Peru’s Colonial Times
After the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro defeated the highly developed but heavily divided Inca Empire the Spanish viceroyalty, officially established itself 1542 in Lima and had now control over all of the Spanish colonies in South America.
Lima became the principal city of Spain’s colonial possessions in South America, where all its South American colonies were administered from. It developed to one of the most distinguished and aristocratic colonial capitals and the major Spanish stronghold in the Americas.
Peru’s Independence in 1821
Peru’s independence movement was led by José de San Martín from Argentina and Simón Bolívar from Venezuela. San Martín proclaimed Peruvian independence from Spain on the 28th of July 1821. It was successfully completed in December 1824, when Venezuelan General Antonio José de Sucre defeated the Spanish troops at Ayacucho, ending the Spanish reign in South America.
After independence Peru and its neighbors engaged in intermittent territorial disputes. Peru suffered a series of defeats by Chile during the Pacific War from 1879 to 1883. Continuous boundary disagreements led to several wars with Ecuador in the 20th century that were only completely solved in 1998 when the governments of Peru and Ecuador signed an historic peace treaty and demarcated the border. Outstanding issues between Chile and Peru were settled a year later, but still both countries were in dispute over the sea boundary. To peacefully solve the conflict, Peru invoked the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Finally at the beginning of 2014 the court decided on that matter and found a compromise both sides are more or less ok with.
Military Regimes in Peru from 1968 to 1980
Peru’s political development in the 20th century was characterized by parties reflecting the oligarch elements of Peruvian society. The military has been prominent throughout Peruvian history. Military coups have repeatedly interrupted civilian constitutional governments.
The most recent period of military rule began in 1968 when General Velasco overthrew the elected President Fernando Belaunde Terry. As part of what has been called the “first phase” of the military government’s nationalist program, Velasco undertook an extensive agricultural reform program, nationalized the fishmeal industry (a major source of income, even today), some petroleum and mining companies and several banks. Elections were staged between populist parties favored by the military; corruption and abuse of human rights were common. The country and its inhabitants suffered.
Velasco’s economic mismanagement and deteriorating health led to his replacement in 1975 by General Morales Bermudez. Morales tempered the authoritarian abuses of the Velasco administration and began the task of restoring the country’s economy. He presided over the return to a civilian government under a new democratic constitution. In the following elections in May 1980 President Belaunde Terry was (re-) elected as president of Peru.
Instability in Peru from 1980 to 1990
The new elected civilian government of Belaunde lifted controls of the press placed by the military dictatorship and ended the agricultural reforms. Nevertheless economic problems worsened due to natural disasters and the fall of international commodity prices. In consequence production decreased, wages depressed, unemployment exaggerated and inflation increased dramatically.
The economic collapse worsened living conditions for poor Peruvians and provided a breeding ground for social and political discontent. The emergence of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) in rural areas followed shortly thereafter by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) in Lima and sent the country further into chaos. The terrorists were financed partially with alliances to drug cartels, who had established a stronghold in the Peruvian Andes during this period. Peru and Bolivia became the largest coca producers in the world.
President Alan García (I) from 1985 to 1990
In 1985 Alan García, the young and charismatic candidate of the Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), was elected as president. Aged only 36 Peruvian voters were attracted to his youthful charisma and confident optimism. He was even compared to former US president John F. Kennedy. From former governments Garcia inherited a slow economic growth, inflation, flight of currency out of the country, immense poverty and social unrest. But instead of improvements Garcia’s impulsive decisions lead the country even further into chaos. Hyperinflation destabilized the Peruvian economy even more.
These economic turbulences worsened poverty and social tensions in Peru and contributed partly to the rise in violence acts of terrorist groups (Shining Path and MRTA) destabilizing the country even more. Garcia’s answer to solve the problem was military force committing numerous massacres even against those who were only suspected of being involved with the Shining Path. Overall whatever Alan Garcia touched during his first presidency went from bad to worse. Many believe that the severe economic crisis, the financial isolation of the country, social unrest and violence smoothed the way for an authoritarian leader like his successor Alberto Fujimori.
