Peru has formally closed Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail leading up to it due to rising political turmoil, officials said on January 21st, 2023.
The country’s Culture Ministry said the move is meant “to protect the safety of tourists and the population in general,” according to Daniel Politi of the Associated Press (AP).
On Saturday, anti-government demonstrators destroyed neighboring trains, leaving more than 400 tourists trapped at the historic monument. According to a statement from the Tourism Ministry, they were ultimately evacuated by train to Cusco. The protests began last month, following the impeachment and incarceration of former President Pedro Castillo for attempting to dissolve Congress. Dina Boluarte, his former vice president, was sworn in on December 7.
Protesters are asking for new elections and the resignation of Boluarte. In violent skirmishes between police and demonstrators, more than 55 people have died, and hundreds more have been detained.
More than 200 individuals were detained after police invaded San Marcos University in Lima, Peru’s capital, on Saturday. Students at the institution had been sheltering protestors who had come to the capital from far-flung areas to take part in the demonstrations. According to the Guardian’s Dan Collyns, police used an armored truck to blast through the gates, as well as tear gas and other weaponry to control demonstrators.
Early this month in Machu Picchu, the Peruvian government was forced to evacuate trapped guests for the second time in as many months. After protestors stopped train tracks, highways, and airports in December, government officials were forced to airlift hundreds of tourists out of the historic site by helicopter.
In the chaos that followed the closures, several trapped visitors ended themselves trudging almost 20 kilometers to safety. The State Department in the United States has issued an alert urging Americans to avoid coming to Peru in light of the escalating social upheaval.