Background Notes: Republic of Peru

Contributed By RealAdventures

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Peruvian(s).
Population (1999 est.): 25.2 million (71.9% urban).
Annual growth rate (1999 est.): 1.7%.
Ethnic groups: Indian 45%. Mestizo 37%. White 15%. Black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%.
Religion: Roman Catholic (89%).
Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara and a large number of minor Amazonian languages.
Education: Years compulsory--11. Literacy--About 92%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (1998 est.)--44/1,000. Life expectancy (1997)--67 male; 71 female.
Work force: (1999) 10.1 million. Manufacturing--11%; commerce--16%; agriculture--26%; mining--1%; construction--3.6%; government--5%; other services--33%.

Most Peruvians are "mestizo," a term that usually refers to a mixture of Amerindians and Peruvians of European descent. Peruvians of European descent make up about 15% of the population; there also are smaller numbers of persons of African, Japanese, and Chinese descent. In the past decade, Peruvians of Asian heritage have made significant advancements in business and political fields; the president, a cabinet member, and several members of the Peruvian congress are of Japanese or Chinese descent. Socioeconomic and cultural indicators are increasingly important as identifiers. For example, Peruvians of Amerindian descent who have adopted aspects of Hispanic culture also are considered "mestizo." With economic development, access to education, intermarriage, and largescale migration from rural to urban areas, a more homogeneous national culture is developing, mainly along the relatively more prosperous coast.

Peru has two official languages--Spanish and the foremost indigenous language, Quechua. Spanish is used by the government and the media and in education and commerce. Amerindians who live in the Andean highlands speak Quechua and Aymara and are ethnically distinct from the diverse indigenous groups who live on the eastern side of the Andes and in the tropical lowlands adjacent to the Amazon basin.

Peru's distinct geographical regions are mirrored in a socioeconomic divide between the coast's mestizo-Hispanic culture and the more diverse, traditional Andean cultures of the mountains and highlands. The indigenous populations east of the Andes speak various languages and dialects. Some of these groups still adhere to traditional customs, while others have been almost completely assimilated into the mestizo-Hispanic culture.

When the Spanish landed in 1531, Peru's territory was the nucleus of the highly developed Inca civilization. Centered at Cuzco, the Inca Empire extended over a vast region from northern Ecuador to central Chile. In search of Inca wealth, the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro, who arrived in the territory after the Incas had fought a debilitating civil war, conquered the weakened people. The Spanish had captured the Incan capital at Cuzco by 1533 and consolidated their control by 1542. Gold and silver from the Andes enriched the conquerors, and Peru became the principal source of Spanish wealth and power in South America.

Pizarro founded Lima in 1535. The viceroyalty established at Lima in 1542 initially had jurisdiction over all of South America except Portuguese Brazil. By the time of the wars of independence (1820-24), Lima had become the most distinguished and aristocratic colonial capital and the chief Spanish stronghold in America.

Peru's independence movement was led by Jose de San Martin of Argentina and Simon Bolivar of Venezuela. San Martin proclaimed Peruvian independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. Emancipation was completed in December 1824, when General Antonio Jose de Sucre defeated the Spanish troops at Ayacucho, ending Spanish rule in South America. Spain made futile attempts to regain its former colonies, but in 1879 it finally recognized Peru's independence.

After independence, Peru and its neighbors engaged in intermittent territorial disputes. Chile's victory over Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific (1879-83) resulted in a territorial settlement. Following a clash between Peru and Ecuador in 1941, the Rio Protocol--of which the United States is one of four guarantors--sought to establish the boundary between the two countries. Continuing boundary disagreement led to brief armed conflicts in early 1981 and early 1995, but in 1998 the governments of Peru and Ecuador signed an historic peace treaty and demarcated the border. In late 1999, the governments of Peru and Chile likewise finally implemented the last outstanding article of their 1929 border agreement.

The military has been prominent in Peruvian history. Coups have repeatedly interrupted civilian constitutional government. The most recent period of military rule (1968-80) began when General Juan Velasco Alvarado overthrew elected President Fernando Belaunde Terry of the Popular Action Party (AP). As part of what has been called the "first phase" of the military government's nationalist program, Velasco undertook an extensive agrarian reform program and nationalized the fish meal industry, some petroleum companies, and several banks and mining firms.

Because of Velasco's economic mismanagement and deteriorating health, he was replaced by General Francisco Morales Bermudez Cerruti in 1975. Morales Bermudez moved the revolution into a more pragmatic "second phase," tempering the authoritarian abuses of the first phase and beginning the task of restoring the country's economy. Morales Bermudez presided over the return to civilian government in accordance with a new constitution drawn up in 1979. In the May 1980 elections, President Belaunde Terry was returned to office by an impressive plurality.

Nagging economic problems left over from the military government persisted, worsened by an occurrence of the "El Ni–o" weather phenomenon in 1982-83, which caused widespread flooding in some parts of the country, severe droughts in others, and decimated the schools of ocean fish that are one of the country's major resources. After a promising beginning, Belaunde's popularity eroded under the stress of inflation, economic hardship, and terrorism.

