Tourists leave Puno amid escalating protests

More than 200 tourists who were stranded in southern Peru’s Puno department due to protests against mining activities have managed to leave the area, according to the president of the Regional Chamber of Tourism (Caretur), Manuel Quiñones.

The tourists were able to leave the region through the airport at Juliaca, state news agency Andina reported.

“The tourists, mostly Europeans, traveled to Cusco, Lima and others to Arequipa,” Quiñones said.

Many of the tourists, taken out of Puno on the small launches to visit the Uros and Taquile and Amantaní islands, spent a night on the islands and sought other exits from Puno the following day, while others returned to the city of Puno in the evening and went ashore at different hotel piers under dark, a lakefront source told Peruvian Times.

In total, some 300 tourists were stranded in Puno. Those who did not leave had decided to stay on their own accord, Quiñones said.

Aymara peoples from the southern Puno region began protests on May 9 calling for the cancellation of mining concessions in the region and the withdrawal of junior Canadian company Bear Creek Mining, which has the Santa Ana silver project in Puno.  The protests have built up since then, and thousands of Aymara men and women have marched into the Quechua city of Puno demanding solutions from the government.

According to the National Tourism Chamber (Canatur), the protests have already cost the tourism sector 100 million soles (about $36 million).

Social conflicts in Peru’s mining sector are common. The latest project to be halted was Mexico-owned Southern Copper’s Tia Maria project in Arequipa department.

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