Peru, country, South America: Twentieth-Century Peru

Twentieth-Century Peru

The first third of the century was dominated by President Augusto B. Leguía (1908–12, 1919–30), who for much of his tenure was a virtual dictator; he promoted economic development in the interest of the country's dominant oligarchy. In 1924 a new political party, the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), was founded by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre; it called for radical reform, especially of the condition of native peoples. The party was banned by Leguía and was again outlawed after Sánchez Cerro overthrew Leguía in 1930.

The 1930s were marked by bitter rivalry between leftists and rightists, with the latter dominating politics for most of the decade. However, a more moderate course was followed by President Manuel Prado y Ugarteche (1939–45). Peru was involved in a serious boundary dispute with Ecuador in 1941 and sided with the Allies in World War II. APRA was allowed to take part in the 1945 elections and backed the victorious moderate, José Luís Bustamante y Rivero. However, APRA split with Bustamante in 1947, and the resulting disputes led to a military coup by Manuel Odría in 1948. Odría, a conservative, was president until 1956, when Prado was again elected, this time with APRA support.

In the 1962 presidential elections Haya de la Torre won by a small plurality, but did not receive the required one third of the total vote. The military seized power and conducted elections in 1963 that were won by Fernando Belaúnde Terry, a moderate reformer. Belaúnde opened up the interior of the country by constructing a highway system through the Andes, but his regime was plagued by budgetary deficits and spiraling inflation. In 1968 he was deposed by a military junta, which installed General Juan Velasco Alvarado as president. Velasco suspended the constitution and assumed dictatorial powers, seeking to diversify the country's economy by exploiting its natural resources (especially petroleum) with foreign help but without foreign control.

In 1970 a severe earthquake in N Peru killed about 50,000 people. In 1975, Gen. Francisco Morales Bermúdez headed a new junta, and in 1980, a new constitution came into force and civilian government was restored. Both Morales and his successor, Belaúnde, instituted austerity programs to aid the failing economy. Inflation soared, leading to civil unrest, much of it led by a Maoist guerrilla group based in the Andes Mts. known as the Shining Path and by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Alan García Pérez, elected president in 1985, instituted a broad range of social and economic reforms, but the cost of military actions against the insurgents continued to strain the economy, which suffered from rampaging inflation. His term was also marred by cronyism and corruption and charges of army abuses in actions against the Shining Path, and he left office widely discredited.

In 1990, Alberto Fujimori defeated author Mario Vargas Llosa for the presidency. Insurgent violence continued, and in Apr., 1992, Fujimori suspended the constitution, claiming that emergency action was necessary to fight guerrillas, drug traffickers, and corruption. By Sept., 1992, many Shining Path leaders had been captured and jailed, and the rebel group no longer posed a serious threat to the government. After three years of economic liberalization, hyperinflation was eliminated, and the economy was growing at a good rate. In 1993 voters approved a new constitution that allowed Fujimori to run for a second consecutive term; he was easily reelected in 1995, and his party won a large majority in the new congress. There was, however, international criticism of his authoritarian policies and concern over the power of the Peruvian army. In 1995 Peru and Ecuador clashed in a brief border war; the dispute was resolved by treaty in 1998.

On Dec. 17, 1996, a group of MRTA guerrillas infiltrated a reception at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima and took about 600 hostages, many of whom were soon released; the MRTA's demands included freedom for their jailed comrades. Following months of failed negotiations, Peruvian forces stormed the building on Apr. 22, 1997, saving all but one of the remaining 72 hostages and killing 14 guerrillas. In the late 1990s, Fujimori continued with his privatization program as Peru struggled with a recession due in part to the effects of a particularly damaging El Niño and a financial crisis in Asia; the economy began recovering in 1999.

