Peru Politics & Travel - is it safe to go? (20 Feb 2023)
Many people have been asking whether our staff are safe in Peru, and how the current political situation is affecting Project Amazonas and its activities in the Amazon. In short, there are currently no problems with travel to Peru.
For the longer version: On 20 January I arrived in Lima, continuing on to Iquitos, and returning to the USA on 25 January. During both transits, Lima airport was functioning normally, with little evidence inside the airport of heightened security. On arrival in Iquitos, my taxi driver told me that protests had been called for on the previous day in Iquitos, but that no-one showed up, and that all was calm in the city. Since then, I've had virtually daily communications with Iquitos, and there have been no reports of demonstrations or disruptions of daily life from there.
I've since returned to Peru on 16 Feb 2023, and things were much the same. The airport was busy, flights were departing to Cusco and other destinations across Peru, and my flight to Iquitos was packed. In early February I contacted a person I've known for over 25 years, and who has lived in Lima for about the past 15 years and asked her what the situation in town was. She responded saying that things are calming down day by day, and that affluent parts of Lima like Miraflores, Surco, Barranco and the airport are all very secure, but that at that time (6 Feb) it would probably be advisable to stay clear of the political center of Lima - the congress, palace of justice, Plaza de Armas, and Plaza San Martin (where congress, courts and government offices are located). Things in southern Peru are a bit more unsettled, but "normalizing", with access to Machu Picchu reopened as of 15 February, and access continues through the current date. In early February, I also went on line to see what the Peruvian press was writing about and found all the focus to be on heavy rains and flood damage in Arequipa province (in the south) but with nothing recent about political protests or demonstrations in the capital of Lima or anywhere in central or northern Peru (we are in the extreme NE corner of Peru)
On 20 Jan 2023, CNN published a good overview of the situation that is a 2-minute read. Another good background to the current political situation was published by the Washington Post in December, if you want to read more in depth. Those articles give some good background on why the protests erupted in the first place. Both of those articles are still very relevant.
Happily for us, Iquitos, our home base city, continues to be calm and functioning normally, with flights arriving and departing on schedule, and with no road or port closures. Iquitos is the party town of Peru, and while residents are generally disgusted with the state of politics in the country (6 presidents in 7 years!), they were more motivated to prepare for Christmas and New Years parties than to protest and demonstrate., and that attitude has carried over into the new year. Yesterday's (19 Feb) celebrations of Carnaval were noisy, colorful, long, and joyous. Not a protestor in sight unless it was me trying to sleep at 3 AM.
Most of the road and rail closures that did occur happened in the mountainous areas of Peru where deposed ex-President Castillo had his base of support. In January and early February, travelers trying to get to Cusco or Machu Picchu were unable to do so, but that didn't extend to the Amazon. Everyone in Peru knows that blocking access to Peru's #1 and #2 tourist attractions, Machu Picchu & Cusco, is guaranteed to get widespread national and international press coverage. It is no surprise, then, that protesters targeted the train routes, airports and highways that lead to these sites. Many feel that it is the only way the political elite will pay any attention to their grievances. Most protests and blockades are peaceful, and tourists are not targeted. Simply staying clear of potential problem spots will go a long way to keeping you safe.