President Alberto Fujimori from 1990 to 2000
In the 1990 elections, voters that were concerned about the economy, the increasing terrorist threat from the Sendero Luminoso and official corruption, chose a relatively unknown mathematician-turned-politician, Alberto Fujimori, as president. He immediately implemented drastic economic reforms to tackle the inflation (which dropped from 7,650% – yes, seven thousand six hundred and fifty percent – in 1990 to 139% in 1991), but found opposition to further drastic measures.
In 1992 Fujimori stunned Peruvians and the outside world with a “coup” against his own government; he suspended the Congress, revised the constitution, exiled opponents like Alan García and called in new congressional elections. This unique move was welcomed by disenchanted voters and after a failed military coup he was re-elected. With a more flexible Congress Fujimori proceeded to govern without hindrance. He privatized state-owned companies, removed investment barriers and significantly improved public finances. After Fujimori’s constitutionally questionable decision to seek a third term, he was declared as the winner of the 2000 presidential elections.
A bribery scandal (including money laundry and government corruption) that arose just weeks after he began his third term brought political and economic chaos to the country. Fujimori, claimed to be innocent, but still he resigned from office in November 2000 while being on a state trip to Japan. Since his resignation a number of human rights abuses and violations came to light. In spite of efforts to prosecute Fujimori, he emerged from exile in Japan supported by many Peruvians to run for the 2006 presidential elections, but was detained in Santiago, Chile, where he was kept in custody until his extradition to Peru where he was later sentence to a long term prison time.
President Alejandro Toledo from 2001 to 2006
After Fujimori’s resignation a caretaker government under Valentin Paniagua supervised the new necessary presidential and congressional elections in April 2001. The new elected government, led by Alejandro Toledo as president, took office on the 28th of July 2001. Toledo promised to create new jobs, fight corruption, narcotics trafficking, and human rights abuses—in short, “to be the president of all Peruvians and of all races.” The Toledo government successfully consolidated Peru’s return to democracy. His strong economic management and promotion of foreign investments led to an impressive economic boom in the country which laid the foundation of Peru’s present success, inflation nearly disappeared. But as so often the economic advancement didn’t reach all; poverty only decreased slightly and only a few new jobs were created. Strikes and demonstration against Toledo’s policies became frequent and corruption scandals undermined his administration.
President Alan García (II) … second try … from 2006 to 2011
In June 2006 Alan Garcia, candidate of the Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) was elected president once again. After a really disastrous presidential term from 1985 to 1990, Garcia stated that he had learned from his past mistakes and returned to the presidency with many promises to improve Peru’s social conditions. Garcia sought to balance economic stability with increased social spending, promised to decrease poverty, especially in Peru’s southern highlands where poverty is most acute and wanted to lead an accountable and transparent government.
While many in Peru and abroad had strong doubts at the beginning of Garcia’s presidency, they were surprised later. Garcia managed to embrace free markets and free trade, making Peru one of Latin America’s top destinations for foreign investment. Under his presidency foreign investment increased, the economic status of the country improved, public debt dropped and foreign reserves went up. In December 2008 Alan Garcia was named Leader of the Year by the Latin American Business Chronicle for his achievements.
Even though the poverty rate dropped from 48% at the beginning of his administration to around 30% today and many governmental social projects were implemented, it still seems that the economic success of the country didn’t reach all in Peru. His opponents reproach Garcia as well for an increase in social conflicts mainly due to the control that foreign companies hold over Peru’s wealth of natural resources, and the growth of drug trafficking.
Overall it seems that Garcia’s second term in office enhanced the economic and social status of the country. Whatever critics say Alan Garcia managed and improved the country during a worldwide tumultuous financial and economic time quite well; and he did a much better job than during his first presidency.
President Ollanta Humala from 2011 until now
After a fierce run-off with Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, Ollanta Humala was elected as President of Peru in 2011. Promising the “poor and disenfranchised” Peruvians a fair share of the wealth from Peru’s key natural resources and at the same time sympathizing with former president Juan Velasco, a left leaning Peruvian General, who nationalized various of Peru’s industries, and Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, who follows his own political ideology of “Socialism in the 21th century”, the former Peruvian Army officer and head of the Peruvian Nationalist Party (Partido Nacional Peruano) Ollanta Humala spread joy amongst his followers and fear amongst national and foreign investors. The day after the announcement of his victory the Lima Stock Exchange dropped dramatically, but stabilized in the following weeks when it became clear that changes would be moderate and that Humala would respect investor’s rights, the rule of law and the Peruvian Constitution.
