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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 07:36 GMT
Draft law sparks protests in Peru
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Peru

A man waves a flag symbolising the Inca Empire during a protest in Cuzco, Peru
Protesters fear Peru's heritage may be at risk
Thousands of people have brought Peru's tourist capital, Cuzco, to a near standstill in a demonstration against development near Inca monuments.

A proposed law would make it easier for private investors to build near some of Peru's most famous ancient sites.

In the 24-hour protest, main roads were blocked, tours were cancelled and the rail service between Cuzco and Machu Picchu was suspended.

Peru's ancient monuments draw millions of tourists every year.

Cuzco residents marched in opposition to the law, which they say will say will harm the city's heritage.

Major roads in and out of town were blocked and access to the famous Sacred Valley and the city's Inca fortress, Sacsayhuaman, was blocked with rocks and burning tyres.

Suspicion

The proposed law will make it easier for private investors to be awarded concessions for the construction of hotels in areas near archaeological sites and Cuzco's historic centre.

But in Cuzco there is deep suspicion of the central government and many, including the regional authority, argue that such a law would allow foreign investors to grow rich from Cuzco's archaeological and cultural heritage.

Ruins at Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is probably the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire

In the first of two votes, Peru's Congress rejected the proposed law.

Nevertheless, Cuzco's regional president, Hugo Gonzalez, said the protest, which was timed to coincide with the vote, was necessary to ensure it is rejected a second time.

Cuzco's regional authority, which had strong backing from local businesses and unions, says the proposed legislation would have a negative impact on its income and the preservation of the Inca monuments.

But Peru's Tourism Minister, Mercedes Araoz, said the law was intended to promote investment and the protest was the result of a misunderstanding.

SEE ALSO
Yale to return Peruvian artefacts
17 Sep 07 |  Americas
In pictures: Machu Picchu relics
18 Sep 07 |  In Pictures
Peru bans flights over Inca ruins
08 Sep 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Peru
18 Dec 07 |  Country profiles

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