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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
A wing and a prayer
By Tim Vickery

The Misti volcano provides a spectacular backdrop to the Monumental stadium in Arequipa, southern Peru
At least the views from the stadiums are stunning

With its stadiums packed with travelling supporters creating a party atmosphere, Euro 2004 was an advert for a happy, prosperous continent.

South America has less to celebrate.

It is a region full of political problems and economic crises, of people who are tired of waiting for the brighter tomorrow that never comes.

Obviously this filters through to the Copa America.

The last two tournaments were in doubt for a while - Paraguay 1999 because of political unrest and Colombia 2001 because of the terrorist threat.

Now host country Peru chooses to protest during Copa America 2004.

Aero Continente has just had its flights suspended by the government after its insurance contract was not renewed

President Toledo's approval rating is in single figures, and a general strike has been declared for Wednesday.

An indication of Peru's current situation is the crisis in the domestic airline industry - vital for the Copa America since the tournament is being staged in seven cities, hundreds of miles apart.

There are two main local carriers, and between them they do not have enough flights to move the press around the country in a satisfactory manner as it is.

But a bad state of affairs has just got worse, because one of the carriers could be forced to stop flying at any minute, and the other has just had its flights suspended by the government after its insurance contract was not renewed.

Its name is Aero Continente. I have a ticket to fly with them on Thursday morning from the capital, Lima, up to the northern city of Chiclayo, where Peru will play their quarter-final on Saturday.

I have no idea what will happen with this flight.

The Aero Continente information line keeps passengers on hold for 20 minutes, subjects them to the company's dire jingle extolling the virtues of the company, and then cuts them off.

So, at the moment, the chances of fans, journalists or whoever making it into deepest, darkest Peru look somewhat remote.

Fabiano saves Brazil
09 Jul 04  |  Internationals
Saviola stuns Ecuador
08 Jul 04  |  Internationals
Colombia secure opening win
07 Jul 04  |  Internationals

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