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PG Columnists - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4/6/17, 7(12 PM

Dan Simpson: Peru's promise, and problems
This gorgeous and potentially rich nation is a case study in South America's
troubled history
October 20, 2004 12:00 AM

What is striking about Peru among South American countries is the complexity of its society, which
parallels its variety as real estate.

Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. ambassador, is a Post-Gazette associate editor (

Those two elements make Peru especially interesting. They are also what makes its governance
troubled, to the degree of close to tragic.

In spite of waves of wealth flowing into the country from a range of sources, starting with gold and
silver, the primordial development problem remains the high percentage of Peru's population living in
terrible poverty, from Indians in the Andes mountains to the estimated quarter of the population who
have poured into the capital, Lima.

A few facts serve as a base -- most of which were new to me until I began studying the history prior to
spending nine days there this month. Peruvians now number 28 million. Peru's population of 9
million when the Spanish conquered the Inca in 1532 dropped to 600,000 during the first hundred
years under Spanish rule.

Peru, on the Pacific, is a seventh the size of the United States, divided into three zones: desert along
the coast, a mountainous spine in the center with inhabited areas as high as 13,365 feet, and Amazon
jungle in the east.

The difficult part of this element of Peru's essence is that, unlike the United States, a nation of
immigrants except for the Native Americans, each of these areas has had different kinds of native Page 1 of 3

then notorious President Alberto Fujimori.PG Columnists . Chinese and Japanese. who fled to Japan in disgrace in 2000. Peru's own presidents from independence in 1821 until the present. It showed 53 percent whites and Indian-plus-whites. nitrates.Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4/6/17. mismanagement and corruption on the part of whoever was in power. The Indians were scarcely in the game at all.500 B. had a good run at much- needed agrarian land reform. Other waves of prosperity have come over the years from guano (bird droppings) for fertilizer. but have remained for the most part poor. In 2003 this was still at 54 The majority Indians have always been the primary producers of these exports. stolen systematically from the Indians until the independence wars of the 1820s.print Page 2 of 3 . The answer across Peruvian history clearly lay in misgovernment. In 1991.D. anomalous. has a Ph. The presidential picture seemed to be taking a step toward improvement in 2001 when Alejandro Toledo succeeded Fujimori as president. One aspect of military rule is a dismal Peruvian 2-4 won-lost record in post-independence wars. The worst loss. power passed at that point from Madrid to the Spanish living in the colony.C. were not notably better. including the famous. Gen. coffee. rubber. Spain and twice with Chile. The last census that included ethnic identification was in 1940. It has experienced waves of wealth. fish and. http://www. Then add the Spanish in the 16th century. 46 percent Indians and the rest. raising again the hopes of the Indians and the poor. cost Peru its southern nitrate-producing areas. with Colombia. Juan Velasco Alvarado. sugar. 7(12 PM peoples living in them since at least 3. Bolivia. to Chile. most recently. coca derivatives. 69 of them in 183 years. descendants of African slaves. The country should be prosperous. starting with the gold and silver. colonialism carried out by a society that was crumbling itself. although at least one. in economics from Stanford and was elected with 53 percent of the tally. Just as in the United Spanish rule was brutal and unspeakable. cotton. wool. Many were military officers who seized power in coups d'etat. Toledo's great profile included that he was partly Indian from a poor family. Peruvians in general don't think much of military officers. an estimated 60 percent of Peruvians lived in extreme poverty. Ecuador.

U. His leadership profile has dropped to zero. not for visitors. has villages floating on reeds. They deserve richly any break they get. is high-plains drifting at its very best.print Page 3 of 3 . An anti-corruption commission is in hot perusal of his finances. mining and oil. U.S.Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4/6/17. the site of the Inca creation myth.S. We are Peru's biggest trading One hyperactive U. Peruvians are welcoming. even though its history has been hard. U. The Andean mountains. Since 1979 U. The Peruvians dearly loved JFK's Alliance for Progress approach. involvement in Peru has been a mixed bag.S.PG Columnists . and very interesting. Tourism is for Peru the potential El Dorado of this century. domestic demand for drugs has put succeeding Peruvian governments between a rock and a hard place: Should they offend the United States.S. military and other efforts have sought to involve Peru's government in suppressing coca cultivation. Succeeding American administrations' focus on cutting off supply rather than dealing with or their own farmers? I don't want to stress the gloom and doom of Peru.S. which dates from at least Inca times. Vast Lake Titicaca. with Indian women still in traditional dress by custom. companies have invested in Peruvian industries.000 feet. at 12. 7(12 PM Toledo's popularity now stands at 10 percent. Inca and then Spanish colonial capital Cusco is a spectacular combination of two cultures. ambassador in the 1880s had us thinking about annexation. It is a wonderful place to visit. policy has been mostly focused on drugs. http://www.

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