Peru: the president refuses to resign, 200 tourists evacuated from Machu Picchu

Eva Deschamps / December 18, 2022

The president Dina Boluarte declared on Saturday that she would remain at the head of Peru, country shaken by deadly demonstrations since the destitution and the arrest of his predecessor on December 7th, and where 200 tourists blocked in the region of Machu Picchu could be evacuated Saturday.
In a new attempt to end the crisis and protests, Dina Boluarte asked the Parliament to bring forward the general elections. "What would my resignation solve? We are going to stay here, firm, until Congress decides to bring forward the elections (...) I ask that we reconsider the vote" of Friday, when the Parliament voted against bringing forward the general elections from 2026 to 2023, she pleaded.
Assembly Speaker Jose Williams said Friday that the vote should be reconsidered at a future session.
In a televised message to the nation, Dina Boluarte -vice-president of Peru until the removal of Pedro Castillo- deplored the demonstrations that left at least 19 dead and 569 injured, including minors.
Some deaths are linked to clashes with the military, authorized to intervene to maintain the internal security within the framework of the establishment of the state of emergency for a duration of thirty days. "It is only by calm and a sincere and open dialogue that we will be able to work (...) How can we fight between Peruvians, spoil our institutions, block the roads?", she launched.
The president explained that if the armed forces took to the streets, "it was to protect" the citizens "because the situation was getting out of control. She denounced the presence of organized "violent groups". "These groups did not appear overnight, they had tactically organized roadblocks," she stressed.
The demonstrators demanded the release of the deposed president Pedro Castillo, the resignation of Mrs. Boluarte, the dissolution of the Parliament and immediate general elections.
The most intense protests took place in the poverty-stricken southern Andean region of Peru, where social demands have long gone unmet.
Dina Boluarte, a native of Apurimac, one of the conflict zones, delivered part of her message in Quechua, a language spoken by a large Andean part of the country.
The protests erupted after Pedro Castillo attempted to dissolve Parliament on December 7 and rule by decree.
A former leftist teacher from a rural and modest background, he was arrested as he tried to reach the Mexican embassy to seek asylum.
Initially incarcerated for seven days, the justice decided on Thursday that he would remain in prison for eighteen months, until June 2024, to be charged with rebellion. He faces a sentence of ten years in prison, according to the prosecutor Alcides Diaz, in charge of the case.
Some 200 tourists blocked in the famous region of Machu Picchu because of the demonstrations could be evacuated on Saturday, noted the AFP.
On board of a train, they arrived near the city of Piscacucho, in the region of Cuzco (south), where an enormous rock blocked the passage.
From there, the tourists -including North Americans and Europeans- walked about two kilometers to embark in buses towards the city of Cuzco, which has an international airport.
Avis Berney, an American pensioner of 77 years, arrived at Machu Picchu on December 12, was among them.
Because of the demonstrations, the train could not leave, there were rocks on the track. They wanted to evacuate us by helicopter but because of the weather they couldn't," she told AFP.
Alex Lim, a 41-year-old Canadian tourist, who was traveling with his wife, also said he was relieved.
"We were worried. I didn't bring my blood pressure medication and we only had clothes for one day. I am happy to return to Cuzco", he said.
On his side, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism Luis Fernando Helguero was pleased with the happy ending for these tourists.
With the support of the police force and the armed forces we were able to repair the railroad", accessible henceforth until Piscacucho, to 29 km of Machu Picchu, explained to the AFP the minister who supervised the work of putting back in function.
The mayor of the village close to Machu Picchu, Darwin Baca, had declared to the AFP that "5.000 tourists" were blocked in Cuzco.
At least 622 tourists among which 525 foreigners among which about fifteen French were blocked on the famous site, according to a census of the municipality. The train, which had been stopped since Tuesday, is the only modern means to go to the citadel since Cuzco, the ancient capital of the inca empire, in 110 km.
The army promised to send on Saturday a helicopter which will assure "four humanitarian flights for the transfer of the tourists" of Machu Picchu in Cuzco, according to the municipality which specifies that priority will be given to the families with "children and vulnerable persons".
The airport of Cuzco, tourist capital of the country, reopened Friday in the afternoon, allowing the beginning of the evacuation of the tourists, according to images diffused by the Peruvian Ministry of the Defense.
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