Protest over privatization fears shuts down Machu Picchu, 1,000 tourists evacuated
As reported by the newspaper "El Comercio", demonstrators ignited tires and obstructed the railway line. Clashes with security forces also ensued, resulting in injuries to three civilians and five police officers.
Evacuating tourists from Machu Picchu
The evacuees comprised both Peruvian locals and foreign visitors.
The protest was organized by the Machu Picchu People's Collective. They harbor concerns that ticket sales handled by a private entity could signal the beginning of a "systematic privatization" of the Incan city's ruins. They are calling for the cancellation of the contract with the intermediary and the dismissal of the Minister of Culture, Leslie Urteagi.
The protestors claim that Joinnus, the company that commenced ticket sales for Machu Picchu on January 27th, could make up to 12 million nuevos soles (approximately 3.3 million USD) in transaction commissions in a year.
Backlash over ticket sales
The Peruvian government refutes accusations that the new ticket sales system provides for the privatization of Machu Picchu. Instead, they assert that the decision was made with the intention to more effectively manage the site's visitor numbers, as overcrowding could jeopardize the Incan city's status on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Joinnus is not remaining passive. The company has requested the government to hasten the expiration of the contract, which was originally intended to be valid until August, and is prepared to participate in a new broker selection process. Joinnus has emphasised its role is exclusively in the outsourcing of ticket sales.
Understanding Machu Picchu
The Peruvian city was discovered in 1911 in the Andes and occupies an area of about 1.93 square miles. It is bordered by the Urubamba River on three sides, while the Huayana Picchu peak shelters it on the fourth.
Constructed in the 15th-century, it is the world's most enigmatic city. The city was divided into rural and urban sections. The rural part comprised cultivated fields, irrigated by a unique canal system. The urban part boasted palaces, temples, and houses built from granite.
Importantly, scientists are yet to conclusively identify who inhabited Machu Picchu. However, it is an undisputed national treasure and remains Peru's most popular tourist attraction.