In the 2000 presidential contest, his government orchestrated widespread media attacks on his opponents, but despite this Alejandro Toledo Manrique, a business-school professor, forced Fujimori into a runoff election. The election commission was accused by observers of vote tampering and trying to steal the first-round election, and Toledo withdrew from the runoff, expecting Fujimori's campaign to engage again in fraud. In the congressional elections, Fujimori's party, Peru 2000, lost control of the congress but remained the largest bloc, with more than 40% of the seats.

In September his chief adviser and head of the intelligence service, Vladimiro Montesinos, was revealed to have bribed opposition lawmakers, and Fujimori abruptly offered to hold new presidential elections in which he would not run. Ongoing political instability and the possibility of a corruption investigation led Fujimori to resign in November while traveling in Japan, where he remained in exile. The congress, however, refused to accept his resignation and declared him morally incapacitated and the presidency vacant.

Congress speaker Valentín Paniagua became interim president, and new congressional and presidential elections were scheduled for the following year. In June, 2001, Toledo was elected president, after defeating former president Alan García in a runoff. Although the electorate showed no great enthusiasm for either candidate, the election was notable for being nearly free of irregularities. Toledo sought to purge Peru's military and security forces of supporters of Fujimori and Montesinos; the latter was arrested in mid-2001 and later convicted of corruption, plotting to overthrow Fujimori, authorizing death-squad killings, and other charges.

Toledo's popularity subsequently evaporated, however, as a result of political promises that went unfulfilled and ethical scandals involving several ministers in his government. Elections in Nov., 2002, for the newly established regional governments were a victory for Alan García's APRA party. In July, 2004, Toledo was charged by a former aide with taking a $5 million bribe from a Colombian company. Toledo denied the accusation, but the charge further eroded what little public standing he had. In Jan., 2005, a group of 150 army reservists staged an abortive uprising in Andahuaylas, in S central Peru, and called for Toledo's resignation; they surrendered after four days. Charges that Toledo and his party had been involved in forging signatures to register for the 2000 elections led in 2005 to a congressional committee investigation that, after splitting along party lines, accused Toledo of electoral fraud. The congress, however, did not vote to impeach Toledo.

In Oct. 2005, voters rejected a goverment proposal to consolidate 25 of Peru's regions into five “macroregions.” An ambush by Shining Path guerrillas in December led to the declaration of a two-month state of emergency in E Peru, and the group experienced something of a resurgence beginning in 2007 due to payments it derived from protecting the illegal cocaine trade. Peru accused Venezuelan president Chávez of interfering in its politics in Jan., 2006, when he met with and offered support to Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, a leftist nationalist who had led an abortive military uprising in 2000 (and whose brother had led the 2005 uprising). The two nations subsequently (April) recalled their ambassadors, but agreed to resume ties eight months later. Also in January, an attempt to register Fujimori, who had visited Chile and was arrested there at Peru's request, as a presidential candidate was denied.

Humala finished first in the Apr., 2006, presidential election, but fell well short of a majority of the vote. Humala was forced into a runoff with former president Alan García, who won the post after the June vote largely because he was regarded by many as the lesser of two evils. Humala's party, however, won the largest bloc of seats in the Peruvian congress. In Dec., 2006, Humala was charged with rebellion in connection with the 2005 Andahuaylas uprising.

An earthquake in Aug., 2007, caused extensive devastation in the Ica region of SW Peru; more than 500 persons were killed. Fujimori was extradited from Chile to Peru in Sept., 2007, and he was subsequently convicted (2007, 2009, 2015) in five cases arising from his presidency. In Oct., 2008, seven members of García's cabinet lost their posts over their possible involvement in a corruption scandal in which a Norwegian oil exploration company was accused of paying kickbacks in return for government contracts. The cabinet changes were also partially prompted by demonstrations over the regional distribution of mining revenue.

In Apr., 2009, there were demonstrations and blockades in Peru's Amazonian region against laws passed by decree in 2007–8 that governed the economic development of government lands; indigenous peoples feared that the laws would permit businesses to gain control of their lands. In June, following a deadly clash between government forces and protesters in which dozens died, the laws were repealed, and the prime minister resigned in July. The incident was the worst of a series of confrontations with indigenous groups over resource development that marked the last half of García's second term.

