- Total population: 29,248,943 (2011)
- Life expectancy: 72 years (2011)
- Per capita income (ppp): $9,200 US (2010)
-Amerindian 45%; mestizo 37%; caucasian 15%; black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%
- Major exports: gold, copper, fishmeal, petroleum, zinc, textiles, apparel, asparagus, coffee
Peru, once part of the great Incan empire, has endured an ongoing struggle and revolution that began at the start of the Spanish Conquest. Independence in 1821 was followed by territorial disputes with neighboring countries, Chile and Bolivia. Domestically, Peru's political scene was characterized by weak civilian governments dotted with intermitent military coups.
Similar to the situation of other South American nations, the 1960s and '70s in Peru were dominated by oppressive dictatorships. Economic instability and natural disaster in the 1980s didn't help the situation. The overall social and political discontent eventually sparked the emergence of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), a Maoist guerrilla organization driven to eliminate what it believed to be the bourgeois democracy. In the context of economic ruin, inflation, and widespread violence, the first democratic elections in 40 years were held and APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) won the presidency with candidate Alan Garcia Perez. However, Garcia lost the elections in 1990 as he failed to adequately address key national concerns. He was replaced by Alberto Fujimori who believed he had a mandate for radical change.
Almost immediately after elected into office, Fujimori suspended the constitution and imposed censorship. He also instituted drastic economic measures to lower inflation and recover the collapsed economy. Citing continuing terrorism, drug trafficking, and corruption, he dissolved Congress in April 1992. And while he is praised for having vanquished most of the Shining Path, he has done so at great cost to the basic rights of the Peruvian people.
An estimated 4,000 Peruvians were disappearanced" during the “counter-insurgency” war and some 2,500 Peruvians remain in jail – many serving life sentences – under the Fujimori anti-terrorism laws. These civilians were convicted, often following confessions under torture by hooded military judges and without proper opportunities of defense.
A bribery scandal forced Fujimori to flee to Japan where he resigned from presidency and lived in self-imposed exile for 5 years. After fighting extradition for years, he lost the battle in 2007 and went on trial for 15 months. In 2009, he was found guilty of authorizing the death-squad killings in 1991 and 1992.
Today Peru is considered to be on the road to recovery with a strong GDP growth rate, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the region. In 2006, APRA candidat Alan Garcia Perez -- who was elected in the '80s -- won the presidency and has since overseen a robust macroeconomic performance.