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Background on Peru
Peru is located in Western South America and borders the South Pacific Ocean, between Chile and Ecuador. Peru’s border countries are Colombia and Ecuador to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south.
  • Total area: 496,223 sq mi (1,285,220 sq km) five-sixths the size of Alaska.
  • Capital: Lima
  • Other large cities: Arequipa, 837,300; Trujillo, 725,200; Chiclayo, 598,400
  • Climate: varies from tropical in east to dry desert in west; temperate to frigid in Andes
  • Landscape: western coastal plain (costa), high and rugged Andes in center (sierra), eastern lowland jungle of Amazon Basin (selva)
  • Natural Resources: copper, silver, gold, petroleum, timber, fish, iron ore, coal, phosphate, potash, hydropower, natural gas
  • Population: 27,544,305 (July 2004 est.)
  • Life expectancy: total population: 69.22 years male: 67.48 years female: 71.03 years (2004 est.)
  • Ethnic groups: Indian 45%, mestizo (mixed Indian and European ancestry) 37%, white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%
  • Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara, and a large number of minor Amazonian languages
  • Religions: Roman Catholic 90% Literacy rate: 91% (2003 est.)
Compiled from: CIA World Factbook on Peru, 2004; Info Please.
Peru’s history dates back to the powerful Incan civilization whose empire was captured by the Francisco Pizarro in 1533. Peru stayed under Spanish vice-royalty control until the country gained independence on 28 July 1821. One hundred years of revolutions and war continued throughout Peru, including a new war with Spain from 1864 to 1866, and the unsuccessful War of the Pacific fought against Chile from 1879 to 1883.

The Civilista Party emerged, representing Peru’s new oligarchy at the end of the nineteenth century. This era was unprecedented in terms of political stability and economic growth. Profound social changes began as capitalism advanced in Peru. Modern agro-industrial plantations began to replace the archaic hacienda system.

World War I disrupted these beginnings of social change. In 1912, a dictatorship emerged, commanded by millionaire businessman Guillermo Billinghurst, (1912-1914) who dissolved Congress in 1914. The dissolution provoked the armed forces to take control of the government through a coup d’etat (1914-1915, 1933-1936, and 1936-1939). The coup was the beginning of a continuing military-oligarchy alignment that lasted until the 1968 revolution of General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975).

The end of World War II in 1945 reinforced democracy in Peru and José Luis Bustamante y Rivero (1945-1948) was elected president in the first free election in many decades. He served only three years of his term and was succeeded in turn by General Manual A. Odria, Manuel Prado y Ugarteche, and Fernando Belaúnde Terry. Several more coups occurred in the 1960s and 1970s until the 1980 elections when Belaúnde Terry won the presidency once more. At this time, the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso, and a smaller rebel group, Tupac Amaru, began their brutal campaigns to overthrow the government. The military's subsequent crackdown led to further human rights abuses and disappearances among the Peruvian population.

Frustrated with the failure of President Belaúnde’s center-right government to stabilize the economy and control the armed insurgent groups, Peruvians voted for leftist Dr. Alan García Pérez for President in 1985. Under García’s term more people were disappeared than under any other Peruvian president. In 1990, President Alberto Fujimori was elected. The end of the twentieth century brought increased economic growth and a significant decrease in guerilla activity. However, Fujimori’s regime was known for its authoritarian tactics. An economic slump in the late 1990s generated mounting dissatisfaction. In April 1992, citing continuing terrorism, drug trafficking, and corruption, Fujimori dissolved Congress, suspended the constitution, and imposed censorship.

Fujimori was reelected in 1995, and again in May 2000, after his opponent, Alejandro Toledo, withdrew from the contest, charging fraud. In September 2000, Fujimori's intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, was videotaped bribing a congressman. In November 2000, Fujimori stunned the nation by resigning during a trip to Japan due to international pressure and corruption scandals. Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship has enabled him to escape extradition to face corruption charges. Montesinos, on the other hand, has been tried and sentenced.

