Peru, the third largest country in South America, has 29.99 million inhabitants (according to 2012 figures).
Around 72% of its population lives in urban area. The capital, Lima, is the biggest city in Peru (8.5 million inhabitants). It is also Peru’s main economic center.
Spanish, spoken by approximately 70% of the population, has been the only official language of Peru for a long time, while the Native Americans, the descendants of the Incas, represent around 45% of Peru’s population. In 1975, the quechua, one of the main languages of the Native Americans, becomes also recognized.
Recent History of Peru
The period between 1980 and 2000 is the most violent period of time in the recent history of Peru. The Shining Path, the guerilla movement of Maoist origin, rebels against the government and this leads the country to the civil war. This movement first spreads in rural and mountainous areas: pressure on the villagers, expropriations, assassinations, land set on fire, kidnapping…
The traumatized victims massively flee to the towns. However, the towns do not have the right infrastructure to welcome them: development of slums, absence of employment possibilities…
In 1990, during presidential elections, the Peruvians get worried about Shining Path terrorist attacks and corruption scandals and they elect Alberto Fujimori.
In order to improve the country’s economic situation, Fujimori undertakes severe austerity measures. He manages to reduce inflation from 7 650% in 1990 to 139% in 1991. The deputies resist his reforms and he dissolves the Congress in 1992 and changes the constitution. The privatization of numerous public companies follow, which lead to a more favorable investment climate and to a better administration.
At the same time, Fujimori conducts authoritarian presidency. In order to respond to the Shining Path attacks he entrust the military headquarters with the power to arrest individuals suspected of terrorism as well as to judge them secretly by military courts. Individual liberties and rights are reduced. At the same time, he encourages the population to form patrols in villages to assure security in rural zones, which promotes the climate of fear and suspicion. Thousands of Peruvians are arrested or assassinated, often for no reason.
In 1992, the guerilla warfare activities become rarer and the initiator of the movement, Abimael Guzmann, gets arrested. This hits the Shining Path hard.
Fujimori also puts in place a coerced sterilization program. Between 1995 and 2000, 400 000 people, mainly indigenous people from deprived areas are sterilized, the objective being to reduce the number of births in poor regions of Peruvian society.
In 2000 Fujimori gets dismissed for corruption and he flees to Japan. In 2009 he is sentenced to 25 years of prison by the Lima Tribunal, in particular for violating human rights.
The current Peruvian economy is influenced by the international context. This explains easier foreign investments into mining and hydrocarbon sectors as well as the privatization of such services as electricity and telephony.
This liberalization process directly concerns the life and work of rural zones. Small local initiatives are threatened by major groups.
The last resistance groups of Shining Path are only arrested in 2012, but in southern parts of the country, the area where coca is grown, the fighting still goes on.