LIMA, PERU (AP) – Peru indefinitely shut the famed ancient ruins of Machu Picchu on Saturday in the latest sign that anti-government protests that began last month are increasingly engulfing the South American country.
The Culture Ministry said it had closed the country’s most famous tourist attraction as well as the Inca Trail leading up to the site “to protect the safety of tourists and the population in general”.
There were 417 visitors stuck at Machu Picchu and unable to get out, more than 300 of them foreigners, Tourism Minister Luis Fernando Helguero said at a news conference.
The closure of the Incan citadel that dates to the 15th Century and is often referred to as one of the new seven wonders of the world comes as protesters have descended on Lima, many of them travelling to the capital from remote Andean regions, to demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte. Also on Saturday, police raided Peru’s most important public university in Lima to evict protesters who were being housed at the campus while participating in big demonstrations. More than 100 people were detained, Interior Minister Vicente Romero said.
Until recently, the protests had been concentrated in the country’s south.
They began last month after then-president Pedro Castillo, Peru’s first leader with a rural Andean background, was impeached and imprisoned for trying to dissolve Congress.
Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of Boluarte, the former vice president sworn into office on December 7 to replace Castillo.
They also want Congress dissolved and new elections held. Castillo is currently detained on charges of rebellion.
More than 55 people have died in the ensuing unrest, most recently on Friday night when a protester was killed and at least nine others injured in clashes with police in Puno.
A total of 21 protesters and one police officer have died in the southern region. On Saturday morning, police used a small tank to burst into the National University of San Marcos in the morning.