Machu Picchu train company fined under monopoly law

The Trans-Andean Railway Company, responsible for rail transport to Machu Picchu, has been fined over $185,000 for operating an illegal monopoly. The company has also been ordered to cease its practice of refusing to sublet trains and other equipment that it rents from the state.

According to its contract, it is obliged to rent these units to other companies that wish to operate rail service along the route. The only rental contracts that it has accepted in the past were to its own subsidiary Peru Rail, while it rejected applications by any company that was not linked to it.

This landmark ruling, the first of its kind in Peru, is hoped to bring in new completion for transport along the route, and reduce prices for tourists travelling between Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu entrance fee may rise to $100

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Peruvian tourism minister Mercedes Araoz today discussed the measures that may be put into place to preserve Machu Picchu, including further entry controls and the construction of a cable car system, in association with UNESCO and the World Tourism Organization.

“We have to administer the entry system and the administration of tours, as well as the opening hours,” she said, at a ceremony to mark the site’s election as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.

She added that her ministry is working alongside the private sector on several projects, such as the installation of viewpoint at strategic locations and new tour routes around the site.

She ruled out any increase to the entry price for the site, which currently stands at around US$38 for foreigners and $17 for Peruvians, saying “there is no reason to increase the cost of visiting Machu Picchu, and no technical study that suggests any price increase”.

On the other hand, Cusco’s regional president Hugo Gonzalez has suggested a substantial increase to the entry price, which is already significantly greater than that of any of the other sites elected as ‘wonders’. “Foreigners are already spending at least $1000 on their flights and accommodation, so they can afford to pay more for the main reason they came here.”

Gonzalez suggests free entry to residents of the Cusco region, a reduction to $10 for other Peruvians, and an entry price of $80-100 for foreign tourists. Including other fees and standard transport to the site, this would bring the total cost of visiting Machu Picchu from Cusco to around $200.

Amnesty International: Fujimori cannot be trusted

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Peru’s Amnesty International Director Ismael Vega has said that it is hard to believe that fugitive ex-President Alberto Fujimori will abide by the decision of the Chilean courts if they rule in favor of his extradition to Peru, given his track record of dishonesty.

“You cannot believe Fujimori. He can say that he will respect the judgment and that he has no plans to try to escape, but his track record shows that he is not necessarily going to keep to his word,” he said in an interview on Ideeleradio.

For that reason, the Amnesty International official said that measures must be taken to prevent any possible escape by the former head of state, who spent 5 years after leaving office in voluntary exile in Japan – where, as a Japanese citizen, he was immune to extradition proceedings.

Vega stated on Radio San Borja that “the track record that Fujimori has in terms of keeping to his declarations, of justice and of respect for the law goes totally against his recent statements. He is a person characterized by a lack of respect for the rules”.

He added that Fujimori has an “irresistible compulsion to distort reality and try to change the facts,” as the ex-president claims that the corruption and crimes against humanity of which he stands accused were the result of a cooperation between his intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos and the military command, without his having any say in the matters.

Fujimori “will accept” extradition ruling

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Peruvian ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who is confined to Chile awaiting extradition procedures for corruption and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have committed while in office, today stated that “without doubt” he will accept the court’s judgment, whatever it may be.

“Of course I will accept it, without doubt… but I cannot get ahead of myself, I can’t speculate,” he said in a statement broadcast on Frecuencia Latina TV.

The ex-president, who has been forbidden to leave Chile since his arrest there in November 2005, said that he is waiting patiently for the Chilean court’s decision, and reiterated that he has no plans to attempt to flee or seek refuge in the Japanese embassy in Santiago.

After fleeing the Peru in 2000 and renouncing his presidency by fax, he remained in voluntary exile in Japan where, as a Japanese citizen, he was immune to extradition.

See also our page on Alberto Fujimori

Christie’s to auction “grave robbed” artefacts

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A Loma Negra nose ornament from around the year 0AD, valued at $25,000-30,000 

The Peru Explorer magazine has today leveled accusations that an auction at Christie’s in New York on May 23rd will sell off illegally trafficked Peruvian national treasures. The 35 archaeological pieces come from a number of locations around the country, including Lambayeque, Ancash, and Ica, and their combined value is estimated at US$350,000.

Although aware of the situation, the government and National Institute of Culture (INC, the body in charge of protection of such pieces) have made no move to stop their sale.

According to the magazine’s editor, “they have not even contacted a single archeologist to verify the provenance of these pieces. Many of us know from which tombs they were stolen and in which year, which would allow us to prove that their possession is illegal, but nobody is doing anything.”

He added that a Huari textile valued at $35,000 and a Mochica vase with gold adornments will also go under the hammer at Christie’s on May 17th, unless the Peruvian government disputes the legality of ownership of the pieces.

Archeologist Daniel Chumpitaz deplored the government’s inaction, saying that “there is not even any intention on the part of the government or the INC to bid for the pieces in an attempt to recover them”.

On an international level, these accusations have had some effect; institutions linked to the cultural heritage of the Americas plan a protest outside the auction house on the day of the sale.

Among the items included in the auction will be a Nasca textile (valued at $35,000), and Inca mortar ($30,000), and a circular Cupisnique cup from Ancash that is the only known piece of its kind (valued at $20,000). Artifacts from other South and Central American countries will also be sold.

Four corrupt police officers caught

Four Lima police officers have been detained by internal affairs agents in Huaral on suspicion of involvement with two suspected drug traffickers.

The officers were driving near Huaral, seemingly attempting to flee towards Lima. On finding themselves surrounded they attempted to bribe the arresting officers. They were found to be in possession of 5,000 soles in cash, along with a receipt for the same amount and judicial reports that were to be handed over to the suspected drug traffickers.

Pharmacies closed down for theft of public property

Six pharmacies that operated near the state-run Arzobispo Loayza hospital were raided in a surprise operation that ended in the permanent closure of three of them. One operated secretly as it lacked official authorization, while the other two were licensed pharmacies located next door to each other.

Large quantities of controlled medicines were found, bearing Health Ministry labels. It is thought that they were stolen from the nearby hospital, and that some of the packaging was then doctored. One of the pharmacies closed had also been shut down last year after a similar operation, and had since been carrying on the same illegal business under a different name.

The other three pharmacies were sanctioned for lesser offences with fines starting at over US$100,000.The medicines that were seized in the operation will now be examined by Public Ministry experts to find evidence for use in criminal proceedings.