Peru’s gateway airport to Machu Picchu closes as protests grow | Conflict News

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Safety issues have led to the closure of the airport in Cusco, the gateway to Peru’s tourism crown jewel of Machu Picchu.

As anti-government protests continue to grow across Peru, authorities have closed the international airport in the southern city of Cusco, a busy gateway to the Incan mountaintop citadel of Machu Picchu – one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world.

Weeks of protests have left dozens dead across Peru and several airports have been targeted by the demonstrations.

Peru’s transportation ministry said Thursday that safety issues led to the closure of Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco.

“This action is taken to protect the well-being of people and the safety of aviation operations,” the ministry said in a statement.

Clashes broke out in Cusco – the arrival point for visitors to the country’s tourism crown jewel Machu Picchu – on Wednesday with protesters trying to enter the airport, while others stormed a bus station, attacking shops and blocking railway tracks with huge rocks.

Peru’s rights ombudsman said one person died in Cusco and more than 50 people, including 19 police officers, were injured in the unrest, and police said they had arrested 11 people.

Protests have been escalating across Peru since they erupted in early December after former President Pedro Castillo was ousted from office for trying to overthrow Congress. dissolution and regulation by decree in a failed attempt to prevent a vote against it.

Castillo’s supporters have been marching for weeks demanding new elections and the ouster of current leader Dina Boluarte, who replaced Castillo as president. Boluarte, 60, was Castillo’s vice president but took over once he was ousted on December 7.

Castillo, who was under investigation for several fraud cases during his tenure, was detained for 18 months, accused of rebellion.

Clashes between protesters and security forces have left at least 42 people dead, including a police officer who was shot alive in a vehicle, and hundreds more injured.

Almost half of the victims died in clashes on Monday night alone in the southern province of Puno, where 17 people were expected to be buried on Thursday. Gathering in a circle around a coffin, relatives of one of the victims held posters reading: “Dina is a corrupt murderer” and “we are not terrorists but citizens who want justice”.

Also on Thursday, trade unions, left-wing parties and social gatherings marched through Lima, a capital that has been largely spared violence so far, to declare a “racist and classist dictatorship…”.

The social unrest has exposed the deep divisions between residents of the wealthy capital and populations in Peru’s long-neglected country. Castillo was a political novice who lived in a two-story adobe home in the Andean highlands before moving to the presidential palace after narrowly winning elections 2021. This result shocked Peru’s political establishment.

Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Lima, said the atmosphere was tense at the marches in the capital after days of clashes between protesters and police in various parts of the country where protesters were killed by gunfire of security forces.

“People have been marching around the center of the capital asking President Dina Boluarte to resign. They are calling her a murderer and saying she is responsible for the death,” said Sanchez.

“Prime Minister Alberto Otárola has said that Dina Boluarte will not resign, that she strongly leads the country and that her position would be like opening the door to anarchy,” she said.

The prime minister weighed in on behalf of Boluarte in “response to a statement issued by governors in different parts of the country saying, and urging her, that she must resign because that is the one way to solve the crisis”, she said.

As well as calling for Boluarte’s resignation, activists are calling for the dissolution of Congress and the formation of a new body to rewrite the constitution – which was adopted in 1993 under command of Alberto Fujimori.

The former president is serving a 25-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity committed while in power.

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