During the 1980s, cultivation of illicit coca was established in large areas on the eastern Andean slope. Rural terrorism by Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) increased during this time and derived significant financial support from their alliances with the narcotraffickers. In 1985, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) won the presidential election, bringing Alan Garcia Perez to office. The transfer of the presidency from Belaunde to Garcia on July 28, 1985, was Peru's first exchange of power from one democratically elected leader to another in 40 years.

Extreme economic mismanagement by the Garcia administration led to hyperinflation from 1988 to 1990. Concerned about the economy, the increasing terrorist threat from Sendero Luminoso, and allegations of official corruption, voters chose a relatively unknown mathematician-turned-politician, Alberto Fujimori, as president in 1990.

The president is popularly elected for a 5-year term, and the 1993 constitution permits one consecutive re-election. The first and second vice presidents also are popularly elected but have no constitutional functions unless the president is unable to discharge his duties. The principal executive body is the Council of Ministers, headed by a prime minister, all appointed by the president. All presidential decree laws or draft bills sent to Congress must be approved by the Council of Ministers.

The legislative branch consists of a unicameral Congress of 120 members. In addition to passing laws, Congress ratifies treaties, authorizes government loans, and approves the government budget. The president has the power to block legislation with which the executive branch does not agree.

The judicial branch of government is headed by a 16-member Supreme Court seated in Lima. The Constitutional Tribunal interprets the constitution on matters of individual rights. It has not functioned fully since 1996, when congress removed three of its seven members for opposing a law that permitted President Fujimori to run for a third consecutive term. Superior courts in departmental capitals review appeals from decisions by lower courts. Courts of first instance are located in provincial capitals and are divided into civil, penal, and special chambers. The judiciary has created several temporary specialized courts, in an attempt to reduce the large backlog of cases pending final court action. In 1996 a Human Rights Ombudsman's office was created to address human rights issues.

Peru is divided into 24 departments and the constitutional province of Callao, the country's chief port, adjacent to Lima. The departments are subdivided into provinces, which are composed of districts. Authorities below the departmental level are elected.

President--Alberto FUJIMORI Fujimori
First Vice President--Ricardo MARQUEZ Flores
Second Vice President--Cesar PAREDES Canto


President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister)--Alberto BUSTAMANTE Belaunde
Foreign Relations Minister--Fernando DE TRAZEGNIES Granda
Defense--Carlos BERGAMINO Cruz
Economy and Finance--Efrain GOLDENBERG Shreiber
Interior-- Cesar SAUCEDO Sanchez
Justice--Alberto BUSTAMANTE Belaunde
Education--Felipe Ignacio GARCIA Escudero
Health--Alejandro AGUINAGA Recuenco
Agriculture and Food--Belisario DE LAS CASAS Piedra
Labor--Pedro FLORES Polo
Industry, Commerce, Tourism, and Integration--Juan Carlos HURTADO Miller
Transportation and Communications--Alberto PANDOLFI Arbulu
Energy and Mines--Jorge CHAMOT Sarmiento
Fisheries Minister and Privatization Commission--Cesar LUNA-VICTORIA Leon
Minister for the Promotion of Women and Human Development--Luisa Maria CUCULIZA Torres
Minister of the Presidency--Edgardo MOSQUEIRA
Ambassador to the United States--Alfonso RIVERO Monsalve
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Francisco TUDELA Van Douglas
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Dra. Beatriz RAMACCIOTTI

Peru is a republic with a dominant executive branch headed by President Alberto Fujimori. President Fujimori won re-election to a second 5-year term in 1995, and his "Change 90/New Majority" supporters enjoy a substantial majority in congress. In 1996, the congress passed legislation interpreting the constitutional term limits for president, making it possible for President Fujimori to seek re-election in 2000.

In April 1992, 2 years after his election, President Fujimori carried out an "auto-coup," dissolving congress and regional governments and assuming control over the judiciary. There was broad popular support for the coup, which reflected deep public frustration with politicians' inefficiency and corruption. The President subsequently convened elections for a constituent congress on November 1992, and won public approval of the new constitution in an October 1993 referendum.

The Fujimori government has substantially reduced the terrorist threat of Shining Path (SL) and the MRTA. The capture or death of several remaining terrorist leaders marked continuing progress in eliminating the once great threat posed by the SL and MRTA terrorist organizations, who since 1990 committed the great majority of killings and egregious human rights abuses. Armed militants of the MRTA carried out an attack on a diplomatic reception at the residence of the Japanese Ambassador to Peru in December 1996. More than 500 guests were initially held captive by the MRTA, which demanded the release of all MRTA members being held in Peruvian prisons. On April 22, 1997, after 126 days, Peruvian commandos stormed the residence and freed 71 of the remaining 72 hostages. One hostage, two commandos and all of the hostage-takers were killed.

