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Volume 55 / Social Sciences


CATALINA RABINOVICH, Consultant, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

CHANGE, CHANGE, AND MORE CHANGE has been Peru's script over the last three decades. Though the trend towards modernization started at the beginning of this century, it certainly has accelerated dramatically since the introduction of Gen. Velasco's reforms in 1968. The social turmoil generated both by his reforms and subsequent counterreforms peaked in 1990 with the political debut and overwhelming victory of independent presidential candidate Alberto Fujimori. Only two years later, this turbulence subsided with the Sept. 1992 capture of Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán, which brought with it an atmosphere of peace not seen by Peruvians for almost 15 years.

Peru's social texture changed dramatically in the 1960s-90s period, so much so that it became possible for an unknown member of a small minority to become president of the most fragmented society in Latin America. Moreover, the effects of Fujimori's economic and institutional policies have accelerated the process of change and modernization to the point were now the "common man" in Peru feels that he or she could also occupy Lima's Presidential Palace. This new consciousness helps to explain the emergence of 27 candidates for president in 1995, the highest number ever in the history of Peru. Most of these individuals were unaffiliated with a party as exemplified by the top two contenders: the winner, well-known President Fujimori, and former United Nations Secretary General, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar.

Among Fujimori's major achievements has been bringing under control the highest inflation in the country's history. In Aug. 1990, shortly after his election, Fujimori launched his anti-inflationary program which featured an initial shock-therapy approach. Afterwards, under Economics Minister Carlos Boloña the country regained the confidence of the international financial community and rapidly moved towards a true market economy, liberalizing the Peruvian economy and diminishing the size and scope of the State in accordance with world trends following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Simultaneously, the government fought against the Peruvian people's ideological distrust of private enterprise, an outlook stressed for decades by Peruvian politicians and intellectuals who demonized the notion of entrepreneurship at the individual level.

Although intellectuals have persisted in their anti-entrepreneurial mindsets, as of the 1980s an increasing number of the city poor were surviving and succeeding in the informal sector as either micro or small businessmen. The very rich, in turn, were reorganizing their businesses in more up-to-date and sophisticated ways. Even average Peruvians in rural areas were affected by this change in attitude. Fujimori, a savvy politician, has consistently capitalized on these developments; although many problems still remain to be solved, it is clear that by now Peru has undergone an important attitudinal change in direction or a {cambio de rumbo.}

Most books and articles annotated below attest to how much is understood (as well as how much remains to be learned) about Peruvian events towards the end of the 20th century. Changes, changes, and more changes are occurring within a democracy in progress, a process which has opened up the governing of the nation to almost anyone regardless of ethnic, social, or political origin. Previously, the nation's leaders belonged to either one of two categories: the white elite of Spanish descent, from which most democratically-elected former presidents traced their lineage, or the high-ranking mestizo members of the military who usually came to power by military coup.

Of particular interest is Boloña's appropriately titled book, {Cambio de rumbo,} which is highly recommended for those wishing to understand Fujimori's economic policies as well as future prospects for the country (item bi 94015792). Tulchin's {Peru in crisis} deals with more or less the same phenomena albeit from a different perspective (item bi 94015822). In {El nuevo capital financiero,} Alcorta analyzes how the very rich navigated through Peru's tumultuous changes (item bi 93024407). González de Olarte is among the first Peruvians to find {domestic} causes for the country's troubles in {El péndulo peruano} (item bi 93024455). Lastly, in {Empleo y pequeña empresa en el Perú,} Villarán places small industry in proper perspective, showing that it constitutes a pre-condition for a true market economy (item bi 94015824).

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