Local leaders react to South Floridians being stuck in Peru; vow to bring them home safely

Peru government organizing evacuation of foreigners from Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Village

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Local leaders and first responders are speaking out as a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue captain and Miami-Dade police sergeant remain stuck in Peru, along with about 200 other American citizens.

“The American government, the State Department, needs to assure that Americans are safe in Peru and also get them safely out of Peru,” U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., said. “So I’ll be talking to the State Department today, find out what steps they’re taking in order to ensure the safety of Americans in Peru and how to get them out safely, also.”

The ongoing protests there has the two South Floridians stuck in Peru worried they won’t be home in time for the holidays.

Miami-Dade police Sgt. Jessenia Munoz is stuck in Cusco.

She told Local 10 News Friday that the nearest airport to her is closed, protests are growing more violent and road blocks are prevalent.

She said a restaurant she was in turned off the lights to conceal themselves from looters who started to descend.

“Most airports have been taken over, and the only airport that is open is Lima but there is no way of getting there,” Munoz said.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Brian Vega is also stuck in Peru, in a town near Machu Picchu.

He told Local 10 News’ Christina Vazquez that there has been unrest there following the arrest of former President Pedro Castillo.

Train service has been suspended and the country declared a state of emergency Wednesday as Castillo’s supporters have violently taken to the streets.

“From what I understand, the rest of the country is not doing too well,” Vega said. “They’re rioting, burning things down.”

Vega said local authorities don’t even know if they can get him out before Christmas. He has a wife and two young children at home.

“The only way into this town is via train and from what I understand, they’ve disassembled train tracks and protestors are also blocking the train line,” he said.

Vega said his biggest concern is “just being able to make it out safely.”

“Not just myself, but everyone that’s visiting from other places that need to get back home,” he said.

“We are aware of the reports,” a spokesperson for the National Security Council told Local 10 News. “U.S. Embassy Peru has continually evaluated the security situation in Peru and will keep providing updates and assistance to U.S. citizens as appropriate.”

Politicians from South Florida also said they are doing everything they can to bring all Floridians stuck in Peru home.

“Senator Rubio’s office is in touch with multiple Floridians stranded in Peru and is working with the State Department to help bring them home safely,” a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.

“It saddens me to learn of the struggles occurring in Peru and making it difficult for our U.S. citizens to return home,” said Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez III, Miami-Dade’s Chief of Safety and Emergency Response. “It’s unfortunate that a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Captain and a Miami-Dade Police Sergeant are amongst those struggling to return. The Mayor’s Office has been in communication with the White House in efforts to bring all of our U.S. citizens home safely. Please keep everyone in your prayers.”

According to the U.S. Embassy in Peru, the government of Peru is organizing an evacuation of foreigners from Aguas Calientes/ Machu Picchu Village.

Those affected or have a loved one who is affected can click here for more information about evacuations.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.