Hundreds of tourists were stranded near Machu Picchu, Peru's most visited site, over the weekend after protesters blocked train and bus routes to the site and closed local shops and restaurants in Aguas Calientes, the gateway. to Machu Picchu, in the Cusco region of the country.
Some visitors posted videos on social media asking for help.
Police evacuated about 700 tourists on Saturday.
Tourists wait outside the Machu Picchu train station after train service was suspended due to damage allegedly caused by protesters in Machu Picchu, Peru, on January 21, 2023. – Peru closed entry to the citadel indefinitely on Saturday Inca Machu Picchu alleging security reasons in the face of the protests that call for the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and that have already left 46 dead. (Photo by Carolina Paucar / AFP)
Many left without seeing the site.
Protesters had taken to the streets on Thursday to demand from the government to terminate a contract that allows a company to sell tickets to Machu Picchu for the first time.
Until now, tickets were sold through the Cusco Culture Office, controlled by the regional government.
Protesters agreed to a 24-hour “truce” on Tuesday to participate in talks with government officials.
Although Machu Picchu is officially open, train service to Aguas Calientes and buses that take tourists to the citadel remain suspended.
The U.S. Embassy advised travelers who want to try to reach the site by other means to be sure to bring enough food and any medications they may need.
Machu Picchu, believed to have been a 15th-century getaway for Inca royalty, received about 2.2 million visitors last year, down from pre-pandemic levels of 4.6 million.
Peru has tried to encourage tourists to visit other ancient sites, partly to avoid overcrowding, which UNESCO has warned could damage parts of its structure.
Who is protesting and why?
Among the protesters are tour operators, guides, activists and residents of the Cusco region.
They oppose a private company benefiting from the sale of tickets to Machu Picchu and affirm that the company, Joiningan event marketing platform, was chosen to manage sales last year through a corrupt deal with the Minister of Culture, Leslie Urteaga, which she denies.
Elvis La Torre, mayor of Aguas Calientes, says the government did not consult local authorities or residents about the new online system.
Distrust towards the president's government In Boluarte It is very deep in Cuzco, an eminently indigenous region with countless pre-Columbian ruins.
Boluarte took office in late 2022 after his predecessor was removed and arrested after attempting to dissolve the Peruvian Congress, sparking widespread protests across the country to which he responded with repressive measures that left 49 civilians dead, mainly in indigenous regions. .
What does the government want?
According to the government, the new ticket sales system aims to make sales more transparent.
He alleges that “mafias” linked to the regional government of Cusco deviate a portion of the tickets to sell on the black market, depriving public coffers of income and making it difficult to measure the real number of visitors to the venue.
The government is also trying to introduce a “dynamic” system where the daily visitor limit changes throughout the year.
The company that transports tourists by bus to Machu Picchu usually declares a number of tourists per day higher than official sale of tickets, according to the congressional tourism commission. The Comptroller General of the Republic found that in the years 2021 and 2022, between 70,000 and 80,000 visitors to Machu Picchu had not been counted by the Regional Directorate of Culture, which represents a loss of around 2 million dollars a year.
Where are the negotiations now?
The protesters want the resignation of the Minister of Culture and the termination of the contract with Joinnus.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Culture announced that it would move the new ticketing system to a platform administered by the central governmentwith the collaboration of the regional government of Cusco.
Urteaga said the transition to a new state-administered system would take “a reasonable amount of time.”
“We cannot go back to the previous system,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that the country must have a safe, transparent and objective platform.
Joinnus said that I would accept terminate your contract early.
La Torre, the mayor, proposed updating the regional government's online ticket sales platform to guarantee transparency.
“We will agree to modernize the sales system of the Ministry of Culture,” he said in a video posted on the Internet, but only if the process was “transparent” and “communicated to those interested.”
It was unclear whether protesters would resume their protests once the truce ended at midnight Tuesday.
Hasn't this happened before?
Peru is plagued by social conflict, and it is not uncommon for residents in rural regions to block roads to draw media attention to their demands and pressure authorities to negotiate.
Over the past decade, protesters have blocked rail access to Machu Picchu on several occasions as part of efforts to win higher salaries for teachers and health care workers, lower fares for rail service, or help for farmers. during an acute fertilizer shortage.
In late 2022 and early last year, tourism in much of southern Peru, including Machu Picchu, came to a standstill for several weeks during political unrest that followed Boluarte's takeover.
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(Ndrl) At the close of this edition, the Peruvian government and protesters reached an agreement this Wednesday to end the protests that for six days affected tourist activity in Machu Picchu, in rejection of the privatization of ticket sales to the Inca citadel , the parties announced.