Peru flag

PRESIDENT: Alan Garcia (July 2006 - 2011)

POPULATION: 27.1 million

KEY EXPORTS: Copper, coca, etc.

Andrew Clem blog
hand point

Peru

Updated:


Recent chronology

Nov. 2000Pres. Fujimori resigns (via fax) during an overseas conference, and takes asylum in Japan. V.P. Paniagua assumes office.
Jan. 2001Ex-Pres. Alan Garcia returns to Peru, after nearly nine years in exile, mostly in Colombia.
Jan.-May 2001Military purge: 18 Peruvian generals are arrested on drug corruption charges.
Apr. 2001Peru Air Force mistakenly shoots down a small plane suspected of carrying coca narcotics.
Apr. 2001Alejandro Toledo received about 40% in first round elections, and will face Alan Garcia, who received about 25%.
June 2001Alejandro Toledo wins second round election over Alan Garcia, 52% to 48%.
June 2001Vladmiro Montesinos is arrested in Venezuela and extradited to Peru after a tip from FBI in Miami.
June 2001Lori Berenson is convicted of complicity with terrorists in a second trial.
Sept. 2001Peru charges ex-Pres. Fujimori with homicide, issues arrest warrant.
Dec. 2001"Vladi-video" scandals: Montesinos tries to blackmail Peru's entire political elite.
Feb. 2002Archeologists discovered a new set of ancient ruins not far from Machu Picchu.
Mar. 2002Terrorist bombing attack near U.S. embassy in Lima, on the eve of Pres. Bush's visit there. U.S. government is pleased with Toledo's cooperative attitude but has expressed concern about the political bias in the trials against former officials in the Fujimori government.
June, 2002Fernando Belaunde, who was twice elected President of Peru, passed away on June 4 at the age of 89; see my obituary for him.
June 2002Peru begins an inquiry into the abuses by state security forces in the anti-subversive struggle over the past 20 years. For the first time ever, supporters of former presidents Garcia and Fujimori find themselves on the same side, fearing a partisan witch hunt.
July 2002A protester was killed in Arequipa, and Interior Minister Fernando Rospliogosi was obliged to resign. The issue is whether to privatize electric utilities, which Pres. Toledo had promised not to do.
July 2002Cabinet shuffle: Economy Minister Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski was replaced by Javier Silva Ruete, and Foreign Minister Diego Garcia Sayan was replaced by Allan Wagner. Some other cabinet positions went to the Independent Moralizing Front.
July 2002At least 25 people died in an unlicensed discotheque catering to upper-middle class youth in Lima.
Aug. 2002In Goldvein, VA, Federal agents seized documents from the home of American horticulturist James Kovach, who is suspected of illegal shipment of a rare orchid that he had discovered near the town of Moyobamba, in northern Peru. He lacked the proper CITES permit.
Aug. 2002The wife of Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, Eliane Karp, has been harshly criticized for receiving a salary of $10,000 per month for "advising" Banco Wiese; she is a Belgian-born anthropologist with no known financial expertise.
Aug. 2002Pres. Toledo visited Chile, hoping for peace and increased trade with Peru's old enemy, a risky initiative at a time when his domestic support is so weak. Chile recently purchased ten U.S. F-16 fighter jets, angering many Peruvians.
Sept. 2002Panama extradited to Peru José Lizier Corbetto, accused of helping Vladimiro Montesinos escape after the fall of Fujimori in late 2000.
Oct. 2002United Left congressman Eittel Ramos Cuya challenged 2nd Vice President David Waisman to a duel with pistols, saying his honor had been defamed. Ex-president Alan Garcia denied allegations by Fujimori that he had had links to Montesinos.
Oct. 2002After months of rumors, Pres. Toledo admitted in a live television address to the nation that he was the father of a 14 year old girl. He apparently agreed to pay a $100,000 settlement to the girl's mother.