During his campaign he promised to revive social democracy and to address and finally terminate inequity in Peru improving conditions for the impoverished population. Humala’s top priorities: increase the minimum wage and the salaries of the public sector, a guaranteed pension for people over 65 years who have no social protection, expansion of health care including building of hospitals especially in rural areas and implementation of an emergency ambulance network, improvement of the public education system, fight des- and malnutrition as well as expansion of basic infrastructure to all areas in Peru. These measures should at least partly be financed by a new tax for the mining sector. At the same time Humala promised to maintain foreign investment and economic growth; the only way in Peru the money is rolling in.
If he is able to balance the sometimes contrary interests and fulfill his “Growth with Social Inclusion Agenda” only time will tell. It won’t happen overnight and the on one side feared and on the other side hoped for drastic change seems to turn out moderate for both sides. And right now it looks like Ollanta Humala moves slowly from left to the political center. Let’s hope the best for Peru.
Political Structure in Peru
Peru is a presidential representative democratic republic. The government is divided into three branches: the executive, the legislative and the judicial.
The President of Peru
The President is popularly elected for a five-year term. The Peruvian constitution of 1993 permitted one consecutive re-election; but after the “Fujimori case” a constitutional amendment passed in 2000 that prevents re-election. The president is both head of state and head of government. The first vice president and the second vice president are also popularly elected but have no constitutional functions unless the president is unable to perform his duties.
Executive Branch in Peru
The principal executive body is the Council of Ministers, comprised of 15 members and headed by a prime minister. The president appoints its members, who must be ratified by the Congress. All executive laws sent to Congress must be approved by the Council of Ministers.
Legislative Branch in Peru
The legislative branch consists of a unicameral Congress of 120 members popular elected for a five year term. Peru has a multi-party system, which prevents that one party has the main influence in a decision making process. The Peruvian Congress passes laws, ratifies treaties, authorizes government loans and approves the government budget.
Judicial Branch in Peru
The judicial branch of government is headed by a 16-member Supreme Court seated in Lima. The Constitutional Tribunal interprets the constitution on matters of individual rights. Superior courts in departmental capitals review appeals from decisions by lower courts. Courts of first instance are located in provincial capitals and are divided into civil, penal and special chambers. The judiciary has created several temporary specialized courts in an attempt to reduce the large backlog of cases pending final court action. An Ombudsman’s office was created to address human right issues in 1996.
Elections in Peru
All Peruvians over the age of 18 years living in Peru or abroad have the obligation to vote. The vote is universal, secret and direct. In the 2006 elections military, police… had this obligation for the first time as well (in previous elections especially members of the army were prohibited to vote, avoiding a new military regime). During the elections political gatherings are forbidden, while public gatherings of any sort are prohibited during voting hours, including religious liturgies and entertainment shows (even the selling of alcohol is not permitted and bars/clubs are closed).
Administrative Divisions in Peru
Peru is, according to the Regionalization Law from 2002, divided into 25 regions and the province of Lima. The regions are Amazonas, Ancash, Apurímac, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Callao, Cusco, Huancavelica, Huánuco, Ica, Junín, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Lima, Lima Metropolitana, Loreto, Madre de Dios, Moquegua, Pasco, Piura, Puno, San Martin, Tacna, Tumbes and Ucayali.
The regions are subdivided into provinces, which are composed of districts. There are 180 provinces and 1747 districts. High authorities on regional and local levels are elected.
Political Parties in with seats in Congress
Gana Peru (Peru Wins)
Gana Perú is a left-wing political party formed in 2010 as an alliance for the general election in 2011. The party is dominated by the Peruvian Nationalist Party led by the current president Ollanta Humala. Other parties include the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS), the Peruvian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Peruano, PCP), the Revolutionary Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Revolucionario, PSR) and the Political Movement Socialist Voice (Movimiento Politico Voz Socialista, MPVS). The political ideology of Gana Peru is characterized by left-wing nationalism and populism and democratic socialism. The alliance won 47 of 130 seats in 2011 election, making them the strongest party in congress.