Upon Fujimori’s exit, Valentín Paniagua became interim President. President Paniagua’s transitional government worked to restore democracy and, in June 2001, oversaw the free and fair election of President Alejandro Toledo, who won 53% of the vote, narrowly defeating former president Alan García. Inheriting a country with widespread economic troubles and corruption, Toledo did little to restore confidence in the government. Early on, he gave himself a significant pay raise while at the same time calling for economic austerity. The sale of two state-run electricity firms to a Belgian company in June 2002 led to a popular revolt in the cities of Arequipa and Tacna, despite campaign promises not to sell these firms.

In August 2003, the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report revealed that around 69,000 people were killed and disappeared and as many as 600,000 were displaced during the 1980–2000 conflict between rebel groups and the government. The deaths were carried out by Sendero Luminoso and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, as well as the military, other militias and the Peruvian government. Thousands more were detained, tortured, and denied a fair trial.

Compiled from: CIA World Factbook on Peru, 2004; Info Please; Library of Congress Country Studies: Peru.

Peru has a dual economy. A subsistence sector, isolated by poor transport and communications, is found in the mountains of the interior. A relatively modern sector exists on the coastal plains. Economic power has traditionally been in the hands of a European elite, and income distribution is extremely unequal. In fact, the poorest 20% of the population receives less than 5% of the national income. Poverty is heavily concentrated in rural areas, where more than two-thirds of the population is poor.

Abundant mineral resources are found in the mountainous areas and fishing is prevalent along the coast. Heavy dependence on minerals and metals subjects the economy to fluctuations in world prices, and a lack of infrastructure deters trade and investment. The huge Atamina copper and zinc mine started production in July 2001 and has provided a substantial boost to minerals exports. Manufacturing is fairly diverse and includes food, fishmeal, metals, steel, textiles, and petroleum refining as the largest sectors. The services economy conceals the harsh reality that most of those included in it are selling low-value consumer items in the informal economy, driving unlicensed taxis, or engaging in many other forms on informal employment.

Thanks to foreign investment and the cooperation between the government and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, growth was strong from 1994 to 1997 and inflation brought under control. In 1998, El Niño's agricultural impact, the financial crisis in Asia, and instability in Brazilian markets undercut economic growth. Political instability resulting from the Fujimori’s departure from the presidency limited growth in 2000. The twenty-year internal conflict resulted in the massive destruction of infrastructure and millions of dollars in economic losses.

President Toledo, who assumed the presidency in July 2001, has been working to reinvigorate the economy and reduce unemployment. Economic growth in 2002 was estimated at 4.8%, led by construction in the retail and gas sectors. In fact, after several years of inconsistent performance, the Peruvian economy was one of the fastest growing in Latin America in 2002 and 2003. Foreign direct investment increased due to the ongoing Camisea natural gas pipeline project (scheduled to begin operations in 2004) and investments in gold mining. Risk premiums on Peruvian bonds on secondary markets reached historical low levels in late 2003, reflecting investor optimism and the government's fiscal restraint.

Despite the strong economic performance that has led President Toledo to remark that foreign investors, but not his own people, applaud him, political intrigue and allegations of corruption continue to plague the country. The Toledo administration has grown increasingly unpopular and embroiled further in ongoing corruption scandals and political struggle with the opposition. Local and foreign concerns revolve around the fear that political turmoil could place the country's hard-won fiscal and financial stability at risk. Unemployment has yet to respond to the strong growth in economic activity, owing in part to rigid labor market regulations that act as an impediment to hiring. Exports have continued to expand, but instability in the political system makes a positive economic performance suspect because of the possibility of Toledo not finishing his term.

Occupations: agriculture: 9.6%, industry: 26% services: 64.4%

Compiled from: CIA World Factbook on Peru, 2003; The Economist Country Briefings: Peru; World Bank: Peru; Nation Master: Peru.

Peru gained independence from Spain on 28 July 1821. The country is a constitutional republic and is divided into twenty-four departments and one constitutional province. The current constitution was passed on 31 December 1993. Universal suffrage is granted to those eighteen years of age and is compulsory until the age of seventy. Members of the military may not vote.