Nov. 2002Germany seeks to outbid Russia for a contract to repair Peru's 19 MiG-29 fighter jets, only a third of which are operational. A Peruvian general recently charged that Ecuador is not living up to the 1998 peace treaty, and regional tensions may be rising.
Nov. 2002Roberto Dañino was named as ambassador to the U.S. He had served as prime minister in President Toledo's cabinet until July.
Nov. 2002Pres. Toledo's "Peru Possible" party fared poorly in regional and local elections, winning in only one of the 25 newly created regions. APRA won 12 of the regional races. Luis Castañeda was elected mayor of Lima, unseating incumbent Alberto Andrade.
Nov. 2002Camisea natural gas pipeline project is raising environmental concerns in Peru. Camisea is located in the eastern jungle flatlands, near the precious Manu National Park.
Nov. 2002World Bank president James Wolfensohn met with Pres. Toledo in Cuzco, pledging financial support for the regionalization program. Peru sold $500 million in sovereign bonds, a sign of investor confidence.
Dec. 2002Pres. Toledo spoke to the European Parliament in Brussels, urging European countries to stop selling weapons to Latin America, and to end restrictions on imports from Latin America and help rural development.
Dec. 2002Peru and China signed a military assistance convention under which China will donate $724 million worth of "logistical material."
Dec. 2002The Luchetti company, based in Chile, was ordered to vacate its pasta manufacturing plant adjacent to a special ecological preserve. Chile protested this as a violation of the mutual investment accord signed in 2000. (See PHOTO.)
Jan. 2003Constitutional Tribunal rules that emergency antiterrorist laws passed during the Fujimori government were invalid. Pres. Toledo denies that convicted terrorists might be set free.
Jan. 2003Pres. Toledo dismissed 420 higher-ranking officers in December, as Peru's military resents its reduced status. Dozens of officers are in jail after being convicted of corruption under the Fujimori government.
Jan. 2003A Fokker-28 jetliner carrying 42 passengers and 4 crew crashed in heavy rain as it was approaching the airport of Chachapoyas, in the jungles of northern Peru.
Jan. 2003Pres. Toledo says he will lead a "crusade" to reform the judicial branch after a court exonerated people involved in the falsification of signatures during the 2000 campaign. Thanks to improving economy, Toledo's popularity has climbed above 30 percent.
Jan. 2003Several officers and soldiers were killed by a massive explosion in a munitions depot inside a military barracks in Tumbes.
Jan. 2003Interior Minister Gino Costa resigned, discouraging hopes for serious reform in the police forces.
Jan. 2003Floods due to "El Niño," killed at least 16 people in the southeast, and thousands remain homeless. Cuzco and Puno were hardest hit.
Feb. 2003Vladimiro Montesinos told reporters that he considered suicide after being held in virtual solitary confinement for over a year.
Mar. 2003Peru's ambassador to Spain, Fernando Olivera, returned to Lima to resolve differences between his Independent Reform Front and Pres. Toledo's Peru Possible.
Mar. 2003Abimael Guzman's life sentence was annulled, pending a new trial.
Mar. 2003Vladimiro Montesinos was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted for corrupt influence peddling; he faces additional charges. His former lover Jacqueline Beltran was sentenced to four years.
Apr. 2003Human rights groups launched a campaign to extradite Fujimori, but Japan shows no signs of complying with the request by Interpol to arrest him.
Apr. 2003After reports that he pressured Panamericana TV to treat him more favorably, Pres. Toledo's approval rating fell to 17 percent, in spite of the good economy.
May 2003Leaders of eleven Latin American countries hold Rio Summit meeting in Cuzco. Interior Minister Luis Solari warned striking teachers not to disrupt the summit.
June 2003Pres. Toledo made a speech at Stanford University, his alma mater. As a gesture of conciliation, his salary will be cut by 30 percent, and other top officials' salaries will be reduced as well.
