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LATIN AMERICA | 15-01-2020 12:54

Argentine tourists face trial, deportation over Machu Picchu damage

Six Latin American tourists face deportation after causing damage to historical sites at Peru's Machu Picchu. Members of the group are accused of taking rocks and defecting at a sacred temple.

One tourist is facing trial and five others will be deported after being accused of damaging Peru's cultural heritage and reportedly defecating in a sacred temple at the iconic Machu Picchu citadel, Peruvian police said on Tuesday.

The six individuals were arrested by police on Sunday after being found by park rangers in a restricted area of the Temple of the Sun, an important site at the Inca sanctuary.

Authorities said the four men and two women had damaged the 600-year-old temple and defecated on the site, which lies in the southern Cusco region.

Argentine Nahuel Gómez, who will be tried in court, has allegedly admitted to attempting to remove a stone that fell to the ground and chipped, also causing a crack in the floor.

All six, aged between 20 and 32, are accused of "damaging cultural heritage," regional police chief Victor Andrés Patino told reporters on Tuesday.

Several parts of the semicircular Temple of the Sun are off limits to tourists for preservation reasons.

Worshipers at the temple would make offerings to the sun, which was considered the most important deity in the Inca empire as well as other pre-Inca civilizations in the Andean region.

Gómez remains in Machu Picchu where he was due to face a court hearing on Tuesday afternoon, while the other five—another Argentine, two Brazilians, a Chilean and a French woman—"will be deported," said Patino.

Gómez, 28, faces at least four years in prison if found guilty of damaging Peru's cultural heritage.

The other five have been transported to the city of Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire and current regional capital.

The group allegedly entered the Inca sanctuary on Saturday and hid on site so they could spend the night there —which is prohibited.

It's not the first time Machu Picchu—Peru's most popular tourist site —has been damaged by humans.

In 2000, the famous Intihuatana stone ("sun dial") was damaged during filming for a beer commercial.

In a separate incident, Inca ruins were also damaged in nearby Cusco.

In 2017, three Argentines and a Colombian were arrested for painting graffiti on ancient walls.

In 2004, two Chileans spent six months in prison for painting graffiti on an Inca wall. They were only released after agreeing to pay US$100,000 in damages.

The Machu Picchu estate—which includes three distinct areas for agriculture, housing and religious ceremonies—is the most iconic site from the Inca empire, which existed over a large swath of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

Machu Picchu, which means ‘old mountain’ in the Quechua language indigenous to the area, is at the top of a lush mountain and was built during the reign of the Inca emperor Pachacuti.

by Carlos Mandujano, AFP

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