Peru Congress approves modified tourism development law ahead of Cusco protests

Congress approved a controversial tourism development law on Wednesday that will ease private investment adjacent to Peru’s rich archaeological ruins and historic sites. The legislation was opposed by opposition lawmakers and some regional governments, including authorities from Cusco who say they will begin indefinite protests on Friday that would threaten services to Machu Picchu, Peru’s top tourist attraction and a symbol of national pride in Peru.

Congressman Carlos Bruce, who proposed the law, tried to ease tensions surrounding the legislation by submitting a complementary bill granting regional governments total discretionary power to determine with the National Culture Institute, INC, a list of sites where tourism services, such as new hotels and restaurants, can be developed.

Bruce told Radio Programas on Thursday that law is not aimed at developing Cusco, which is already Peru’s tourism capital, but rather less developed regions of the country, which are rich in archaeological and historical treasures, but otherwise, dirt poor.

Regional presidents in departments like Amazonas, Lima, Piura and Huanuco have lauded the legislation as a path to develop their local economies through tourism.

“The regions that want to apply this law can publish their list. The ones that don’t want to apply it don’t publish their list and in this way, Cusco can do what it wants,” Bruce said. “But how are we supposed to understand Cusco’s reaction: ‘No, we don’t want the law, not for my region, nor for anyone else.’ This is not rational.”

Tourism and Foreign Commerce Minister Mercedes Aráoz added “the law doesn’t affect cultural heritage, it will create a master plan to develop tourism investment.”

However, Cusco’s regional president, Hugo Gonzalez, says the law threatens Peru’s numerous archaeological sites by trying to privatize them. The Associated Press reported a prominent archaeologist, Walter Alva, saying “they should change the law so it gives investors incentives to develop tourism infrastructure, but without the idea of investing in our monuments or cultural heritage.”

Cusco’s Regional Assembly will reportedly help organize the protests tomorrow. Daily Peru. 21 reported the assembly’s coordinator, Efraín Yépez, saying “we won’t be responsible for the situation, Congress will.”

President Alan García will need to ratify the legislation before it can be implemented as law.

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