Peru has closed off Machu Picchu due to growing anti-government protests

Peru has closed the famous Machu Picchu ancient ruins indefinitely on Saturday, the latest sign of the growing anti-government protests in South America.

According to the Culture Ministry, the government had shut down the most popular tourist attraction in the country and the Inca Trail leading to it “to protect tourists and the general population.”

According to Luis Fernando Helguero, Tourism Minister, there were 417 people stuck at Machu Picchu, with more than 300 being foreigners.

Protesters have gathered in Lima to demand that President Dina Boluarte resign. The Incan citadel dates back to the 15th Century and is often called one of the seven new wonders of the planet.

Police also raided Peru’s most important university in Lima on Saturday to expel protestors who were living at the university while taking part in large demonstrations. Vicente Romero, the Interior Minister, said that more than 100 people were taken into custody.

The protests were mainly concentrated in the country’s south until recently. They started last month when Pedro Castillo (the Peruvian president with Andean roots) was impeached for trying to dissolve Congress.

Demonstrators demand the resignation of Boluarte who was sworn in Dec. 7 as Castillo’s vice president. They want Congress to be disbanded and new elections to be held. Castillo is currently being held on rebellion charges.

In the chaos that followed, more than 55 people were killed. The most recent incident was Friday night when a Puno protester was shot and killed. In the southern region, 21 protesters and 1 police officer were killed.

Police used a small tank Saturday morning to break into the National University of San Marcos.

Javier Cutipa (39), a Puno native, was sleeping on the floor since Thursday. He left for breakfast shortly before the police arrived. The police action was described by Javier Cutipa as “practically an attack”, with helicopters, tear gas, and small tanks.

“This is unacceptable. Cutipa stated that the only thing the government does with these detentions was to worsen tensions. Cutipa said that the government will react more violently if the public finds out.

Protesters gathered in large numbers outside the law enforcement offices, where detainees were being held Saturday night. They chanted “Freedom” as well as “We’re not terrorists”. More protesters gathered at other locations in downtown Lima.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern over “police incursion, eviction, and massive detentions at the university” and asked the state to “guarantee integrity and due process for all people”.

According to the university, the police raid occurred after protesters “assaulted security personnel.”

Cusco, the location of Machu Picchu, has been the scene of some of the most violent clashes. This led to significant losses in tourism revenue. After protestors tried to storm the airport, Cusco was temporarily closed.

Due to track damage, the train service to Machu Picchu is currently closed.

Some tourists who are left behind have decided to walk to Piscacucho.

The Culture Ministry announced that tourists who purchased tickets to Machu Picchu between Saturday and one month after the protests ended will be eligible for a full refund.