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Peru General information

Peru General information


Official Name: Republic of Peru

Peru Geography

Area: 1.28 million sq. km. (496,225 sq. mi.); three times larger than California.

Cities: Capital--Lima/Callao metropolitan area (pop. 8.27 million, 2000).

Other cities--Arequipa, Chiclayo, Cuzco, Huancayo, Truujillo, Ayacucho, Piura, Iquitos, Chimbote.

Terrain: Western coastal plains, central rugged mountains (Andes), eastern lowlands with tropical forests.

Climate: Coastal area, arid and mild; Andes, temperate to frigid; eastern lowlands, tropically warm and humid.

Peru People

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Peruvian(s).

Population (2000 est.): 25.7 million (72.3 % urban).

Annual growth rate (2000 est.): 1.7%.

Ethnic groups (1961): Indian 45%. Mestizo 37%. White 15%. Black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%.

Religion (1993): Roman Catholic (89%).

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara and a large number of minor Amazonian languages.

Education: Years compulsory--11. Literacy--about 87.5% (1999).

Health (2000): Infant mortality rate--37/1,000. Life expectancy--67 male; 72 female.

Employed work force (1999, 7.2 million): Manufacturing--12.7%; commerce--26.4%; agriculture--5.8%; mining--0.4%; construction--5.2%; government--9.1% (est.); other services--40.4%.

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; a past president, several past cabinet members, 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.

Peru Government

Type: Constitutional republic.

Independence: 1821.

Constitution: December 1993.

Branches: Executive--president, two vice presidents, Council of Ministers. Legislative--unicameral Congress. Judicial--Supreme Court and lower courts, Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees.

Administrative subdivisions: 12 regions, 24 departments, 1 constitutional province.

Political parties and movements: Peru Possible, National Unity, We Are Peru, Change 90/New Majority/Let's Go Neighbor/People's Solution, Union For Peru (UPF), American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), Independent Moralizing Front (FIM), Popular Christian Party (PPC), Popular Action (AP).

Suffrage: Universal over 18; compulsory until age 70 (members of the military may not vote).

Peru Economy (2000)

GDP (est.): $53.9 billion.

Annual growth rate: 3.6%.

Per capita GDP: $2,101.

Inflation rate: 3.8%.

Natural resources: Minerals, metals, fish, petroleum, natural gas, and forests.

Agriculture (7% of GDP): Products--sugar, potatoes, rice, yellow corn, cotton, coffee, poultry, beef, milk.

Manufacturing (15% of GDP): Types--fish meal, nonferrous metals, steel, textiles, chemicals, wood, nonmetallic minerals, cement, paper.

Trade: Exports--$7.0 billion: gold, copper, fishmeal, textiles, zinc, lead, coffee, petroleum products. Major markets--U.S. (29%), U.K. (9%), Switzerland (9%), Japan (4%) Germany (4%). Imports--$7.3 billion: machinery and parts, cereals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, crude oil and petroleum products, mining equipment, household appliances and automobiles. Major suppliers--U.S. (27%), Andean Pact countries (16%), Argentina (3%), EU (16%), and Japan (7%).

Peru Education

Under the 1993 constitution, primary education is free and compulsory. The system is highly centralized, with the Ministry of Education appointing all public school teachers. Eighty-three percent of Peru's students attend public schools at all levels.

School enrollment has been rising sharply for years, due to a widening educational effort by the government and a growing school-age population. The illiteracy rate is estimated at 12.5% (17.4% for women), 28.0% in rural areas and 5.6% in urban areas. Elementary and secondary school enrollment is approximately 7.7 million. Peru's 74 universities (1999), 39% public and 61% private institutions, enrolled about 322,000 students in 1999.

Peru Political Conditions

Peru is a republic with a dominant executive branch. Congress President Valentin Paniagua was selected according to Peru's constitution to head an interim government after President Alberto Fujimori fled the country and resigned in November 2000 in the wake of a bribery scandal and political turmoil resulting from his tainted re-election to a third term in June 2000.