The executive branch is headed by President Alejandro Toledo Manrique, who has been in office since 28 July 2001. The President is both the chief-of-state and head of government. The President is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The next elections are to be held on 9 April 2006. Additionally, two vice presidents, a First and a Second Vice President, are provided for by the Constitution (Spanish). The Second Vice Presidency is held by David Waisman (elected 28 July 2001), and the First Vice Presidency has been vacant since Raul Diez Canseco resigned on 30 January 2004. The President appoints the cabinet, or Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero Costa (in power since 15 December 2003) does not exercise executive power.

The legislative branch is composed of the unicameral Congress of the Republic of Peru. It has 120 seats, and members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. Elections were last held on 8 April 2001. The next elections will be held on 9 April 2006.

Peru’s judicial branch administers justice hierarchically through the Supreme Court of Justice, the Superior Courts (Cortes Superiores), specialized courts (civil, criminal and mixed), and two types of Peace Courts presided by professional judges (Juzgados de Paz Letrados) and selected members of the community (Juzgados de Paz no letrados). The Supreme Court, based in Lima, has thirty-two judges who are appointed by the National Council of the Judiciary. In 2002, there were a total of 1268 courts of all types in the country.

Compiled from: CIA Factbook Peru; Justice Studies Center of the Americas.

Legal System
Peru has a civil law legal system, based on European models. More recently, the U.S. legal system has influenced commercial and corporate law. Peru has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.

Peru’s justice system is hierarchical and consists of the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema), Superior Courts (Cortes Superiores), specialized Courts (civil, criminal and mixed) and Justice of the Peace Courts. The Supreme Court, based in Lima, has 32 justices appointed by the National Council of the Judiciary (Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura). In 2002, there were a total of 1268 courts of all types in the country.

Peru’s legal system is also comprised of many agencies. The seven members of Peru’s National Judiciary Council autonomously appoint, confirm and remove judges as guaranteed by the Peruvian Constitution. The Public Ministry (Ministerio Público) oversees guaranteeing the rule of law, respect for legal rights and the execution of justice. The Public Prosecutor’s Office (La Fiscalía) investigates crimes and undertakes criminal prosecutions. The Prosecutor’s Office includes the National Prosecutor (Fiscal de la Nación), Supreme Prosecutors (Fiscales Supremos), Senior Prosecutors (Fiscales Superiores), Provincial Prosecutors (Fiscales Provinciales) and Assistant Prosecutors (adjuntos), all whom may act independently. As of October 2002, Peru had 1497 prosecutors.

Peru has a National Public Defender’s Service (Defensores de Oficio) with 256 public defenders in 2002. The public defenders work in police units, Criminal Courts, Specialized Criminal Courts, Family Courts, the military justice system, and the Criminal Prosecutor’s Office. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Peru’s public defenders system is unable to meet the country’s needs due to understaffing, low salaries and an inadequate infrastructure.

Peru’s municipalities are run autonomously by municipal councils (consejo municipal), provincial councils (consejo provincial), and district councils (consejo distrital), all of whose members are directly elected. The municipalities administer assets, taxes, transportation, local public services, urban development and education.

There are many factors that help to explain the current status of Peru’s legal system. The aftereffects of twenty years of political violence, between 1980 and 2000, left imprints on the Peruvian legal system. After so many years of political violence and state repression Peruvian society has experienced a general loss of confidence in state institutions. Insurgency, violence and emergency legislation all hindered Congress’ ability to pass legislation that would impact significant sectors of the population. Other factors that have influenced the judicial system are Peru’s informal economy and society’s mistrust, in general, of the judicial system and lawyers. This overall mistrust stems from serious problems within the judicial system itself. Typically there are delays of five years before delivering a verdict. There is a lack of independence from the executive branch of government. Indeed, the executive branch often appointed and removed certain judges for political purposes. The judicial system lacks sufficient resources to properly carry out its functions. Further, the system has failed to provide adequate protection of the judiciary from insurgents and drug traffickers. In the last few years, Peru’s Congress has created special investigative commissions on human rights and judicial corruption to bring many of these issues to public attention.

Compiled from: The Structure of Legal Education in Peru: Notes for a Diagnostic; Library of Congress Country Studies; Justice Studies Center of the Americas.