Tourist family describe running through streets of Peru to stay safe amid anti-government protests | world news

A family of tourists stranded in the Peruvian city of Cusco amid anti-government protests described “people walking around with baseball bats and kicking down doors”.

Hannah and Garrett Spray, from Vancouver, Canada, have been stuck in their hostel with their daughter for five days.

They were due to return home via Lima on Tuesday, but were forced to stay in their rooms for their own safety.

Ms Spray told Sky News: “It’s been a stressful few days for sure.

“There were a lot of protests. A lot of them were also very peaceful, with people who just had a message to share.

“But then there were people knocking on doors or walking around with baseball bats, breaking down doors, starting fires.”

She added that although they didn’t witness the incidents first hand: ‘We had a few scary moments where we were running through the streets to make sure we were safe.’

Protests in Cusco
Police block protesters in Lima on Friday
Police block protesters in Lima on Friday

Airports and tourist sites disconnected

Demonstrations have swept the Latin American country since the ousting of its former president Pedro Castillo, who faces 10 years if convicted on rebellion and conspiracy charges.

Despite insisting he is still the nation’s rightful leader, he was replaced last Wednesday by former Vice-President Dina Boluarte after Mr Castillo tried to dissolve parliament and rule by decree until new elections.

Since then, pro-Castillo protesters have clashed with police, leaving 18 people dead and five airports closed by protests.

Ousted President Pedro Castillo
Ousted President Pedro Castillo

Cusco International and a number of key tourist sites, including Machu Picchu, have been disconnected from their usual travel links, leaving thousands of tourists stranded.

On Monday, protesters attempted to storm the airport while it was closed. Some flights have now resumed.

People take photos of a fire during a demonstration demanding the dissolution of Congress and the holding of democratic elections rather than recognizing Dina Boluarte as president of Peru, after the ousting of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, in Cuzco, Peru, December 14, 2022 REUTERS/Alejandra Orosco NO RESALE.  NO ARCHIVES
A fire bearing the name of the replacement president burns in Cusco

The family can see the protests from the hostel window

Left-wing politician Mr. Castillo, a former teacher and son of peasant farmers, narrowly won elections last year under the banner of the Marxist Free Peru party.

Four nations with left-leaning presidents – Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico – backed a joint statement saying Mr Castillo was “a victim of anti-democratic harassment” after he was forcibly removed. He denies all the charges against him.

On Friday, protesters block the border between Peru and Bolivia
On Friday, protesters block the border between Peru and Bolivia

Mr and Mrs Spray said they followed what was happening across Peru via social and local media while confined to their bedrooms.

“We could see the Plaza de Armas from our bedroom where most of the protests were taking place so we kept an eye on things from a safe distance and just hung out and played cards and watched TV,” said Mr. Spray.

They hope to be back in Canada by Wednesday next week.


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