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Peru closes Machu Picchu as anti-government protests grow


LIMA, Peru — Peru on Saturday closed the tourist hotspot of Machu Picchu indefinitely in the latest sign that anti-government protests that began last month are increasingly engulfing the South American country.

The Ministry of Culture said it had closed the country’s most famous tourist attraction, as well as the Inca Trail leading to the site “to protect the safety of tourists and the general public”.

There are 417 tourists trapped in Machu Picchu unable to get out, more than 300 of them foreigners, Luis Fernando Helguero, the tourism minister, said at a news conference.

The closure of the Inca citadel, which dates back to the 15th century and is often referred to as one of the New Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, comes after protesters, largely from remote Andean regions, descended on the capital Lima to demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte.

Police raided Peru’s main public university in Lima on Saturday to drive out protesters from distant provinces who had been housed on the campus as they took part in large demonstrations that began in the capital on Thursday.

Protests, until recently concentrated in the south of the country, began last month shortly after President Pedro Castillo, Peru’s first leader with a rural background from the Andes, was ousted and jailed after attempting to dissolve Congress. The ensuing unrest left more than 55 people dead.

The latest death occurred Friday night, when a protester was killed and at least nine others injured in clashes with police in the southern region of Puno.

Protesters demand the resignation of Boluarte, the former vice president sworn in on December 7 to replace Castillo. They also want Congress dissolved and new elections held. Castillo is currently being held on charges of rebellion.

Some tourists stranded in Machu Picchu have chosen to leave by walking to Piscacucho, the closest village, “but that means a walk of six, seven hours or more and only a few people can do it,” said Helguero.

Train service to Machu Picchu has been closed since Thursday due to track damage. Some visitors choose to go to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, which involves a multi-day hike.

It is not the first time tourists have been trapped in Machu Picchu since the protests began.

Cusco, where Machu Picchu is located, has been the site of some of the most intense clashes between protesters and law enforcement, leading to a significant loss of revenue for the tourism industry. Cusco’s airport was briefly closed this week after protesters tired of storming the facilities.

Tourists who had already bought tickets to Machu Picchu from Saturday to a month after the protests ended can get a full refund, the culture ministry said.

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