Americans among tourists trapped at Machu Picchu by Peru protests | news

Scores of tourists in Peru are trapped in and around the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu after political protesters blocked trains that run to the Andes city of Cusco from the site.

Travelers, including some Americans, were trapped after train tracks were blocked with rocks, according to eyewitness accounts. “The government of Peru is organizing an evacuation via four helicopters of the most vulnerable foreign tourists from Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu village,” the US embassy in Lima said on Saturday.

The action represents an escalation in a political conflict that has paralyzed the country’s capital, Lima, after the ousting and detention of the country’s president, Pedro Castillo.

All trains to and from Machu Picchu had been halted last Tuesday. A day later, the country’s government declared a 30-day national emergency after protests began following an effort by the president to dissolve the Peruvian parliament.

More than 20 have been killed and 500 injured in the unrest that erupted after the government suspended rights to gather and imposed curfews in major cities.

Peru’s caretaker president, Dina Boluarte, who is leading a transitional government after Castillo’s removal, announced cabinet changes over the weekend – a move, she said, that was driven by a need “to be able to install knowledgable ministers”.

“This is a transition government, we need to act fast,” Boluarte added.

The Machu Picchu archaeological site draws visitors from all over the world. Photograph: Martín Mejía/AP

Protesters blocking access to Machu Picchu are believed to be mostly supporters of Castillo, a former teacher and son of peasant farmers. The escalation of protests over recent days has involved hundreds taking to the streets, disrupting road and air transportation.

Brian Vega, a Miami fire rescue captain, told NBC News that he had found himself stuck at the Unesco world heritage site when the train service was disrupted for those visiting the popular Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.

“We’re isolated here,” he said. “The only way in is via train or…helicopter.”

Vega added that he was considering hiking to the nearest town to get to the airport.

Colorado resident Tom Gray told the outlet that he had reached Aguas Calientes, a hamlet at the site’s entrance, but that dozens remained trapped at the citadel.

“Our guide had to bribe the protesters to move the rocks to let us go back to our hotel,” Gray said. He estimated that there were at least 18 roadblocks guarded by local villagers.

But Gray also said that the unrest had cleared the site of the normal crush of visitors. “That was [a] big-time silver lining everywhere in being stuck here,” he said.

However, about 400 tourists at the site have been evacuated by tourism police to the Ollantaytambo district, north-west of Cusco. And the ministry of tourism said on Saturday it is planning to “facilitate humanitarian flights”.

The US state department has recommended that American citizens planning to visit Peru “reconsider travel”. Similar advisories have been issued by the UK and Spain.