Cusco Airport Delay Sparks Protests

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ignited protests on February 1 when he delayed construction of the new Chinchero Airport in Cusco, the primary launching point for tourists traveling to Machu Picchu.

The delays come as part of an addendum approved by Kuczynski regarding the airport’s future finances. Kuzcynski and the Peruvian government originally intended the airport to receive funding from both public sources and a large private donor-base but recently shifted the airport’s financing away from private hands.

“We opted for an alternative because the contract is detrimental [to the state] as it sets no ceiling on interest rates” said Peruvian Minister of Transportation and Communications Martin Vizcarra. The bulk of the funding will now come from taxpayers instead of large corporations such as Andino Investment Holdings and Corporación América. According to La Prensa, the change effectively cuts costs in half for the government, lowering its interest payments and long-term debts.

Local community members took to the streets in protest of the construction delays and increased public funding after the announcement of the addendum. Protesters threatened to block roads and remain active until construction began. Fortunately, strikes ended when Kuzcynski signed the addendum and placed the first foundation stone of the airport on February 3.

The Cusco region’s economy relies heavily on tourist traffic to Machu Picchu, which has become too great for the current airport, designed to handle less than half the travelers it currently sees. When the new airport opens in 2020, it will be the second largest in the country after Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, handling flights directly from Miami and other international destinations.

The project will cost around $500 million and will help handle the 4,460 tourists that visit Machu Picchu daily in the fall and winter. Peru has one of the most successful tourism markets in Latin America with a strong marketing campaign and friendly, efficient tourism infrastructure. If successful, Chinchero International Airport will become another component of Peru’s tourism experience.