Peru has indefinitely closed its famous tourist site Machu Picchu amid the growing anti-government protests demanding the resignation of the country's president, Dina Boluarte.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Lima, Peru’s capital, on Friday and were met with tear gas as fires burned in the streets.
Dozens of people have been killed in the weeks-long clashes that came in the wake of Pedro Castillo, Peru’s first leader from a rural Andean background, being impeached and imprisoned after he tried to dissolve Congress last month.
A hugely popular tourist destination, Machu Picchu, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, is a 15th-century Incan citadel in the Andes mountains.
Authorities have said they have closed the site, and the Inca Trail hike leading up to it, until further notice.
In a statement, cultural authorities in the Cusco region, the gateway to Machu Picchu, said: "In view of the current social situation in which our region and the country are immersed, the closure of the Inca trail network and Machu Picchu has been ordered, as of January 21 and until further notice".
Until recently, the protests had been mainly in Peru’s southern region, with some 55 people killed and 700 injured in the unrest, largely in clashes with security forces.
Protesters now want Lima, home to around one-third of Peru’s population of 34 million, to be the focal point of the demonstrations that began when Boluarte, who was then vice president, was sworn into office on December 7 to replace Castillo.
The protests sparked the worst political violence in the country has seen in more than two decades, with the government now having extended a state of emergency to six regions.
In Arequipa, Peru’s second city, police have clashed with protesters that tried to storm the airport.
Also in southern Peru, multinational firm Glencore decided to temporary shut down its Antapaccay copper mine after protesters attacked the site.
Many demonstrators want Boluarte to step aside and call fresh elections, and for Castillo, her left-wing predecessor, to be released from custody.
Boluarte has said she supports a plan to hold fresh elections in 2024, two years ahead of schedule, but protesters unanimously say that isn’t fast enough, particularly considering all the deaths in recent weeks.
Much of the crisis centres around calls for better living conditions that have gone unmet over the two decades since democratic rule was restored in Peru.
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