Human rights violations by the security forces dropped considerably over the last several years, although there have been numerous accusations of human rights infractions. Reports of torture, and the lack of accountability and due process remain areas of concern. In 1995, the Peruvian congress passed a law which granted amnesty from prosecution to those who committed human rights abuses during the war on terrorism from May 1980 to June 1995. The Peruvian Government established in 1996 the Human Rights Ombudsman's office to address human rights issues and an ad hoc commission to review and recommend for presidential pardon those unjustly detained for terrorism or treason. About 500 people have been pardoned and released under this arrangement. Serious concerns over rule of law remain, particularly in regard to the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, and Peru's 1999 withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

GDP (est.): $59.3 billion.
Annual growth rate: 3.0%.
Per capita GDP: $2,350.
Inflation rate: 5%.
Natural resources: Minerals, metals, petroleum, forests, and fish.
Agriculture (12% of GDP): Products--sugar, potatoes, rice, yellow corn, cotton, coffee, poultry, beef, milk.
Manufacturing (21% of GDP): Products--fish meal, nonferrous metals, steel, textiles, chemicals, wood, nonmetallic minerals, cement, paper.
Trade: Exports--$6.2 billion: gold, copper, zinc, lead, coffee, petroleum products. Major markets--U.S. (29%), U.K. (10%), Switzerland (9%), Japan (4%) Germany (4%). Imports--$7.4 billion: machinery and parts, cereals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, crude oil and petroleum products, mining equipment, household appliances and automobiles. Major suppliers--U.S. (28%), Andean Pact countries (14%), Argentina (4%), EU (16%), and Japan (6%).

In the last 2 years, Peru has settled border disputes with its neighbors. In October 1998, Peru and Ecuador signed a Peace Accord which definitively resolved border differences which had, over the years, resulted in armed conflict. Peru and Ecuador are now jointly coordinating an internationally sponsored border integration project. The United States Government, as one of four guarantor states, was actively involved in facilitating the 1998 Peace Accord between Peru and Ecuador and remains committed to its implementation. The United States has pledged $40 million to the Peru-Ecuador border integration project and another $4 million to support Peruvian and Ecuadorian demining efforts along their common border.

In November 1999, Peru and Chile signed three agreements which put to rest the remaining obstacles holding up implementation of the 1929 Border Treaty. (The 1929 Border Treaty officially ended the 1879 War of the Pacific.) In December, President Fujimori made the first visit ever to Chile by a Peruvian head of state.

Peru has been a member of the United Nations since 1949, and Peruvian Javier Perez de Cuellar served as UN Secretary General from 1981 to 1991. The April 1992 auto-coup strained Peru's relations with many Latin American and European countries, but relations improved as the government returned to democratic processes. Peru recently reached agreement with the other members of the Andean community on full integration into the Andean Free Trade Area. In addition, Peru is a standing member of APEC, FTAA and the WTO.

The United States enjoys friendly relations with Peru. Relations were strained after the 1992 auto-coup, but improved as Peru undertook steps to restore democratic institutions and to address human rights problems related to its counter-terrorism efforts. The United States continues to promote the strengthening of democratic institutions and human rights safeguards in Peru.

The United States and Peru cooperate on efforts to interdict the flow of narcotics, particularly cocaine, to the United States. The Peruvian Air Force has successfully interdicted narcotics trafficking via air to surrounding countries. Bilateral programs are now in effect to reduce the flow of drugs on Peru's extensive river system and to perform ground interdiction in tandem with successful law enforcement operations. The United States and Peru cooperate on promoting programs of alternative development in coca-growing regions.

The United States has supported Peru's efforts to become more integrated with the international financial community. Those efforts, together with increased economic and social stability, have resulted in a substantial increase in U.S. investment and tourism in Peru in recent years. U.S. exports to Peru (1998) were valued at $2.0 billion, accounting for about 24% of Peru's imports. In the same year, Peru exported $1.8 billion in goods to the United States, accounting for about 32% of Peru's exports to the world.

About 200,000 U.S. citizens visit Peru annually for business, tourism , and study. About 10,000 Americans reside in Peru, and more than 200 U.S. companies are represented in the country.

Ambassador--John R. Hamilton
Deputy Chief of Mission--Heather M. Hodges
Director, USAID Mission--Tom Geiger
Counselor for Political Affairs--Arnold A. Chacon
Counselor for Economic Affairs--Krishna R. Urs
Counselor for Narcotics Affairs (NAS)--Candis Cunningham
Counselor for Public Affairs--Douglas M. Barnes
Counselor for Administrative Affairs--James Willard
Counselor for Consular Affairs--Annette L. Veler
Commercial Attache--Andrew Wylegala
Naval and Defense Attache--Capt. William Espinosa
Army Attache--Col. Samuel K. Stouffer
Air Attache--Col. Michael F. McCarthy
Chief, Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG)--Col. Gil Perez
Consular Agent, Cuzco--Dr. Olga Villagarcia

The U.S. embassy in Peru is located at Avendia la Encalada, Cuadra 17 s/n, Monterrico (Surco), Lima 33 (tel. (511) 434-3000; fax. (511) 434-3037). Home page:

The embassy is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, except U.S. and some Peruvian holidays. The mailing address from the United States is American Embassy Lima, APO AA 34031 (use U.S. domestic postage rates). The American Citizen Services section is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

The Consular Agency in Cuzco is located at Anda Tullamayu 125 (tel. (51) (84) 224112 or (51) (84) 239451; fax. (51) (84) 233541).

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