Tourists trapped by Peru protests at Machu Picchu evacuated by helicopter | Peru

Tourists visiting Peru’s Inca citadel, Machu Picchu, have been evacuated by helicopter to the nearby city of Cusco, where flights to the capital, Lima, are operating normally, the country’s tourism ministry said Monday.

Dozens of people have been trapped in and around the Inca ruin after protesters used rocks to block trains traveling to Cusco since Tuesday, forcing some tourists to walk to the nearest town of Ollantaytambo .

Peru has been rocked by political unrest and street violence after the country’s President Pedro Castillo was ousted and detained on December 7 following his attempt to shut down congress and rule by decree.

The United States Embassy in Lima said there was “Unconfirmed reports of a general strike in the Cusco region … which will affect transport in the city and could impact arrivals and departures at the airport”. He added that there could be “roadblocks, traffic jams, warnings ‘protests can be unpredictable and quickly turn violent’.”

The airport of Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, reopened on Monday and several hundred tourists stranded by nationwide protests are expected to be able to travel to the capital Lima, on commercial flights.

A spokesman for Peru’s tourism ministry said around 60 tourists remained stranded at Peru’s southern border with Bolivia, but the nearest airport in Juliaca, which had also been closed, was due to reopen on Tuesday.

More than 20 people were killed and 500 injured in the wave of unrest that followed Castillo’s foiled takeover. The government on Wednesday suspended the right to assemble and imposed curfews in major cities in a 30-day state of emergency, amid accusations by human rights organizations of resorting to “excessive force” by the security forces.

Peru’s interim President Dina Boluarte, who is leading a transitional government after Castillo’s impeachment, announced cabinet changes over the weekend – a move she said was driven by need” to be able to install competent ministers”.

“It’s a transitional government, we have to act quickly,” Boluarte added.

The archaeological site of Machu Picchu attracts visitors from all over the world. Photography: Martín Mejía/AP

Protesters blocking access to Machu Picchu are believed to be mostly supporters of Castillo, a former teacher and son of peasants. Escalating protests in recent days have drawn hundreds into the streets, disrupting road and air travel.

Brian Vega, a Miami fire captain, told NBC News he was stranded at the UNESCO World Heritage Site when train service was halted for those visiting the famous Inca ruins of the Machu Picchu.

“We are isolated here,” he said. “The only way in is by train or…helicopter.”

Vega added that he plans to walk to the nearest town to get to the airport.

Colorado resident Tom Gray told the outlet that he reached Aguas Calientes, a hamlet at the entrance to the site, but dozens remained trapped at the citadel.

“Our guide had to bribe the protesters to move the rocks to allow us to return to our hotel,” Gray said. He estimated that there were at least 18 roadblocks manned by local villagers.

But Gray also said the unrest had rid the site of the normal crushing of visitors. “It was [a] a far-reaching silver lining all over being stuck here,” he said.

“Travelers arriving in Lima should be aware that travel to certain parts of the country may not be possible. Protests continue to disrupt travel, with roadblocks and regional airport closures,” said the UK Foreign Office. “British nationals should take particular care to avoid all areas of protest,” he added.

The U.S. State Department has recommended U.S. citizens planning to visit Peru to “reconsider travel.” Similar opinions have been issued by the United Kingdom and Spain.

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