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Omahans stranded in Peru amid violent protests

A pair of friends from Omaha were supposed to head home on Tuesday
Posted at 7:08 PM, Dec 16, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — What was a beautiful vacation to Peru for a group of friends has turned into a stressful struggle to get back home.

A group of friends, two from Omaha, have been stranded in Cusco, Peru, amid violent protests in the wake of the arrest and removal of the country's former president.

On the trip are nurses Lisa Kinney of Omaha and Anne Lavelle, who is from Omaha but lives in Kansas City now. Another in the group, Liz Schoen, isn't from Omaha.

When things became dangerous, they were told by the consulate to shelter in place, they said. A Department of State spokesperson told 3 News Now that U.S. citizens in affected areas are encouraged to shelter in place until safe transportation options become available.

"It sounds like we're kind of getting close to even making it for Christmas," said Kinney.

During the trip — which started in Ecuador — Peru's ex-president, Pedro Castillo, was impeached, arrested and replaced by the country's vice president, Dina Boluarte. It was to the dismay of many of his supporters who took to the streets in protest. The protests have often turned violent and the unrest has killed at least 20 people, according to some reports.

Castillo was charged with rebellion and conspiracy. Congress supported the move after Castillo tried and failed to dissolve the legislative body.

Some roadways and train tracks have become impassible and airports closed, including Cusco's.

But Lavelle said the shake-up in the government really started impacting them on Monday.

"It was Monday when things definitely changed," Lavelle said. "That is when the airport in Cusco had to close because protesters had breached the airport and they couldn't secure it."

Kinney and Lavelle reported seeing businesses boarding up their windows in Cusco to protect themselves from widespread vandalism and looting.

"We have each other," Lavelle said. "I couldn't imagine doing this alone."

They say the hotel they've been staying at has been safe and accommodating. But Kinney said she's running short on medication and will likely miss an important family ceremony due to the forced extension.

Kinney's wife, who is from Serbia, was approved for U.S. citizenship. The oath ceremony is scheduled for Monday and it seems Kinney likely won't be back in time.

Cusco's airport opened successfully on Friday for the first time in days, but Kinney and Levelle aren't scheduled to depart until late Sunday.

"A large portion of our days are just tracking the flights and trying to make sure that we're getting ahead. And when they do get canceled so that we aren't having multiple days out on rebooking," said Kinney.

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