Republic of Peru
Official name: República del Perú
Population: approx. 27 000 000
45% Amerindian, 37% mestizo, 15% white, 3% black, Japanese, Chinese, other
Official languages: Spanish, Quechua
Religion: 92% Catholic, 6% Protestant
Area: 1 285 216 km2
Peru's best known culture, the Inca, controlled a grand and prosperous empire in the Andes when the Spaniards arrived, led by Francisco Pizarro. In fact, Peru was once the center of an Inca empire which stretched from present day Colombia to Chile. The Spaniards conquered the empire in 1531-1533.
Independence came in 1821, but internal unrest continues today. The APRA party was formed in 1924 to promote the interests of a large underprivileged population. In 1968, the military junta which took power put into effect a land reform under Juan Velasco Alvarado, who was then ousted in 1975.
Japanese-born Alberto Fujimori was elected president in 1990. He did battle with the drug trade, economic hardship, and guerilla movements that had been terrorizing the country since 1980. The Shining Path guerillas, Sendero Luminoso, were eventually supressed. Fujimori was re-elected in 1995 and 2000, but resigned in November last year over election discrepancies. New elections will be held this spring.
Peru, on the Pacific Ocean coast, is South America's third largest country, almost four times the size of Finland. The three main regions are the coastal plains, the Andes mountain area, and the Amazon lowlands.
Fishing, mineral mining, and farming are the main livelihood. Peru is among the largest fishing states in the world and one of the biggest producers of copper and silver. Sugarcane, cotton, and rice are the major crops along the coastal irrigations areas. Sheep, llama, and alpaca are raised up in the highlands.
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