Two Israeli companies have launched a rescue mission to evacuate dozens of Israelis who are stuck in Peru, where political unrest has escalated to the point that the country’s international airport has ceased functioning.
The Israelis are not the only ones who are stranded: some 5,000 tourists are stranded in Cusco, where the mayor told the AFP news agency the local airport was shut down after protesters tried to storm the terminal.
Another 800 tourists are stuck in the small town of Macchu Picchu, an ancient Inca citadel and major tourist attraction, because the railway line serving the area has stopped running.
PassportCard and Magnus announced Saturday they are extracting a group of approximately 40 Israelis who are currently stuck in Macchu Picchu, according to Ynet.
The rescue companies plan to move the travelers first to the southeastern city of Cusco and then to evacuate them from Peru altogether.
Local Magnus employees and guides walked the group about ten kilometers towards their extraction point in the first phase of the 73 kilometer rescue mission.
One member of the group told Ynet that the local tour operator “simply renounced responsibility for us, so I and my friends were suddenly on our own. . . the locals started to demand more money from us because there is a feeling that everything is running out.”
At least 20 people have died in clashes between the army and hundreds of thousands protesters who took to the streets last week in response to the arrest of former President Pedro Castillo, who is being held in pre-trial detention on charges of rebelling and conspiracy.
Castillo was arrested last week after he attempted to dissolve the Congress a few hours before a vote on his impeachment. The Congress subsequently voted overwhelmingly to impeach the former president.
Roads and key highways were blocked by the demonstrators. Railways have completely shut down, as have five airports, including Peru’s international airport.
On Tuesday Israel issued a travel warning on Peru, advising citizens not to travel to the country and telling those who were already there to “avoid gatherings and demonstrations as much as possible at this time, and be attentive to local instructions, the media and instructions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
On Wednesday, the new government of Peruvian President Dina Boluarte declared a 30-day state of emergency, limiting citizens’ rights and granting special powers to police.
On Saturday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry reiterated its travel warning in light of the escalating violence, warning the regions of Cusco and Machu Pichu are especially dangerous due to the shutdowns of highways and public transportation.
Boluarte, meanwhile has said in public statements that she is leading a transitional government, and has urged the Congress to bring elections forward — which Congress on Friday refused to do.
Education Minister Patricia Correa and Culture Minister Jair Perez both resigned in the face of the violence; Boluarte, however, has ruled out stepping down, saying it will not solve the political crisis.