August 25, 1999

Peru protesters block tourists from Inca citadel

                  CUSCO, Peru (Reuters) -- Protesters blocked trains to stop tourists from
                  travelling to Peru's Inca citadel of Machu Picchu on Tuesday and left
                  hundreds of visitors stranded at the Andean nation's top tourist site,
                  witnesses said.

                  Demonstrators protesting the privatisation of the railway concession to
                  Machu Picchu blocked tourist trains leaving the historic city of Cusco, about
                  70 miles (112 km) from the ruins, by placing metal slabs, stones and logs on
                  the track.

                  More than 1,000 visitors travel every day by train or on hiking routes to
                  reach Peru's most popular tourist site, perched spectacularly on the saddle
                  of a mountain about 9,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level.

                  On Tuesday morning, about 200 workers, protesting job losses and
                  redundancy payments, occupied the main train station in Cusco, barricading
                  themselves in the building and shouting slogans against President Alberto
                  Fujimori's government.

                  Hundreds of tourists staying at hotels near Machu Picchu were unable to
                  return to Cusco, hotel employees said.

                  "We do not know yet if trains will leave (Cusco) on Wednesday," Tina
                  Puerta, a Cusco-based travel agent, told Reuters by telephone. Train
                  workers said the strike was "indefinite."

                  A private helicopter firm was ferrying some of the tourists back to Cusco
                  from the ruins, according to hotel workers.

                  Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

                  One of South America's top tourist draws, Machu Picchu was abandoned at
                  the time of the Spanish conquest and was rediscovered about 1920.