The Incas, Andes and Amazon: key points about Peru

Lima (AFP) –


A land of Incas, the Andes and the Amazon, Peru has weathered decades of a political upheaval and a major bribery scandal that has tainted presidents and politicians.

Here are key facts about the South American country as it votes for a new congress on Sunday.

- Inca Empire -

From their ancient capital of Cusco in southeastern Peru, the Incas controlled a vast empire before being conquered by the invading Spanish in the 16th century.

The civilisation's iconic Machu Picchu complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Peru's most popular tourist spot.

Peru is among the countries crossed by the Andes mountain range with an average altitude of 4,000 metres (more than 13,000 feet).

The sources of the mighty Amazon River are in Peru and it has the second largest expanse of Amazon forest after Brazil.

- Shining Path -

Independent from Spain in 1821, Peru has experienced several military coups notably in 1948, 1968 and 1975.

Between 1980 and 2000, a conflict between the state, the Shining Path communist guerrillas and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement left 70,000 people dead or missing.

President from 1990 until his impeachment for corruption in 2000, Alberto Fujimori was in 2009 jailed for authorizing an army death squad responsible for massacres during the government's ultimately successful fight against the leftist rebels.

- Odebrecht scandal -

Along with Brazil, Peru has been deeply implicated in a vast corruption scandal involving the region's biggest construction company, Odebrecht.

The Brazilian group has admitted paying at least $29 million in bribes to Peruvian officials between 2005 and 2014.

Ex-president Alan Garcia committed suicide in 2019 while accused of accepting bribes, which he denied.

Three other former presidents are under investigation: Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-18), Ollanta Humala (2011-16) and Alejandro Toledo (2001-06).

Opposition leader Keiko Fujimori was released from prison in November after 13 months of detention in a case linked to Odebrecht.

Kuczynski's successor, President Martin Vizcarra, has launched an anti-graft drive and called Sunday's elections after dissolving congress amid deadlock over corruption and Supreme Court appointments.

- Gold, silver, cocaine -

Peru is a mineral-rich country, ranking among the world's five biggest producers of gold, silver, copper, zinc, tin and lead.

Its economy was one of the fastest-growing in the region over 2002-2013 at an annual average of six percent.

Growth slowed to an average 3.2 percent until 2018, mainly owing to lower international commodity prices including for its leading export commodity copper, the World Bank says.

Growth was at 2.2 percent for 2019, according to government figures.

Home to about 32 million people (2019), Peru slashed its poverty rate from nearly 59 percent in 2004 to 20 percent in 2018.

It is the source of more than 400 tons of cocaine annually, being one of the world's biggest producers of coca leaves, according to the United Nations.

It is also a major producer of quinoa, behind Bolivia.

- Writer, striker -

Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the 2010 Nobel Literature Prize for his body of work which includes the 1977 novel "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" that was adapted into a Hollywood film in 1990.

Another famous Peruvian is prolific striker Claudio Pizarro, who is with Germany's Werder Bremen, having played football in Europe for two decades.