Ancient Peru was the seat of several prominent
Andean civilizations, most notably that of the Incas
whose empire was captured by Spanish conquistadors
in 1533. Peruvian independence was declared in 1821,
and remaining Spanish forces were defeated in 1824.
After a dozen years of military rule, Peru returned
to democratic leadership in 1980, but experienced
economic problems and the growth of a violent insurgency. President Alberto FUJIMORI's election in 1990 ushered in a decade that saw a dramatic turnaround in the economy and significant progress in curtailing guerrilla activity.
Peru is situated on the Pacific coast of South America, between Chile and Ecuador. It comprises an area slightly smaller than the state of Alaska. It’s urban and coastal communities have benefited much more from recent economic growth than rural, Afro-Peruvian, indigenous, and poor populations of the Amazon and mountain regions. The poverty rate has dropped substantially but remains stubbornly high at about 30% (more than 55% in rural areas). The Peruvian economy has been growing by an average of 5.6% for the past five years with a stable exchange rate and low inflation. The estimated per capita income for 2013 was $11,100.
Peru's malnutrition rate began falling in 2005, when the government introduced a coordinated strategy focusing on hygiene, sanitation, and clean water. School enrollment has improved, but achievement scores reflect ongoing problems with educational quality. Many poor children temporarily or permanently drop out of school to help support their families.
Peru is considered a constitutional republic with an elected president, elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for nonconsecutive reelection). The next election will be held in April 2016.