Bingham III, who discovered the ancient ruins alongside some local farmers during his Yale Peruvian Expedition from 1911 to 1915.
The ancient city was a mountain hideaway for the Inca Empire, which dominated the region from around 1400 until the Spanish under Francisco Pizarro conquered them in 1532. The site gets over 1.5 million visitors a year, some of whom hike up the mountain.
The State Department is recommending that Americans reconsider travel to Peru, placing it at a level three travel advisory. At least 15 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in violent protests over the political unrest following Castillo’s imprisonment.