B.C. residents caught up in civil unrest in Peru

Click to play video: 'B.C. residents caught up in civil unrest in Peru'
B.C. residents caught up in civil unrest in Peru
WATCH: While many British Columbians might not be paying attention to the violent and deadly civil unrest in Peru -- one B.C. couple is caught up in it. Global News reporter Kylie Stanton has the story of a vacation that turned into much more of an adventure than expected. – Dec 13, 2022

A B.C. man is sharing his experience with political turmoil and violent civil unrest in Peru.

Colin Worobetz of Delta is on vacation to the South American country to visit his girlfriend who is staying there for several months.

“We knew there was some political unrest as the previous president had been arrested, and there weren’t a lot of happy people,” he told Global News by Zoom from the town of Pisac.

“The thing with Peruvians is when they’re not happy, you know they’re not happy.”

Read more: Peru’s president ousted by Congress, arrested on rebellion charge in political crisis

Protests, at some points violent, broke out across the country last week, after Congress ousted former president Pedro Castillo from office. That move came after Castillo had tried to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote.

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Castillo remains in police custody and facing a rebellion charge, amid protests and supporters demanding his freedom, the resignation of his successor, interim President Dina Boluarte, and immediate fresh elections for all of Congress.

At least six people have been confirmed dead in the clashes.

Click to play video: '2 dead in Peru protests as president Boluarte calls for elections in 2024'
2 dead in Peru protests as president Boluarte calls for elections in 2024

Worobetz said the couple had taken a weekend trip to Ollantaytambo, a community near the base of Machu Pichu, but were warned by their landlord to get back to Pisac because protests were scheduled to spread to the region.

Locals told them if they left at night they could probably avoid roadblocks, but by the time they hit the road at 9 p.m. much of the roadways were already impassable, littered with rocks, broken glass, trees and signposts, he said.

Read more: B.C. couple in final bid to bring children of their missing daughter back to Canada

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“Anything they could haul into the road to stop traffic was hauled into the road. The only way to get through was definitely motorcycle,” he said.

At one point on the journey, the couple was stopped at a roadblock and told they couldn’t go through.

“So we took off our helmets and stood around burning tire fires, they came around with some yuca, and we talked with them for half an hour, made our peace, and my lovely girlfriend who has much better Spanish than me convinced them to let us through,” he said.

“The people here they’re not angry at us. As tourists here we’re not in the crosshairs.”

Click to play video: 'Peru’s Boluarte sworn in as 1st female president on interim basis after Castillo’s impeachment'
Peru’s Boluarte sworn in as 1st female president on interim basis after Castillo’s impeachment

The couple managed to make it back to their apartment by midnight, with the normally 90 minute trip taking more than three hours.

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Disruptions to travel within the country have also raised concerns about travel into and out of Peru.

“It is impacting certain flights and certain train travel – so, it is concerning,” Claire Newell with Travel Best Bests told Global News.

On Monday, officials advised Canadians in Peru to register with the Canadian Embassy in the Andean country so they can be reached if necessary. The embassy also urged Canadians in the country to reach out if they needed emergency help and shared a safety and security bulletin warning of an “especially volatile” political situation.

The bulletin notes that states of emergency have been declared in the Apurimac, Arequipa and Ica regions, and could be extended elsewhere, and advised people to stay away from demonstrations and not to try and cross road blockades.

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Canadians are also being advised to ensure they have insurance, and to stay up to date on what is happening in their location.

“Even if you’re just sitting on a beach – you need to know what’s going on around you, because as we see here, things can change on a dime,” Newell added.

Worobetz, for his part, is planning to stay in the country until Dec. 22, and said if protests delay his departure he’ll take it in stride.

“I’m feeling fine. My mother is not feeling fine understandably,” he said.

“There’s worse places to be stuck. The food is amazing, everyone is friendly.”

— With files from the Associated Press

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