In Apr., 2011, Humala again won the first round of the presidential election, with about one third of the vote; Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former president, placed second. In the June runoff, Humala defeated Fujimori by a relatively narrow margin. The new government subsequently faced massive antimining protests that turned violent and deadly, and led to a declaration of a state of emergency. One of Humala's two vice presidents, Omar Chehade, resigned in Jan., 2012, after he faced impeachment over corruption charges; Chehade had resisted Humala's call that he resign. In Apr., 2012, the government said a remnant Shining Path group operating in central Peru had been defeated; other remnants, in SE Peru, were more successful in resisting government forces.

Revelations in 2015 that Peru's intelligence agency had been spying for years on prominent politicians, business leaders, and others led the congress to censure the prime minister and force her resignation. The 2016 elections resulted in a narrow victory for Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the Peruvians for Change candidate and a prime minister under President Toledo, over Keiko Fujimori, who had been well ahead in the first round; her Popular Force party, however, won a majority of the congressional seats. Relations between the president and congress were difficult in 2017, and in September the congress dismissed Kuczynski's cabinet, forcing him to re-form his government.

Former presidents Toledo and Humala were both accused by prosecutors of corruption in 2017; the charges in both cases stemmed in part from the Odebrecht corruption scandal, which involved illegal payments by a Brazilian construction firm. Revelations that Kuczynski and a firm he owned had received fees for Odebrecht-related work (after he had denied receiving any payments from Odebrecht) led the Popular Force to attempt unsuccessfully to impeach him; he then pardoned Alberto Fujimori for health reasons, a move that many criticized as a political deal (the pardon was overturned by the supreme court in 2018). When a video showed his allies apparently offering deals in return for opposition support in a second impeachment vote made it likely he would be removed, he resigned (Mar., 2018).

Kuczynski was succeeded by Martín Vizcarra, the first vice president. Vizcarra, not associated with a political party, ultimately won strong public support as a result of his anticorruption stance, and secured adoption in Dec., 2018, of three constitutional amendments (concerned with the selection of judges, campaign financing, and legislators' terms) that were intended to reduce corruption in the national government. In 2018 hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing their nation's economic crisis entered Peru, leading Peru to limit the number who could receive temporary residence.

Corruption scandals and conflicts with the congress over reforms led Vizcarra in 2019 to call for early legislative and presidential elections, and after legislators voted against on an issue that he declared a vote of confidence, he declared congress dissolved and called for new elections in Jan., 2020, a move that legislators denounced as unconstitutional (it was later upheld). The congress then tried to suspend the president and appoint the vice president (who later resigned) as interim leader, but Vizcarra, with the support of the government, military, and the people, remained in office.

The Jan., 2020, legislative elections resulted in a divided congress, with no party, out of the nine that won seats, winning more than a fifth of the seats, but centrist reformers made gains and the Popular Force suffered significant losses. Vizcarra's relations with the congress, however, remained troubled. In September, Vizcarra's opponents in the congress tried to impeach him over accusations of obstructing an investigation into government contracts awarded to a singer, but the attempt collapsed. In November, however, he was impeached over unverified allegations of corruption dating to when he was governor of Moquegua, but in voting to remove him legislators accused him of failings in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vizcarra's removal prompted protests in Lima. Manuel Arturo Merino de Lama, the president of Congress and a member of Popular Action, succeeded Vizcarra, but soon resigned amid persistent protests. Francisco Sagasti, Merino's successor as Congress president, an opponent of Vizcarra's removal, and a member of the Purple party, then succeeded Merino as president. The country experienced significant economic and health problems in 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19.

The 2021 presidential elections resulted in a near tie, with the leftist candidate Pedro Castillo narrowly beating the right-wing's Keiko Fujimori in early June. However, Fujimori continued to contest the election results, until in mid-July Castillo was declared the winner .

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