PRESIDENT: Manuel Merino * (November 2020 - 2021)
POPULATION: 27.1 million
KEY EXPORTS: Copper, coca, etc.
|2000||Pres. Fujimori resigns (via fax) during an overseas conference, and takes asylum in Japan. V.P. Paniagua assumes office.|
|2020||Pres. Vizcarra orders drastic curfew in April to prevent the spread of covid-19; was removed from office in Nov.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2001, Alejandro Toledo (educated at Stanford University narrowly 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. Garcia won in 2006, and even though his second term was better than the first (1985-2000), corruption scandals left his legacy in tatters once again. Retired colonel Ollanta Humala served as president from 2011 until 2016. In June 2016, financial expert Pedro Pablo Kuczynski won the runoff presidential election against Keiko Fujimori, and was inaugurated on July 28. Kuczynski holds dual Peruvian-U.S. citizenship. In March 2018 he was impeached and removed from office in the midst of a far-reaching bribery scandal involving the engineering firm Odebrecht, replaced by Martin Vizcarra, who was himself impeached and removed from office, replaced by Manuel Merino in November 2020.
In March 2018, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was impeached and removed from office, replaced by Vice President Martin Vizcarra.
|Union for Peru||Popular American Revolutionary Alliance (APRA)||Center Front, Peru Possible, etc.||National Unity
(Popular Christian, etc.)
|Alliance for the Future|
|Ollanta Humala||President Alan Garcia||Ex-Pres. Alejandro Toledo||Lourdes Flores Nano||(various)|
|Began||U.S. Ambassadors to Peru|
|1963||J. Wesley Jones|
|1969||Taylor Garrison Belcher|
|1974||Robert W. Dean|
|1977||Harry W. Schlaudeman|
|1980||Edwin G. Corr|
|1981||Francis Vincent Ortiz, Jr.|
|1984||David C. Jordan|
|.||James Curtis Struble|
(US $ billion)
|Main battle tanks||Major naval vessels||Cruisers||Frigates||Sub- marines||Combat aircraft||Jet fighters||Heli- copters|