Key Facts About Peru
Associated Press -- 20 November 2000
Facts about Peru, which faces political uncertainty after President Alberto Fujimori announced Sunday he will resign:
- Alberto Fujimori, 62, was first elected in 1990 as a political unknown. He seized dictatorial powers in April 1992, dissolving Congress and closing the courts. A new constitution was written and a new Congress elected, dominated by his supporters. He was re-elected in 1995 by Peruvians grateful to him for stemming guerrilla violence and ending the economic chaos of the 1980s. He won an unprecedented third five-year term in May amid rampant irregularities and allegations of fraud.
- Vladimiro Montesinos, 54, was, until September, Fujimori's top adviser and the head of Peru's intelligence network. He was widely believed to control the courts, the attorney general's office and the armed forces. In the early 1990s, Fujimori and Montesinos set out to co-opt Peru's military, eliminating a time-honored promotion system based on seniority and merit and installing loyalists in key posts.
- Fujimori's foes accuse Montesinos of spearheading smear campaigns against Fujimori's opponents in the recent presidential elections. His intelligence service also has been linked to death squad killings and torture.
Peru is the third-largest country in South America. Flanked by the Pacific Ocean to the west, it is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. More than 30 percent of the population of 25 million lives in the capital, Lima. Peru is divided into three geographical regions: the coastal desert, the Andean highlands, and the Amazon jungle.
In the early 1990s, Fujimori tamed hyperinflation, reversed Peru's pariah image with international lenders and implemented neoliberal, free-market policies with remarkable success. Growth averaged more than 7 percent annually, but the trend ended in his second term, as Asian financial turmoil spread throughout Latin America, and Peru was rocked by the El Nino weather phenomenon. About half the population lives in poverty and only one in two people in the labor force has steady work.