June 2003Teachers finally called off month-long strike. 77% of Lima residents oppose the state of emergency, seen as a sign of Toledo's weakness.
June 2003Peruvian army and police forces rescued 60 hostages from terrorists; some officials criticized Pres. Toledo for claiming credit.
June 2003Following weeks of protests and strikes, and after Congress rejected his proposed tax reforms, Minister of Economy Javier Silva Ruete resigned, along with the rest of the cabinet.
July 2003Beatriz Merino, head of the tax-collecting agency SUNAT, becomes prime minister, the first woman to hold such a high office in Peru. Jaime Quijandria, the former energy and mines minister, replaced Javier Silva Ruete as economy minister.
Aug. 2003Truth and Reconciliation Commission says 69,000 were murdered from 1980-2000, blaming both rebels and military.
Dec. 2003Cabinet shuffle: Carlos Ferrero replaces Beatriz Merino, accused of being a lesbian.
Feb. 2004Pres. Toledo's reputation is tarnished by influence-peddling and nepotism scandals. V.P. Raul Diez Canseco resigns over tax favoritism for girl friend.
Feb. 2004OAS foreign ministers issue a proclamation supporting democracy in Peru, in response to rumors of a coup.
Mar. 2004Truck drivers went on strike for almost a week, severely curtailing the supply of food and fuel to Lima.
Apr. 2004The mayor of Ilave (near Puno) was lynched by an angry mob.
May 2004U.S. officials return to Peru 41 pre-Colombian Indian artifacts that were seized in Arlington, VA and San Jose, CA.
July 2004Gen. Confed. of Peruvian Workers calls for nationwide strike, prompting large police deployment, but most Peruvians ignore it.
Oct. 2004Pres. Toledo's popularity falls again, as his Peru Possible party is plagued by internal strife.
July 2004Congress chose Antero Flores-Araoz as its leader for the next year, defeating Luis Solari of Pres. Toledo's party Peru Possible. The legislative branch is in opposition hands for the first time ever.
Nov. 2004Retrial of Abimael Guzman and his Shining Path co-defendants begins; they raise their fists and chant in definance.
Jan. 2005Retired army Major Antauro Humala led an uprising in Andahuaylas, demanding the resignation of President Alejandro Toledo. He and his brother Ollanta previously led an uprising in October 2000.
Feb. 2005Five people were killed during "gang turf wars" waged by inmates at Lurigancho prison.
June 2005Increased tensions with Chile over the issue of airline ownership.
Aug. 2005P.M. Ferrero resigns in protest over appointment of Toledo's controversial ally Fernando Olivera as Foreign Minister.
Aug. 2005Sec. Def. Don Rumsfeld meets with Pres. Toledo in Lima, expressing concerns over regional instability.
Aug. 200557 of 98 passengers and crew survive the crash-landing of a jet in the jungles near Pucallpa; storm-induced turbulence.
Sept. 2005Another Toledo scandal: Credit card records show that he has been a regular customer of night clubs "of ill repute."
Nov. 2005Ex-Pres. Fujimori arrives in Chile, hoping to run for president in Peru, but is arrested. Unilateral modification of maritime border by Peru's Congress raised tensions with Chile again. Pres. Lagos insists that Chile will continue to exercise sovereign control over its territorial waters.
Dec. 2005Peruvian Foreign Ministry declared that existing agreements between Peru, Chile, and Ecuador dealt only with fishing rights and did not establish sovereign jurisdiction.
Jan. 2006Peru rules that Fujimori is ineligible to run for president, and issues request for his extradition to Chile.
Apr. 2006Ollanta Humala gets 31% and Alan Garcia gets 25% in first round election; Lourdes Flores is eliminated, with 24%.
June 2006Alan Garcia defeats Ollanta Humala in the second round election, 53% to 47%. He refuses to apologize for criticizing Hugo Chavez for interference in Peru, and diplomatic relations are frozen.
July 2006Alan Garcia is inaugurated, pledging to maintain economic stability while fighting poverty, and names a diverse cabinet, reaching out to moderate opposition parties.
2006