Fuerza 2011 (Force 2011)
Fuerza 2011 is a right-wing political party formed in March 2010 as a coalition of the Nueva Mayoría (New Majority Party) and the Renovación Nacional (National Renewal). The party is led by Keiko Fujimori who lost in the run-off for Peru’s presidency against Ollanta Humala. The political ideology is characterized by the so called Fujimorism, a right-wing, anticommunist philosophy formed by former president Alberto Fujimori combined with economic liberalism and conservatism. Fuerza 2011 won 37 of 130 seats in 2011 election, making them the second strongest party in congress.
Alianza Electoral Perú Posible (Possible Peru Alliance)
The Possible Peru Alliance is an electoral alliance formed for the general election in Peru in 2011. The alliance is dominated by the party Peru Posible (Possible Peru) led by former president Alejandro Toledo. Other parties include Popular Action (Acción Popular) and We Are Peru (Somos Perú). The political ideology of the constituent parties is characterized by centrism and (social) liberalism. The Alianza Electoral Perú Posible is the third largest party in parliament with 21 of 130 seats.
Alianza por el Gran Cambio (Alliance for the Great Change)
The Alliance for the Great Change was formed for the 2011 general election in Peru to promote the presidential candidacy of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) who himself is non-partisan. The alliance includes th Christian People’s Party (Partido Popular Cristiano, PPC), the Alliance for Progress (Alianza para el Progreso), the Peruvian Humanist Party (Partido Humanista Peruano; PHP) and the National Restoration (Restauración Nacional, RN). The ideology of the constituent parties is characterized by christian and social conservatism, liberalism and humanism. Alianza por el Gran Cambio won 12 of 130 seats in 2011 election and is the fourth largest party in congress.
Alianza Solidaridad Nacional (National Solidarity Alliance)
The party National Solidarity was founded by the former Mayor of Lima, Luis Castañeda Lossio based on the political ideology of center-right liberalism, conservatism and social Christianity. For the 2011 general election the party formed an alliance with Change 90 (Cambio 90), Union for Peru (Unión por el Perú) and Always Together (Siempre Unidos). The alliance won 9 of 130 seats.
Partido Aprista Peruano (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance)
The Peruvian Aprista Party also known as American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) is a Peruvian left-wing social democratic party. APRA was originally founded by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre in Mexico City on the 7 May 1924 with aspirations to becoming a continent-wide party. It is the oldest surviving political party in Peru and one of the most well-established. While its presidential candidate Alan García won in the second round of the presidential election in 2006 against Ollanta Humala, in the general election in 2011 the candidate Mercedes Aráoz resigned her candidacy a few months before election date. In the parliamentary elections the party won only 4 of the 130 Congress seats.
Cabinet of Peru (since 11 December 2011 including varios changes)
- President of Peru: Ollanta Humala Tasso (Peruvian Nationalist Party)
- First Vice President: Marisol Espinoza Cruz (Peruvian Nationalist Party)
- President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister): Ana Jara Velasquez (since 22.07.2014)
- Minister of Foreign Relations: Gonzalo Gutierrez (since 24.06.2014)
- Minister of Defense: Pedro Álvaro Cateriano Bellido
- Minister of Economy and Finance: Alonso Segura (since 14.09.2014)
- Minister of the Interior: Daniel Urresti (since 24.06.2014)
- Minister of Justice: Daniel Figallo Rivadeneyra (since 15.05.2013)
- Minister of Education: Jaime Saavedra Chanduvi (since 01.11.2013)
- Minister of Health: Midori Cristina de Habich Rospigliosi
- Minister of Agriculture: Juan Manuel Benites Ramos (since 24.02.2014)
- Minister of Labor and Promotion of Employment: Fredy Otárola Peñaranda (since 22.07.2014)
- Minister of Production: Piero Ghezzi (since 24.02.2014)
- Minister of Foreign Commerce and Tourism: Blanca Silva (since 24.07.2013)
- Minister of Energy and Mines: Eleodoro Mayorga (since 24.02.2014)
- Minister of Transportation and Communications Jose Gallardo (since 24.06.2014)
- Minister of Housing, Construction and Sanitation: Milton von Hesse (since 24.02.2014)
- Minister of Women and Social Development: Carmen Omonte (since 24.02.2014)
- Minister of Environment: Manuel Pulgar-Vidal
- Minister of Culture: Diana Alvarez (since 24.07.2013)
- Minister of Development and Social Inclusion: Paola Bustamente (since 24.02.2014)
Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) & Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement
There are two main rebel groups operating in Peru, both leftist: The “Sendero Luminoso” (Shining Path) and the “Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru” (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement).
Both groups arose in response to Peru’s entrenched system of race and class based discrimination, which has deeply impoverished most of the country’s population, especially citizens of indigenous descent. Therefore most members and supporters of the “Shining Path” and the “Tupac Amaru Movement” belong(ed) to the poor and forgotten class of the population. “Sendero Luminoso” and the “Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru” both seek(ed) to overthrow the existing Peruvian government and impose their own communist regimes.
Shining Path, founded in the late 60’s by former university professor Abimael Guzman, is a militant Maoist group that wants to install a peasant revolutionary authority in Peru. The “Sendero Luminoso” first established a foothold in San Cristóbal of Huamanga University, where Guzman taught philosophy. Between 1973 and 1975 “Shining Path” gained control of the student councils in the Universities of Huancayo and La Cantuta, and developed a significant presence in the National University of Engineering in Lima and the National University of San Marcos, the oldest university in the Americas. The group took up arms in 1980. It was one of the world’s most ruthless insurgencies.
The “Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru”, named after the 18th century rebel leader who fought against Spanish colonial control, was founded on many of the communist principles that led to the Cuban revolution. The group, which is Marxist and wants to “clean” Peru of all imperialist elements, took up arms in 1984 and had at its height close to 1,000 members. “Tupac Amaru” members have tried to promote a Robin Hood image of stealing from the rich to help the poor. “Tupac Amaru” is best known for its 1996 takeover of the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima. Most of its leaders were killed in 1997 when Peruvian forces raided the Japanese compound and freed the hostages.
In the 1980s and early 1990s vicious terrorist attacks were daily occurrences across Peru. “Shining Path” and “Tupac Amaru” were notorious for indiscriminate bombings, assassinations, brutal killings, kidnappings, bank robberies and attacks on Western embassies and businesses. The human and economic toll was devastating and Peruvians have a particular dread of terrorism right to this day. More than 30,000 people have died during this time.
When it became evident to the Peruvian government that “Shining Path” and “Tupac Amaru” represented a clear threat to the state, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori waged an aggressive and highly successful campaign against the terrorist groups. Fujimori seized near-dictatorial powers in April 1992, granted the military the power to arbitrarily detain any suspicious person and disbanded Peru’s congress and courts, which he said were limiting his ability to crack down on terrorism. Within a few years Fujimori had captured most of the leaders of the rebel groups, and terrorism subsequently declined sharply. Thousands of Peruvians were convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to life imprisonment by military courts. Human rights activists accuse the Peruvian military of committing widespread human rights abuses during the crackdown, including several massacres, where entire villages where wiped out and the jailing of thousands of innocent Peruvians, at times subjecting them to torture and rape.
Although “Shining Path” was cracked down and lost its terrifying strength it continues to exist in Peru. Today remaining groups of Peru’s most notorious terrorist group have an estimated 300 members and are now dedicated protecting Peruvian drug barons and their illicit operations throughout the Peruvian jungle. “Sendero Luminoso” is not sponsored by any state and has no known links to other terrorist groups. It considers itself the only remaining true communist revolutionary movement.
With most of its leaders dead or imprisoned the “Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru” lost its former power and influence as well. Today the group has less than 100 members. “Tupac Amaru” initially received support and some training from Cuba and has historical ties to two leftist insurgent groups, the FARC in Colombia and the FMLN in El Salvador.