Strike paralyzes Cusco, Peru's main tourist attraction

Other News Materials 7 February 2008 23:42 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The ancient city of Cusco - Peru's main tourist attraction - was paralyzed Thursday due to a strike against legislation that locals believe would harm the region's cultural heritage through tourist development.

From the early hours of Thursday, activity was suspended for 24 hours in trade, education and other fields in Cusco (which means "belly-button of the world" in Quechua), 1,170 kilometres south-east of Lima.

The strike is backed by Cusco regional president Hugo Gonzales Sayan and city Mayor Marina Sequeiro, as well as the Provincial Workers Federation of Cusco.

Radio reports noted that the protest was solid, since it had a significant effect on public transport and shops, and also featured some road blockades.

Some 30,000 demonstrators asked the government of Peruvian President Alan Garcia to repeal two laws that make it easier to obtain licences to build hotels and other works near historic and archaeological sites.

More than 500 people took control of the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman, although they were forced out by police, while the roads that link Cusco with the neighbouring provinces of Arequipa and Apurimac were blocked.

The road to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the border with Bolivia were also blocked off with stones and burning tyres.

The train that takes some 1,500 tourists per day to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu was also suspended.

Many tourists resorted to walking or used alternative transport to see the sites.

Efrain Yepes, coordinator of the Cusco Regional Assembly, noted that protesters do not oppose private investment, but simply want to impose some "conditions" on it.

The controversial legislation has been approved by Congress, but is yet to be signed by the executive.