SOURCE: Washington Post, CNN, etc.

Peru map Lat Am & Peru map

Geography

Like Gaul, all of Peru is divided into three parts: the coast (which is mostly desert), the mountains (where the climate ranges from mild to frigid), and the jungle (which contains an amazing diversity of tropical plant and animal life). Getting from one place to another can be extremely difficult, as the roads in rural areas are often very bad, and several dozen people die in bus crashes every year. The ongoing migration of people from rural areas to Lima and other dry-as-a-bone coastal cities creates a crushing burden on the government, which devotes massive resources to make enough water available for the politically active newcomers, while neglecting the rural highlands. It is an insane, tragic vicious cycle that no one seems able to stop.

History

Conquered by Pizarro in 1532, Peru became the center of Spain's colonial government in South America, which is why there was less of a push for independence, which was finally achieved in 1823. Chaos persisted for several decades, and military defeat in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) left Peru weaker and smaller in territory. These factors foreign domination of the country's economy, which in turn paved the way for a growing anti-imperialism movement in the 20th century. A military government seized power in 1968, and openly confronted the United States, seizing oil properties and boarding U.S. fishing vessels that entered the 200-mile sovereign maritime zone unilaterally claimed by Peru. The military's radical program largely backfired, and democracy returned in 1980. Two years later the world debt crisis erupted, and Peru failed to make the necessary adjustments in time. Under the left-wing populist government of Alan Garcia (1985-1990), Peru briefly enjoyed a jubilant respite but soon fell into utter chaos. A fanatical Maoist-influenced movement known as Sendero Luminoso gained power by collaborating with coca paste traffickers, assassinating many local officials and blowing up many buildings and bridges. By 1990 Peru was on the verge of utter collapse as hyperinflation and narcoterrorism rendered the central government almost impotent.

In 1990 Alberto Fujimori, a dark-horse candidate, was elected president, and managed to solve both the economic and internal security problems over the next several years, though at the cost of democracy. (He closed Congress for several months in 1992.) Fujimori really let Peru down during his last years in office, resorting to ever-more blatant bribery, extortion, and even police brutality to keep his opponents off his back. In the end, much of the economic progress Peru achieved during the 1990s was forfeited as virtually the entire political establishment came under the cloud of the web of scandals that were concocted by Fujimori's "security adviser," Vladimiro Montesinos. Fujimori resigned while visiting Japan (his family's ancestral home) in November 2000, and has taken Japanese citizenship to avoid being brought back to Peru to face trial. Peruvian elites are currently engaged in a whirlwind of finger-pointing and recriminations as more and more revelations about who took money from whom come to light. Montesinos had a secret video camera recording all his dirty deals, just in case he ever had to use extortion to silence someone, and after he and Fujimori fled the country all those video tapes got broadcast on national television, shocking everyone.

Culture

Peru has a proud literary, philosophical, and artistic tradition. Mario Vargas Llosa is the world-renowned author of The City and the Dogs (1963), Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977), among others. Vargas Llosa became the heroic leader of the neoliberal (what gringos would call "conservative") opposition to Alan Garcia in the late 1980s but lost in the 1990 presidential election, and was so disgusted that went into self-imposed exile in Spain. Alfredo Echenique Bryce is another widely acclaimed author. The country's most revered poet was Cesar Vallejo. There is a thriving theater and dance community centered in the "Bohemian" district of Barranco, on the southeast side of Lima. Julie Freundt is a multi-talented performer and singer. Gian Marco is a progressive rock musician with his own Web site. Of course, there is a wonderful folk music and artistic tradition that blends criollo and indigenous elements. As for popular styles, salsa (dominated by trombone, piano, and cowbell) and merengue (fast-paced tunes in a minor key) prevail, though the new chicha style of music is becoming more popular in the lower classes. Susana Baca, the "diva" of Peru's African music scene, recently performed on tour in the United States.



CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:

Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas;

Miraflores, the wealthiest district of Lima;

Central plaza in Cuzco;

Palace of Government in Lima;

Haya de la Torre & Garcia banner at APRA headquarters in Lima;

To see more, click on the adjacent photo montage.


Nature



Clockwise from top left: Black-necked stilt, cormorant, Hooded siskin, Common moorhen, Green & white hummingbird, American oystercatcher.

Manu National Park, in the foothills east of Cuzco, is the home to huge numbers of macaws and other colorful tropical birds.

At Paracas, on the coast south of Lima, a wide variety of nesting sea birds are found. It is under threat of development, however, principally from the natural gas pipeline terminal. In the past ten years, the estimated number of Humboldt's penguins there has declined from 40,000 to about 5,000.

In the Urubamba Valley north of Cuzco, many hummingbirds, tanagers, and exotic species are found.


Politics

President Toledo was once touted as the "perfect" candidate, since he is of indigenous ethnic heritage but was educated at Stanford University in the U.S. Only someone like him, it was thought, could convince non-European Peruvians of the necessity to modernize the country and open up to globalization. He barely defeated former President Alan Garcia, a charming fellow whose anti-American rhetoric just about drove Peru into the ground during the late 1980s when he was president. As it turned out, Toledo has no particularly bright ideas about how to restart the country's economy, and there is not much difference between his economic policies and those of Fujimori. Most sensible people in Peru know that old fashioned populist-nationalism is no longer feasible, at least not for small countries, so the only question is how to proceed with "reinsertion" into the world economic system. After a warm post-inaugural honeymoon with the Peruvian people, Toledo's popularity began to fall as he showed himself incapable of administering the government and resolving personality conflicts within his party, "Peru Possible." It's not really a party, just a group of political friends he gathered for the 1995 and 2000 campaigns. The only major, well-organizaed party in Peru is APRA, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, led by Alan Garcia. The Popular Action party founded by moderate reformist Fernando Belaunde (who passed away in 2002) has lost ground in recent years, as has Fujimori's "Change 90 / New Majority" party since he fled the country amidst scandal in October 2000. One bright spot recently has been the Peruvian-Bolivian cooperation on building highways and port facilities to help landlocked Bolivia trade more easily with the outside world. Chile, which seized former Peruvian and Bolivian lands in 1879, often refuses to listen to Bolivian concerns about transportation issues.

In spite of repeated changes in cabinet positions, Toledo has not yet made up his mind on fundamental policy issues. He is averse to offending anyone, and his proposed solutions, such as regionalization, address policy process but not substance. Crime and discontent are both on a steady rise in Peru, and many people fear that four more years of a virtual lame-duck administration under Toledo will drag the country further and further backward. On the plus side, economic indicators have been positive, but this has not eased domestic tensions, as most Peruvians are still very discontented.

Union for Peru Popular American Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) Alliance for the Future Center Front, Peru Possible, etc. National Unity
(Popular Christian, etc.)
Ollanta Humala President Alan Garcia (various) Ex-Pres. Alejandro Toledo Lourdes Flores Nano
47 36 13 9 17

NOTE: Width of each column shows each party's approximate strength. Colors and position (left to right) represent ideological leanings, which are often vague. Numbers show how many seats each party has in the unicameral Congress. Minor parties are not shown.

SOURCE: CIA World Factbook, onpe.gob.pe, peru.com, La Republica


BeganU.S. Ambassadors to Peru
1961James Loeb
1963J. Wesley Jones
1969Taylor Garrison Belcher
1974Robert W. Dean
1977Harry W. Schlaudeman
1980Edwin G. Corr
1981Francis Vincent Ortiz, Jr.
1984David C. Jordan
1986Alexander Watson
1989Anthony Quainton
1992Alvin Adams
.Dennis Jett
..
..
.James Curtis Struble

External links