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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: PERU


DAVID SCOTT PALMER, Professor of International Relations and Political Science, and Founding Director, Latin American Studies Program, Boston University


FOR A COUNTRY with so many problems in the late 1980s and early 1990s as to appear on the verge of collapse, Peru's successful turnaround by mid-decade is truly remarkable. A few numbers tell a good part of the story: Inflation peaked in 1990 at the historically unprecedented rate of 7,650 percent (following two years of equally disastrous quadruple digit rates of 1,600 and 2,700 percent), but then dropped steadily, to 139 percent in 1991, 57 percent in 1992, 40 percent in 1993, and 15 percent in 1994. Five successive years of negative net economic growth between 1988-92 were followed in 1993-94 by net positive growth among the highest in the hemisphere (about four percent in 1993 and over nine percent in 1994).

Political violence in terms of incidents (I) and deaths (D) rebounded in the late 1980s and continued at unacceptably high levels through 1992 (1988: I = 2,792; D = 1,509. 1989: I = 2,113; D = 2,877. 1990: I = 2,779; D = 3,745. 1991: I = 2,144; D = 3,044. 1992: I = 1,956; D = 2,633). However, after careful police intelligence work brought about the capture of Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán Reynoso in Sept. 1992, which in turn led to the subsequent rounding up of hundreds of other guerrilla cadres, incidents and violence dropped dramatically (1993: I = 1,021; D = 1,187. Projection for 1994, based on Jan. through May figures: I = 650; D = 550).

President Alberto Fujimori's autogolpe of April 1992 suspended formal democracy and the 1979 Constitution, a move that appeared to play directly into the hands of the insurgents. These individuals, in turn, sought to polarize Peruvian politics as part of their strategy to undermine the institutional order so as to take power themselves. However, a combination of guerrilla leadership hubris and adroit political maneuvering by Fujimori forced Shining Path onto the defensive with the resulting decimation of their cadre, a development which enabled the government to legitimate a new set of rules for the political game. The Nov. 1992 elections produced a majority of Fujimori supporters in the unicameral congress/constitutional assembly which wrote a new constitution, narrowly approved (53 percent to 47 percent) in a national referendum held in Oct. 1993. Besides reconcentrating power in the central government and imposing the death penalty for terrorism, the 1993 constitution provided the legal framework for the 1995 elections in which, for the first time in Peru's history, a sitting president could run for immediate reelection to a second term. While many critics decried what they viewed as President Fujimori's authoritarian appropriation of the levers of political power, most of the population (and much of the international community as well) appeared to support the changes as necessary for the restoration of stability and order in Peru.

Unfortunately, given the lag in research and publication, most works annotated below focus overwhelmingly on the multiple problems Peru was facing in the early 1990s rather than on the solutions that began to emerge as mid-decade approached.


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