The Facts


new internationalist
issue 197 - July 1989

Peru - The FACTS



[image, unknown] On the move

Population: 21.5 million1

Under 5 mortality: 126 in every 1,000 (US 13 per 1,000).2

Life expectancy: 63 years (US 76).2

Migration: The drift to the cities has been such than 69% of the Peruvian population is now urban and 31% rural - an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1940.1

Emigration: 125,000 Peruvians, many of them professionals, left the country between 1985-1988 due to economic and political instability.3

Language: Spanish is the official language but Quechua and Aymara are also widely spoken.


Elections due in 1990

The main political parties are:

American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). Centre-left ruling party which came to power in 1985 with 49% of the vote.

United Left (lzquierda Unida). Alliance of left-wing groups ranging from the Communist Party, Maoists and Trotskyists to social democrats. Won 25% of the vote in 1985.

Fredemo (Frente Democrático). A new party formed from two right-wing parties, the Popular Christian Party (PPC) and Popular Action (AP), and a group of independents known as the Movimiento Libertad.

The guerilla organizations are:

The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso). Maoist insurgents who have been fighting a protracted people's war since 1981, mainly in the highlands. About 10,000 strong - 5,000 fighters, the rest political activists.

Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru (MRTA). Marxist-Leninist group especially active in the jungle regions.

Rodrigo Franco Commandos. Right-wing paramilitary death squad set up to fight communist insurgents. Responsible for attacks on prominent left-wingers. Is thought to be connected with the ruling APRA party.


Political, economic, social

[image, unknown] 15,000 people have died since the current wave of political violence began in 1980.4

[image, unknown] Government violence (via the armed forces) has led to the disappearance of more than 3,200 people in the province of Ayacucho alone since 1982. Many more killings go unrecorded because they occur in remote areas and the victims are poor.5

[image, unknown] In June 1986 around 300 prisoners, including members of Sendero Luminoso, were killed by the army during mutinies in Lima's Lurigancho and El Fronton prisons. More than 60 were shot point blank after surrendering.5

[image, unknown] Terrorist violence since 1980 has led to the deaths of 202 mayors, prefects, governors, peasant leaders and other authorities.3

[image, unknown] The material cost of the violence is estimated at $10,000 million equivalent to four times the country's export earnings, two thirds of total foreign debt and 45% of GNP.3

[image, unknown] 55 out of Peru's 151 provinces are under a state of emergency and 40 per cent of population are denied civil liberties such as Habeas Corpus, freedom of movement and the right of assembly).3

[image, unknown] Worsening poverty and social decay have led to an increase in criminal violence. In 1985 there were 81,460 cases of urban crime. By 1987 this had almost doubled to 154,667.3


Cocaine: biggest export

It accounts for 45.9% of export revenue and 9% of GDP.7 Nearly two-thirds of the world's cocaine comes from Peru, around 95% of which is produced illegally.6

[image, unknown] $900 million worth of coca leaves are grown each year by farmers in Peru.

[image, unknown] These are bought by drug traffickers who turn them into $2,400 million worth of cocaine paste.

[image, unknown] The paste is smuggled into Colombia to be refined into cocaine hydrochlorate (pure cocaine) or sold unrefined as crack.

[image, unknown] Peruvian coca by the time it is sold on the streets of New York has risen in value 84-fold to $76,000 million.3

[image, unknown] Peruvian farmers earn $4,500 a hectare from coca. This compares with barely $600 for coffee, cacao or beans. An estimated 300,000 Peruvians depend on illegal coca production for a living.

[image, unknown] Drugs-related crime in Peru has risen from 12 cases a year in the 1960s to 6,183 cases in 1987.

[image, unknown] 200,000 hectares of Peruvian farmland are under coca cultivation to meet overseas demand. Local traditional needs (the Andean custom of chewing the leaf) could be met by cultivating just 18,000 hectares.3

[image, unknown]


Financial crisis

Teachers' income as a percentage of family expenditure. Inflation is out of control. Economists predict five-figure inflation by the end of the year. Between March 1988 and February 1989 prices increased by 2,933%. Output fell by 26% during the same period and sales have collapsed by 50-70% during the course of six months.8

[image, unknown] Peru is 'ineligible' for loans from the IMF and the World Bank following President Alan Garcia's refusal to pay any interest beyond 10% of export earnings upon Peru's $15.4 billion foreign debt.

[image, unknown] Each Peruvian baby is born with a debt of $742. The minimum monthly salary is $30.

[image, unknown] Wages have collapsed. A teacher's pay now meets less than 10% of her/his family's needs so that most now need second jobs.



Good laws - poor practice

Article 2 of the Constitution states: 'Each person is equal before the law, with no discrimination because of race, religion, opinion or language. Men and women have the same rights, opportunities and responsibilities.'

Women have had the vote since 1955 and suffrage was extended to all people aged 18, regardless of literacy, in 1979. But there is still a long way to go.

Sexual discrimination
[image, unknown] 78% of women are literate compared with 91% of men2. 149,000 women are at university compared with 260,000 men1.

[image, unknown] Around 25% of households are headed by women. Men abandoning their families is the most frequent cause.

[image, unknown] Between 70 and 80 per cent of crimes reported daily to Peruvian police are cases of women who have been beaten by their husbands.10

[image, unknown] Most of the deaths of young women are caused by illegal abortions. Nearly a third of women say they have had more children than they wanted. 9

Regional discrimination
The coastal area gets preferential treatment compared with the mountain and the jungle. Many Peruvians feel that the only way to get reasonable education, health and other services is to move to the capital.

[image, unknown] Life expectancy in Lima is 68 years. But in the highland region of Huancavelica, mainly populated by Andean Indians, life expectancy is just 47.1

[image, unknown] Child mortality in Lima is 61.4 per 1,000. In highland Huancavelica it is 138.4.

Racial discrimination
Racism is one of the main causes of violence in the country today. Discrimination is most marked against Indians of the highland region (serranos), whose customs, traditions and culture are frequently denigrated, ignored or ridiculed by the coastal people (costeños). To a lesser degree there is discrimination against blacks (negros), people of mixed Indian, Spanish or African origin (cholos) and Indians of the jungle (nativos).

Although small in number, whites (blancos) and nearly-whites remain the dominant group with access to better education and better jobs.

1 Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, Lima, May 1988.
2 The State of the World's Children, UNICEF. 1989.
Violencia y Pacificación, DESCO y la Comisión Andina de Juristas, Lima, May 1989.
Ministry of the Interior, Lima, 1989.
5 Peru, Violations of Human Rights in the Emergencv Zones. Amnesty International, August 1988.
Canal 4, Hildebrandt, Lima April 30, 1989.
Peru Report, Lima. March 1989.
The Andean Report, Lima, April 1989.
9 Las Mujeres del Perú, Marfil Francke, Flora Tristan, Lima, 1988.
Sisterhood is Global, ed Robin Morgan, Anchor Books, New York 1984.

previous page choose a different magazine go to the contents page go to the NI home page next page

New Internationalist issue 197 magazine cover This article is from the July 1989 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Get a free trial »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop