For years, the cheap way to get to Machu Picchu is to travel from Cusco to the small pueblo of Santa Teresa then taking a taxi or collectivo to the hidroeléctrica (hydro power station) followed by a hike along the railroad tracks to Aguas Calientes. Unfortunately for many tourists, that route has been effectively shut down for the past 9 days since September 17 by a local strike with no sign of ending soon.
Yesterday afternoon members of the Provincial Federation of Campesinos of La Convención, Yanatile and Lares (Fepcacyl) met to consider acceptance of a truce with government officials which would end an ongoing strike of coca growers in the area north of Cusco (including Quillabamba and Santa Teresa) that has caused major blockages of roads going in and out of the area.
Government officials had proposed a meeting in Quillabamba on September 27 to discuss cocaleros’ (coca growers) demands regarding the raising of prices for coca leaves produced in the area, but leaders rejected the proposal arguing that most of their demands were not on the table and government representatives did not have the authority to make any changes.
One of their major demands was to raise the price of coca leaves. A government consortium currently legally purchases coca leaves for legitimate use as a deterrent to sales to cocaine producers. They are currently paid 85 soles per arroba (about 11.5 kg or 25 pounds) while cocaine producers are offering around 117 soles. Cocaleros are asking for an increase to around 150 soles per arroba.
Another major point of contention is a recent court ruling against the establishment of the National Intercultural University of Quillabamba (UNIQ). The major university in Cusco, University of San Antonio de Abad de Cusco, filed a complaint as the new university in Quillabamba would provide competition and the Peruvian Constitutional Court ruled the law establishing the school in Quillabamba was unconstitutional.
Other areas of concern including transportation, health, and sanitation in the rural areas of the region which is considered relatively poor.
In the meantime, the strike continues indefinitely. Roads are blocked at many strategic points through the region. Schools and many businesses are also closed.
In addition, the Regional Director of Foreign Trade and Tourism of Cusco recommended that all tourist agencies stop selling packages to Machu Picchu through the alternative route through Santa Teresa.