Thousands of people took to the streets in the Cusco region of southern Peru on January 24, protesting the government’s move to privatise ticket sales for the famous Machu Picchu archaeological site.
Protesters are opposing the government’s decision to give private company Joinnus — part of Peru’s biggest financial conglomerate Credicorp Group — the contract to sell entrance tickets to Machu Picchu. Under the current contract, Joinnus will charge a 3.9% commission per ticket and stands to make about 12 million Peruvian soles (A$4.8 million) a year in commissions alone. Meanwhile, Machu Picchu’s annual maintenance budget is only three million soles (A$1.2 million).
The government’s decision to raise daily visitor limits to the UNESCO World Heritage site from 3800 to 4500 from the start of this year — despite existing overcrowding and erosion problems — essentially guarantees further profits for Joinnus.
Unions in the Cusco region started an indefinite strike from January 25, calling for the reversal of the privatisation and resignation of culture minister Leslie Urteaga.
Police met protesters with repression on the second day of action, as people continued blocking the railway leading to Machu Picchu. Police launched tear gas canisters from close-range, causing head injuries.
Protesters and strikers have remained defiant, vowing to continue until the privatisation is reversed.
The Committee for the Defence of Machu Picchu raised concerns over the collection and use of personal data. Joinnus collects the personal information of every national and foreign tourist that registers to enter Machu Picchu, amounting to millions every year. There are no terms in the contract regulating how Joinnus can use or sell the information collected.
Joinnus has already monopolised online ticket sales for the popular archaeological sites of Kuélap and Chan Chan — the latest representing the further privatisation of Peru’s cultural sites.