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Peru protests: Rail travel reopens with tourists stranded in Machu Picchu

Soldiers stand guard on a street, in Lima, Peru, on Sunday, as ongoing protests and civil unrest continue following the removal of President Pedro Castillo. Photo by Bienvenido Velasco/EPA-EFE
Soldiers stand guard on a street, in Lima, Peru, on Sunday, as ongoing protests and civil unrest continue following the removal of President Pedro Castillo. Photo by Bienvenido Velasco/EPA-EFE

Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Peru Rail announced it will resume service to Ollantaytambo station on Monday after all train travel to the ancient Incan site Machu Picchu was shut down almost a week ago.

Protesters blocked the railway with large boulders, leaving some 300 tourists stranded. The Ollantaytambo station serves Peru Rail and Inca Rail, providing transportation from Machu Picchu to the city of Cusco.

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Tourists from the United States, South America, Europe and Peru have remained in Machu Picchu since Tuesday.

In Peru Rail's announcement, it noted that it complied with government orders to shut down rail travel as a safety precaution.

The first departure time from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo was scheduled for 3:20 p.m. and is about a two hour ride. The company said modifications to trips for direct passengers will be made at no cost.

While tourists may soon depart Machu Picchu, traversing Peru and leaving the country may still be a challenge. Violent protests and civil unrest rages on over the removal of former President Pedro Castillo, who attempted to dissolve Congress and maintain power for himself in a failed coup.

The U.S. State Department placed Peru on a level three travel advisory on Thursday, urging would be travelers to reconsider visiting the country due to "crime and terrorism." The Australian government made similar recommendations after Peru declared a state of emergency.

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Flights from four major airports were temporarily suspended last week. The Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco resumed travel and the Inca Manco Cápac International Airport in Juliaca will resume operations on Tuesday. Peru's Ministry of Transportation and Communication said air and highway travel will be opened up to normal operations soon.

Protesters have called for government officials to resign enmasse, but new President Dina Boluarte has resisted. She urged Congress to move up Peru's next election to 2023 in an effort to ease tensions. Congress denied her request.

Meanwhile two officials have submitted their resignation: education minister Patricia Correa and culture minister Jair Perez.

At least 20 people have been killed and an estimated 500 have been injured throughout the protests, which started on Dec. 7.

Castillo is in detention and faces an 18 month prison sentence. He also faces charges of rebellion and conspiracy, and could face 20 years in prison.

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