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Peru country profile

Map of Peru

Peru's rich and varied heritage includes the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco and the lost city of Machu Picchu. The country boasts spectacular scenery, including Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake.

A growing number of visitors are being drawn to its variety of attractions, such as its archaelogical treasures, the Andes mountain range and the Amazon rainforest, which makes up about half the country.

Overview

It is rich in copper, silver, lead, zinc, oil and gold.

The country experienced an economic boom in the 2000s, and in 2011 Peru was said to have one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

AT-A-GLANCE
Market in Cuzco, Peru
Politics: Ollanta Humala took over as president in mid-2011
Economy: Peru has seen growth, but the lot of the rural poor is little improved; the US and Peru have agreed a free trade deal
International: Peru is seen as world's top producer of coca, used to make cocaine; Peru and Chile dispute their maritime border

Foreign investors, attracted by the government and encouraged by favourable conditions, have been keen to get involved in exploiting the country's mineral wealth, but the authorities have faced opposition in rural areas to the extractive projects that local residents say will cause pollution, use up scarce water supplies and fail to lift them from poverty.

Indigenous groups in the Amazon and Andean mountains argue that the mines, dams and oil fields are destroying their ancestral lands and they have become more assertive in demanding greater recognition and protection.

The country is still trying to come to terms with the trauma of a two-decade conflict - roughly from 1980 to 2000 - between the state and the leftist guerrilla groups, the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

The warfare is thought to have claimed nearly 70,000 lives, most of them Andean peasants. It's ruthlessness was in large part due to the fanatical following of the leader of the Shining Path, Abimael Guzman, whose capture in 1992 in effect disbanded the guerrilla movement.

However, the Shining Path continues to have a small political following.

And offshoots of the group are said to be involved in the cocaine trade.

The United Nations believes that Peru has become the world's biggest producer of coca leaf, and now rivals Colombia for cocaine production.

Critics of the war on drugs argue that squeezing production in one country - such as Colombia - just makes the traffickers transfer their operations elsewhere, such as Peru.

While drug trafficking has made a major contribution to the economy - almost 17% of the country's gross domestic product in 2009, according to the Peruvian government - environmentalists are concerned about the impact coca growing and cocaine production is having on the rainforests, both because of deforestation and the dumping of the chemicals involved in the drug's manufacture.

Peru has had periods of military rule but in recent decades its governments have been democratically elected and its leaders held to account for their actions. Alberto Fujimori, who was president from 1990 to 2000, is now serving a 25-year prison sentence on human rights abuse charges.

Facts

  • Full name: Republic of Peru
  • Population: 29.4 million (UN, 2011)
  • Capital: Lima
  • Area: 1.28 million sq km (496,225 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 nuevo sol = 100 centimos
  • Main exports: Fish and fish products, copper, zinc, gold, crude petroleum and by-products, lead, coffee, sugar, cotton
  • GNI per capita: US $5,500 (World Bank, 2011)
  • Internet domain: .pe
  • International dialling code: +51

Leaders

President: Ollanta Humala

Ollanta Humala, a career army officer, won the June 2011 presidential election after promising to respect democracy and spread the benefits of a decade-long economic boom to the poor.

Peruvian president-elect Ollanta Humala
Ollanta Humala

He narrowly beat Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori.

As Mr Humala emerged as victor in the polls, financial markets plunged on fears that he would ruin the economy.

Mr Humala, 48 at the time of his election, burst onto the political scene in 2000 when he led a short-lived bloodless revolt to demand that former President Fujimori resign after 10 years in power. In the 1990s, he fought in the jungle against Shining Path guerrillas.

He comes from a family of prominent radicals. His brother, Antauro Humala, led a failed uprising in 2005 against former President Alejandro Toledo's government and was jailed for the violent protest that killed four police officers.

His father, Isaac Humala, is a central figure in an ethnic movement that seeks to reclaim Peru's Incan glory by spurning foreign interests.

In 2006, Humala narrowly lost the presidential election to Alan Garcia. He campaigned in a red polo shirt and called for a dramatic transformation in the style of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's declared "socialist revolution".

Since then he has recast himself as a family man. He has softened his radical image and disavowed his affinity for Mr Chavez.

He promises Peru's poor a greater share of the country's considerable mineral wealth and pledged to honour the free market but put Peruvians first.

Prime Minister: Juan Jimenez Mayor

Juan Jimenez Mayor
Mr Jimenez' critics fear he lacks the political experience for leadership

Peru is unusual among South American countries in having the post of prime minister. President Humala appointed Juan Jimenez Mayor as his new premier in July 2012 after the resignation of Oscar Valdes over a crackdown on Conga mining project protesters that left five people dead.

Mr Jimenez is a lawyer with extensive experience of work on major legal projects at home and elsewhere in Latin America, and served as deputy justice minister in the interim government that followed the fall of President Alberto Fujimori in 2001.

He returned to the same post in August 2011 and was promoted minister of justice and human rights three months later.

He has a reputation as a committed opponent of corruption, but critics fear he lacks the political experience to lead the government.

Media

Privately-run broadcasters and newspapers dominate the media scene, with the state-run media having relatively small audiences.

Lima is home to dozens of radio stations and several TV services. Many radio stations and regional newspapers are available in the provinces.

Defamation remains a criminal offence. "Too many legal proceedings and vexatious applications continue to hamper the free flow of information... encouraging self-censorship on the part of journalists and bloggers," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in 2012.

Physical attacks and verbal threats against journalists are commonplace, with topics including corruption and drug trafficking considered particularly dangerous to cover, reports US-based Freedom House.

Nearly 10 million Peruvians were online by December 2011 - a penetration rate of more than 34% (Internetworldstats).

The press

Television

Radio

News agency/internet



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Compiled by BBC Monitoring

SEE ALSO
Machu Picchu: What is the legacy of 'Indiana Jones discoverer'?
07 Jul 11 |  Latin America & Caribbean
Peru's challenge to tackle cocaine trade
23 Jun 11 |  Latin America & Caribbean
Peru and Chile in 'spy' scandal
14 Nov 09 |  Americas
Peru guerrillas tread a new path
01 Feb 09 |  Americas
Bush signs Peru free trade pact
17 Jan 09 |  Americas
'Ancient city unearthed' in Peru
17 Dec 08 |  Americas
Peru's president appoints new PM
11 Oct 08 |  Americas
Peru 'must protect Amazon tribes'
31 Mar 07 |  Americas
Bridge stirs the waters in Machu Picchu
01 Feb 07 |  Americas

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