CHAPTER II:  INTRODUCTION
A.
Historical Antecedents
Political democracy is a relatively recent phenomenon in Peru. Entrenched poverty, profound social and
economic inequalities and an elite with little historical commitment to liberal values have all contributed
to this outcome. Since gaining independence in 1821, the country has had 107 governments, only 19 of
which were elected and only nine of which completed their terms. Oligarchic power remained entrenched
well into the 20
th
 century, the Armed Forces have repeatedly intervened in politics, and large sectors of
the population were formally denied the basic rights of citizenship until universal suffrage was finally
introduced in the Constitution of 1979.
The Peruvian population today is estimated at 25 million, approximately 72% of which resides in urban
areas and nearly a third in the capital city of Lima. Ethnically, Peru has a significant indigenous
population that is not adequately captured in national census data, though estimates taken from the last
census in 1993 range from 4.3 million to 7.8 million persons.
1
 The indigenous population is located
primarily in the highlands 
(sierra
) and the eastern jungle regions. The majority of Peruvians have some
indigenous roots, but most urban residents consider themselves 
mestizo
 or mixed raced.  The colloquial
term  
cholo 
 is also used an intermediate category between indigenous and white/European. All of these
are cultural categories more than racial ones. Migration, modernization and the influence of the political
Left have had the effect of diluting the identification with indigenous life and have accelerated the
identification with 
cholo
, 
mestizo
 and white. Approximately 15% of the population are of white
European descent, and another three percent are of Asian or African decent.
By the onset of the 20
th
 century, as the land based oligarchy entered into a long period of decline, Lima
began to urbanize. As happened throughout the region, the expanding urban areas led to the articulation
of new social sectors and classes   primarily middle and working classes. By the 1920s, these new
sectors of society were pressing for new forms of political representation, which led to the emergence of
labor unions, working class parties and, above all, a new form of mass politics that would unite the
unrepresented urban sectors in the more modern areas of the economy and polity. This mass politics is
typically referred to as  populist , and is exemplified in Peru by the APRA party, founded in 1931.
Populism, with deep and long traditions in the region, has had unusual sway in Peruvian politics, though
its failures and difficulties are also notorious. Though claiming at least a third of the electorate from its
founding in 1931 through 1968, the APRA was kept out of direct political power by the military and
dominant economic elite throughout much of the 20
th
 century.
The 1968 Military Government
Peruvian politics was fundamentally transformed by the  Revolutionary Government of the Armed
Forces  (GRFA) that took power in 1968 under the leadership of General Juan Velasco. Prior to this
date, and in the face of growing peasant unrest and a guerrilla insurgency in the 1960s, the Peruvian
                                                    
1
 The National Census does not include data on racial or ethnic self identification, and estimates of the total
indigenous population vary widely. According to the National Statistical Institute and other government agencies,
there are approximately 300,000 members of  native communities  in the Amazon jungle area, representing 65
different ethnic groups and 14 linguistic families. Roughly 4.3 million Peruvians claim Quechua, Aymara or
Amazonian languages as their native tongue, 6.4 million live in peasant or native communities and 7.8 million live
in rural areas per se, and all of these have been used as equivalents for indigenous origins.
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