The European Union condemns the “disproportionate” police response to the deadly unrest as the death toll of protesters rises to 45.
Peru closed its famed historic site Machu Picchu amid deadly anti-government protests, stranding hundreds of tourists for hours, while the European Union condemned what it called a “disproportionate” police response to the riots.
Saturday’s closure came as officials announced another protester had been killed, bringing the total number of dead to 46 since demonstrators took to the streets in early December to demand the resignation of Peru’s newly-appointed president, Dina Bolwarte.
The latest death occurred in the town of Ilave in the south.
Videos from Ilave, which have been widely shared on social media, show police shooting directly at a crowd of local demonstrators in a town square. Angry protesters responded by setting fire to a police station, local media reported.
Clashes between police and crowds in the town near Lake Titicaca and the border with Bolivia left 10 injured, hospital officials said.
Amid the unrest, the Culture Ministry said it was ordering the closure of the Inca Trail network and the Machu Picchu citadel “due to the social situation and to maintain the safety of visitors”.
Prior to Machu Picchu’s closure, rail services to the site had already been suspended due to rail damage by demonstrators. The only way to reach the popular tourist site is by train.
At least 400 people, including 300 foreigners, were stranded at the foot of the site, in the city of Aguas Calientes, and begged to be evacuated.
Rescue teams later evacuated 418 tourists, the tourism ministry said in a Twitter post accompanied by photos of a train and seated passengers.
The weeks of unrest followed former President Pedro Castillo’s failed attempt in December to dissolve Congress and rule by decree, a move condemned by the constitutional court as a “coup d’état”.
Castillo was impeached and arrested, and his deputy Bolwarte ascended to the presidency, becoming the sixth person to assume the role in five years.
The rapid succession of events was met with outrage by supporters of Castillo, whose incredible rise from elementary school teacher and son of illiterate farmers to president of the country made him a folk icon among many low-income Peruvians. Experts said the country’s long history of exclusion created fertile ground for the demonstrations.
Demonstrators have repeatedly defied the declaration of a state of emergency in violence-ridden regions to take to the streets in recent days.
Police arrested 205 people accused of illegally entering the campus of a major university in Lima.
Alfonso Barenechea of the prosecutor’s office’s crime prevention unit told local radio station RPP that the arrests at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos were made for trespassing on university premises and for the alleged theft of electronic goods.
The EU condemned the government’s response to the unrest, saying police used “disproportionate force” against protesters.
“The EU calls on the government and all political actors to take urgent steps to restore calm and ensure an inclusive dialogue involving civil society and affected communities as a way out of the crisis,” the 27-member bloc said in a statement.
“Ongoing social and political crises must be resolved with full respect for the constitutional order, the rule of law and human rights,” it added.