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Peru gets tough on Machu Picchu nude selfie craze

Authorities claim that streaker video has sparked bizarre trend at ancient citadel

A man poses nude at Machu Picchu, in an image taken from the Facebook page "Naked in monuments."

It may have begun with a video that was posted on YouTube. For 38 seconds, a young Canadian couple can be seen streaking across Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca city high in Peru’s southern Andes.

“Out of sight!” a woman can be saying between giggles off camera. “That's crazy!” says a man, who is also chuckling.

While tourists may find it humorous, the authorities are not laughing. Since the beginning of the year, a dozen people have been arrested at Peru’s most famous tourist site for posing nude in front of the mysterious citadel.

The latest arrests occurred on Friday when authorities detained four US citizens for taking pictures of themselves in the mountains overlooking Machu Picchu. Their cameras were confiscated, and the memory cards were erased. Now the four face charges before a local justice of peace court, the Peruvian Andina news agency reported.

Amichay Rab is an Israeli tourist who recently took a picture of himself with no clothes on in front of Machu Picchu. “I did it when no one was looking and above all, with much respect, aware that it is a sacred site for Peruvians,” he posted on his blog, as reported by BBC Mundo.

Although it is not a crime to take such pictures, Peru’s Culture Ministry said such practices are designed to “seek self-glory, while compromising decency, respect and dignity.” The government said that it has stepped up security at the site to control nudists.

Those caught are usually evicted from the park, but they will face fines to discourage other nudists

Juvenal Cereceda, chief of tourism police in Cuzco, where Machu Picchu is located, said that there has been an increase in the number of people who are trying to get their nude photo shots at the ancient city. “We consider it disrespectful to this global wonder,” he said.

Those caught are usually evicted from the park and released after a few hours but they will face fines to discourage other nudists, he said.

“There has been an increase, possibly due to the rise of the internet," said the official, who also adds that nudists reach the restricted areas within Machu Picchu – like the sundial, which is known as “the house of the guardian” – to take their photos to avoid getting caught.

Liuba Kogan, a sociologist and researcher at the University of the Pacific, believes that such talk about a rash of nudist invaders is nothing but exaggeration, taking into account that more than one million tourists visited Machu Picchu in 2013. He also believes that the outraged reactions by authorities are also being blown out of proportion.

"I think the idea these tourists have in mind is to put themselves in contact with the mystical, supernatural world,” he said. “They generally come from countries where nudity is not frowned upon. They have no intention of offending anyone; that is the interpretation of a conservative people. The problem is that Cuzco is quite conservative. You have to examine who the authorities are addressing in their official statements.”

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