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For Anna, a 33-year-old woman American A woman stranded in a Peruvian hotel room without vital drugs to treat her autoimmune disease, time is running out.
After Peru closed its borders on March 15 to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, she and her husband tried to rent a plane to leave Cusco. They even plan to take with them other Americans trapped in the city nestled in the Andes near the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.
But the Peruvian government has refused to give the plane permission to land, the couple said, the US government and airline officials. And when they asked the US State Department for help, they said they were told the agency was working on the situation.
“There are other foreign governments that are capable of bringing out their citizens, but it seems that with the United States, the Peruvian government is deadlocking these planes to land,” said Anna. “But there are many citizens here who desperately want to go home.”
The couple’s plight is the latest in a series of issues facing thousands of American citizens trapped around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that he was working to repatriate the Americans. But like others, Anna and her husband say they got little help.
Amid protests from congressional leaders over the situation in Peru, the State Department criticized Peru on Tuesday for refusing two repatriation flights for hundreds of American tourists and said it was engaging the country’s government and ” argued vigorously for the return of our citizens. ” The embassy previously coordinated repatriation flights with Peru, which brought 700 Americans home.
There was no immediate comment from the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. President Martín Vizcarra, a soft-spoken American ally, was among the first in Latin America to close the borders of the coronavirus pandemic, deploy the military, and force people to stay at home. Initially, it authorized waivers for charter repatriation flights, but that ended on Saturday.
The pandemic has infected more than 400,000 people worldwide and killed more than 18,000 people. COVID-19 disease causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe and life-threatening symptoms are possible, especially for the elderly or those with existing health conditions – like Anna. She and her husband requested that their surnames not be made public for reasons of confidentiality related to her state of health and for fear of possible reprisals by the Peruvian authorities.
Peru confirmed its first case of the virus on March 6, three days before Anna’s arrival to meet her husband who was there on a trip to South America. When the President of Peru declared the emergency and closed the country’s borders a few days later, they had only 24 hours to leave.
Anna’s husband immediately turned to the United States embassy for help, notifying authorities of her poor health and the dwindling supply of drugs. He provided a note from her American doctor stating that it was “very urgent and important that she return to the United States” for treatment.
In the absence of a response as to whether an American plane would save them, he contacted political leaders in Texas, including Sens Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, who he said tried to help. The couple thought that an American plane would land in Cusco on Tuesday, but that did not happen.
American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said a charter flight from Miami reached Peruvian airspace this afternoon but was refused permission to land, and surrounded until fuel levels dictate a return to Miami. The State Department said that Peru also did not grant permission for a LATAM flight to pick up Americans in Cusco.
US Senator Marco Rubio tweeted Tuesday that the problems in Peru were due to a “lack of urgency” on the part of mid-level State Department employees, but that a “competent official took direct control “.
Anna’s husband had a rescue plan: he contacted private companies to charter an air ambulance, but said that Peruvian authorities refused to let him land
Various private air charter companies have worked feverishly to find a way to take them home, according to communications that Anna showed to the Associated Press.
Steve Panzella, president of Horizon Jets Charter Inc., said the couple contacted him about an air ambulance and said they were willing to pay to bring other Americans home on any flight that ‘they chartered. He said that Cusco Airport presents certain challenges as it is high in the mountains and not all planes are designed to take off from this altitude, but he stated that the heist in this case had obtained clearance from Peru.
“I get 24-hour calls from people stranded all over Central and South America, but nothing like Peru,” said Panzella. “People are desperate.”
In other interviews, other Americans who traveled to Peru painted a dark picture of armed troops patrolling the streets during the lockdown and making sure to stay in their hotels. Some told AP that they did not know how or when they could get home. Others managed to leave by purchasing tickets from local travel agencies. But they were given little advance notice on the flights and they did not know before boarding whether there would be enough seats.
Constance Bauer told AP by email that her son was stuck with other Americans in the Amazon town of Iquitos.
“And the situation is much worse for these people than for those in Lima (the capital) – food, medical supplies, medical care, clean water are very scarce in Iquitos and they are subject to strict, imposed quarantine by the military, “she wrote. .
For Anna, all that remains is to wait.
“I am out of medicine,” she said, “and it is not a condition that can be treated here in Peru.”