The Paniagua government's principal objective is to conduct free and fair presidential and congressional elections in April 2001. A new 5-year government will take office in July 2001. The interim government is also investigating a web of corruption under the Fujimori administration run by Fujimori's closest adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos, and involving a wide range of government, political and business leaders.

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 that 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.

Peru Economic Outlook

Forecasts for the medium- and long-term remain bright, as political uncertainty diminishes with the inau guration of a new government. In the near term, real GDP is expected to grow 1.5% in 2001. Inflation is likely to fall again slightly, to about 3.6%, while the budget deficit is expected to fall to about 1.9% of GDP as the result of a reduced government spending.


The fight against narcotics trafficking in Peru has resulted in an unprecedented 70% reduction since 1995 in the number of acres of illegal coca leaf under cultivation. The impact of this illicit industry to the national economy is difficult to measure, but estimates range from $300-$600 million. An estimated 200,000 Peruvians are engaged in the production, refining, or distribution of the narcotic. Many economists believe that large flows of dollars into the banking system contribute to the traditional depression in the dollar exchange rate vis-a-vis the sol, and create a climate in which money-laundering can flourish. The Central Bank engages in open market activities to prevent the price of the sol from rising to levels that would otherwise hurt Peruvian exports.

Peru Foreign Relations

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 1999, 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. Former President Fujimori's tainted re-election to a third term in June 2000 strained Peru's relations with the United States and with many Latin American and European countries, but relations improved with the installation of an interim government determined to ensure free and fair elections in 2001. Peru is planning full integration into the Andean Free Trade Area. In addition, Peru is a standing member of APEC and the WTO, and is an active participant in negotiations toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).


U.S. assistance seeks to strengthen democratic institutions; promote more effective local governments; promote and protect human rights; foster citizen participation; and strengthen women's participation in decisionmaking processes. Through USAID, the United States is providing more than $7 million to support the 2001 election process.

Reducing poverty

USAID aims to improve the policy environment for private sector-led growth; expand access to markets; improve production; improve access to and distribution of food resources; and improve access to public utilities in poverty areas. U.S. food assistance programs reach about 1.7 million poor Peruvians annually in

rural highlands and jungle areas, where the majority of the extreme poverty is found.

Peru Environment

USAID's strategy focuses on improving the legal, policy, regulatory, and normative environment and natural resource framework; promoting pollution prevention in selected peri-urban and industrial settings; and protecting natural resources, including biological diversity and fragile ecosystems. USAID has provided important assistance to the Peruvian Government to improve the legal, regulatory, and policy framework that established clearer rules on environmentally sustainable natural resource use. Among these were the National Environmental Council's Structural Framework for Environmental Management, the Ministry of Industry's Environmental Regulation, the Framework Law for Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, and the Pollution Prevention Oriented Environmental Framework Legislation for the Fisheries and related industries.

Peru Alternative and Sustainable development

USAID seeks to reduce coca leaf cultivation through alternative development and environmental protection programs, as well as to reduce drug use and addition through prevention, awareness and rehabilitation programs. It also seeks to increase the commitment of farmers and communities to reduce illicit coca production voluntarily. USAID, together with Peruvian and U.S. law enforcement actions, has contributed to a 70% reduction of hectares devoted to coca cultivation (from 115,300 Ha in 1995 to 34,000 Ha) in 2000. As a result, over the same period the capacity of Peru to produce cocaine hydrochloride, or HCl, declined from 525 tons to 145 tons. As of 1998, the total gross agricultural production value of the alternative crops in targeted areas outweighed the total gross production value of coca leaf by 39%. As a result, over 2,600 new jobs were created and more than 20,000 farmers were assisted in production, quality improvement, processing and marketing for licit crops such as coffee, cacao, livestock, and agroforestry, on nearly 25,000 hectares.

Sources: World Resources Institute, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the World Bank Group. All statistics are as of the years 2000 and 2001 unless otherwise noted.