LIMA – The following is a profile of Peru:
Population: 25.2 million, mostly of mixed and Indian descent although large communities of pure Indians remain in the Andes and the jungle.
Area: 496,222 square miles, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east and Bolivia and Chile to the south. Peru is slightly smaller than the state of Alaska.
Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official) and Aymara.
Religion: Predominantly Roman Catholic.
Literacy Rate: 92 percent.
Percentage of Population in Poverty: 46 percent.
Life Expectancy: 68 years (1997).
Capital: Lima; metropolitan area 6.4 million.
Government: Peru is a parliamentary democracy with a president elected every five years. It is a member of the United Nations and the so-called Group of Eight Latin American democracies and the Andean Community.
Economy: GDP $57.1 billion (1999). Inflation 3.7 percent (1999). Trade deficit $606 million (1999). Per capita income $2,264 (1999). GDP growth: 3.8 percent (1999).
Principal Exports: copper, gold, zinc, lead, silver and fishmeal. Main agricultural products: coffee, cotton and sugar. Main industry: textiles. Peru is also one of the world's largest producers and exporters of coca, the raw material for illegal cocaine.
Legal exports totaled $5.9 billion in 1999, compared with total imports of $6.7 billion in 1999. Metals, traditionally Peru's biggest earner, accounted for 41.3 percent of exports.
More than four-fifths of the population is jobless or underemployed.
Modern History: In 1985, Alan Garcia of the center-left Aprista Party succeeded Fernando Belaunde, who returned Peru to constitutional rule after 13 years of military government. Garcia's rule was marked by a deep economic crisis including hyperinflation, which reached more than 2 million percent in his five-year term. He also failed to check a guerrilla campaign by the Maoist Shining Path.
In 1990, Fujimori, an agricultural engineer and university professor, came from nowhere to beat renowned novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. Inheriting a country on the brink of economic collapse, Fujimori implemented a severe austerity program and returned the country to the world financial community after it became a pariah during the 1980s due to Garcia's debt policies.
Fujimori instituted free-market policies in a bid to attract foreign investment and restore business confidence. His government slashed inflation from more than 7,000 percent in 1990 to 3.7 percent in 1999.
The son of Japanese immigrants aroused international ire when he closed Congress in April 1992, saying he needed a stronger hand to crush leftist guerrillas and implement economic reforms.
After the capture of Shining Path guerrilla chief Abimael Guzman in September 1992, the Shining Path steadily lost strength, helping bring in foreign investment especially through a sweeping privatization program begun in 1993.
Critics say Fujimori's authoritarian style has led to a concentration of power in the president and that he has failed to bolster democratic institutions such as Congress and an independent judiciary, that should serve as a balance to the executive.