The tourist destination remains indefinitely closed due to anti-government protests. (via Wikimedia Commons)

In the wake of ongoing political protests that have led to the deaths of over 50 peoplemost of them during confrontations with police forces — the Peruvian government has indefinitely closed Machu Picchu and the famous Inca Trail. The 15th-century Incan site sees around a million tourists per year, and over 400 visitors had to be evacuated over the weekend, according to a January 21 announcement from Peru’s tourism ministry. The agency stated that ticket holders can either receive a refund or use their pass in the month following the conflict’s end, a date which remains unclear as protesters continue to demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte.

The tourism ministry said that “violent groups” had damaged rail lines leading to Machu Picchu, and last month, the government evacuated thousands of tourists there because of closed airports and obstructed train tracks. That problem has persisted into January as the nearby city of Cusco has erupted in violent clashes with Peruvian authorities.

The nation-wide, Indigenous-led protests began in December, when Peru’s congress ousted former Leftist president Pedro Castillo. Facing a December 7 impeachment vote for corruption charges, Castillo tried to dissolve the nation’s congress, prompting mass resignations and a suggestion of non-support from the military. The country’s top court called the former president’s dissolution of the legislature unconstitutional, and Castillo was removed from office and arrested. Former vice president Dina Boluarte assumed power, and now Castillo faces 18 months in jail before his trial.

Protests in Lima in December (via Wikimedia Commons)

The dramatic turn of events speaks to larger political turmoil in Peru’s recent history: Six presidents have led the nation in the past six years, and reigning governments have been plagued by corruption. Castillo, a former union leader and school teacher, represented a break from traditional leadership and was seen as offering a voice to Peru’s rural poor. Castillo, who is Indigenous, is also the country’s first rural Andean president in a country whose rural Indigenous communities have historically faced social inequality. The recent protests have been largely led by Indigenous Castillo supporters in the Southern Andes.

The recent turmoil constitutes the worst political violence Peru has seen in 20 years. On January 10, the United Nations urged Peruvian authorities to carry out “prompt, impartial and effective” investigations into the mounting injuries and deaths and ensure justice for perpetrators and victims.

The protests continue. On Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators were hit with tear gas and pellets in the capital city of Lima, shortly after Boularte called for a truce. Yesterday, January 25, left-wing Peruvian officials filed for President Dina Boluarte’s impeachment, citing what they see as her mishandling of the recent protests.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.