Latin Americaís fifth largest nation has historically been, and continues to be, divided along linguistic and class lines. Lima, the national capital, is the apex of the hierarchy and smaller settlements and rural areas are at its base. Lima is a megacity the size of the state of Rhode Island, with approximately one-third of Peruís population. Interestingly, many people think Lima is a high-altitude Incan city, but it is actually located on the Pacific coast at sea level.
Peruís political history of the past three decades is at odds with that of the rest of the region. Peruvian governments were battling the Shining Path guerrillas while most of the region was spared large scale political violence (Central America and Colombia excepted); Peru saw its party system collapse while party politics was alive and well in most other countries.
The crisis of representation in the Andes(and in much of Latin America) has manifold causes, but perhaps none more important than poor state performance. State deficiencies in Peru crucially contribute to the seeming inability of governments to provide essential public goods and resolve policy concerns of vast majorities of citizens, including inequality, crime, corruption, or job generation. It is also very uneven territorially in terms of its infrastructural power. For Peruvians living in Peruís highland interior, the state is virtually absent.
Despite enjoying strong economic growth over the last decade and being blessed with vast natural and cultural resources, Peru continues to face challenges to reduce poverty and to protect its delicate ecosystem. Great inequities remain between the 36.2% of the population that lives on less than US$2/day (and 12.6% live on less than US$1/day) and those Peruvians who are fully integrated into global markets. Limited government capacity in the highlands and the jungle allows illegal coca cultivation, drug trafficking, illegal logging, social conflicts, and remnants of terrorism to flourish. Perceptions that the government is not responsive to citizen's demands and challenges the government faces in delivering services effectively result in low levels of public confidence. In 2010, tensions stemming from natural resource management led to deadly conflicts in the Amazon region.
With an area of 1,285,215 square km, Peru is the third-largest country in South America after Brazil and Argentina, ranking it amongst the world's 20 largest nations. Peru also holds sway over the sea up to 200 miles from the Peruvian coast and has territorial rights to an area of 60 million hectares in the Antarctic. Peru is divided into 24 departments. Lima is the capital of Peru.
Peru is the fifth-most populous country in Latin America (after Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina). Twenty-one cities have a population of 100,000 or more. Rural migration increased the urban population from 35.4% of the total population in 1940 to an estimated 74.6% as of 2005.
Peru is a nation of mixed ethnic origins. Throughout its history, Peru has been the meeting ground for different nations and cultures. The indigenous population was joined 500 years ago by the Spaniards. As a result of this encounter, and later enriched by the migration of African blacks, Asians and Europeans, Peruvian man emerged as the representative of a nation whose rich ethnic mix is one of its leading characteristics.
Most Peruvians are either Spanish-speaking mestizos--a term that usually refers to a mixture of indigenous and European/Caucasian--or Amerindians, largely Quechua-speaking indigenous people. Peruvians of European descent make up about 15% of the population. There also are small numbers of persons of African, Japanese, and Chinese ancestry. Socioeconomic and cultural indicators are increasingly important as identifiers. For example, Peruvians of Amerindian descent who have adopted aspects of Hispanic culture also are considered mestizo.
With economic development, access to education, intermarriage, and large-scale migration from rural to urban areas, a more homogeneous national culture is developing, mainly along the relatively more prosperous coast. Peru's distinct geographical regions are mirrored in a socioeconomic divide between the coast's mestizo-Hispanic culture and the more diverse, traditional Andean cultures of the mountains and highlands and Amazon indigenous communities east of the Andes.
During the Fujimori years, the threat of Shining Path was neutralized in 1992 and the military was no longer needed for an internal security role and was used by the regime to do saber-rattling under statist-nationalist lines which eventually lead to the 1995 war with Ecuador. Peru lost this war and due to the equipment losses, it led to the purchase of a record number of new aircraft Ė 18 MiG29 attack aircraft and 18 SU-25 close support aircraft. Even though these purchases would constitute the most sophisticated fighters of any Latin American country the lack of maintenance and upgrading clauses into the deal would render this a deterrent threat based on perception more than actual capability.
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