been extended to four and now five year terms. Yet, as one study explained, except for maintaining
public cleanliness, decorating the city, and running the Civil Registry, legally, all the other activities of
the municipalities are shared in greater or lesser degree with entities from the central government .
Given this state of affairs, there is overwhelming support for decentralization among mayors,
councilmen, NGOs and much of the citizenry. There is a belief that a centralized system cannot
adequately understand, reflect or meet the needs of local citizens; and that centralized government
removes citizen control over spending, thus allowing more room for corruption. Most local officials
interviewed by the team have found strong support for bringing government closer to the people. In
practice, decentralization would entail a) clearly defining the functions of different levels of government
district municipality, provincial municipality, department, region, central government; increasing the
proportion of the budget which is directly administered at the local level; and providing for direct
elections for officials at the regional level.
However, unanimity does not exist on these issues. In practice, the debate during the last decade has
taken a different direction. For many in the Executive branch, there is strong support for increased
spending at local levels. Budget expenditures confirm significant increases in spending by the central
government at the regional and local level. For many within the Executive branch, the issue of local
control is secondary to directing spending outside the capital. It is this logic that has propelled the push
toward deconcentration. Few expect major decentralization to be enacted over the next five years, as
there is too much resistance from the Executive to decentralizing reforms that would wrest power from
the central government.
Nevertheless, some key changes could be enacted, such as direct election of regional officials and
decentralization of certain services, particularly health and education. Local mayors' associations,
including the divided AMPE, have organized forums to discuss the issue. Congress could play a role in
advancing the debate and laying the groundwork for future reforms. The debate must go beyond the need
for revenue transfers to articulate the necessity of creating vertical checks and balances on executive
authority as well as the need to allow for greater participation at the local level on the issues, policies,
programs and services that affect citizens' daily lives.
Indigenous Peoples and Local Government
Peru has begun to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples beyond the mostly formal provisions that
have existed in the past. It signed the International Labor Federation convention 169 on indigenous rights
in 1993, which obligates signatory states to recognize customs, religious practices, lands, languages,
traditional law, and political organizations of indigenous peoples. Because of its particular historical
development, the Peruvian state recognizes indigenous peoples in the Amazonian lowlands as native
communities. The highland indigenous peoples (largely Quechua and Aymara) are largely recognized as
being members of peasant communities.
Estimates of the total indigenous population in Peru are notoriously weak, given the complexities of
ethnic self identification and
in society. According to the last general census of 1993, the
indigenous population of the Amazon was estimated at 300,000. Thus far, the state has legally
recognized 1,297 native communities in the Amazon. To these numbers could be added the estimated 3.6
million people who indicated Quechua as their mother tongue, and 420,000 Aymara. Most Quechua and
Aymara peoples reside in Peru's estimated 5,680 peasant communities, located primarily in the sierra.
Ortiz de Zavallos and Pollarolo, 1999, p.13.
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