Peru Country Profile


Key Statistics

Population: 30.3 million (World Bank, 2013)

Capital: Lima

Languages: Spanish (official) 84.1%, Quechua (official) 13%, Aymara (official) 1.7%, Ashaninka 0.3%, other native languages

Major Ethnic Groups: Amerindian 45%, mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 37%, white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%

GDP per Capita (current US dollars): 7,386 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

GDP per Capita PPP (current international dollars): 12,444 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

Security Sector Stats

Active Armed Forces: 115,000 (Military Balance, 2014)

Small Arms: the estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in Peru is 750,000; the defence forces are reported to have 360,000 firearms; and Police are reported to have 170,000 firearms (Gun Policy, 2015) 

Military Expenditure: 1.4% of GDP (World Bank, 2013)

Executive Summary            

Peru has come a long way since the fall of the Fujimori government in 2000. Although concern about crime, particularly in urban areas, has risen, overall violence in Peru is low, especially compared to neighboring countries such as Colombia. In the country’s interior, however, the drug trade continues to be an issue, with Peru surpassing Colombia as the world’s largest producer of cocaine in 2011, according to some estimates. Profits from drug trafficking have fueled the recent resurgence of Shining Path, a leftist guerrilla group that no longer poses a major threat to the stability of the Peruvian state, but which continues to attack security forces and foreign multinationals in a remote region of central Peru.

Human rights groups and some state actors have undertaken efforts to undo the climate of impunity that reigned in Peru during the Fujimori regime, but prosecution of government officials for human rights violations has faced many obstacles, notably pushback from the military. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that high-level government officials frequently accuse human rights activists and organizations of “sympathising with terrorism.”

The downside to Peru’s strong economic growth over the past decade has been the explosion of social conflicts, particularly associated with mining, which sometimes erupt into violence. Increased investment in mining, oil, and natural gas projects, which has fueled the economy’s rise, has faced opposition from communities and indigenous groups due to the resulting environmental degradation and social impact.

Security and Justice Context

The Peruvian media and various non-government organisations (NGOs) have expressed concern about rising crime in recent years, particularly in the capital Lima and other major cities. Overall violent crime in Peru, however, is low, especially compared to that of other countries in the region. Though there was a spike in homicides from 2004 to 2005, the number has been declining since 2009 (See Figure 1.). According to police figures, Peru had 2,378 homicides in 2011, giving the country a homicide rate of around 8 per 100,000 people.


Fig. 1 Peru Homicide Rate 2004-2011

In 2011, Peru overtook Colombia as the largest producer of cocaine, according to the United States. Although Peru eradicated over 14,000 hectares of coca in 2012, surpassing its target, there is little evidence that eradication programs have significantly disrupted coca production: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data shows that coca cultivation has increased steadily since 2005 (see Figure 2.). Peru’s counternarcotic agency, DIRANDRO, reported that coca production has begun moving northward beyond the traditional coca-producing regions like the Upper Huallaga Valley and the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (Valle del rio Apurímac y Ene-VRAE), into Loreto, a jungle region that borders Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil.

From 1980 to the mid 1990s, Peru experienced a period of internal armed conflict. The Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla group, mounted an insurgency against the government that began in the mountain town of Ayacucho and, at its peak, reached the capital city. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which released its report on the conflict in 2003, found that nearly 70,000 died or disappeared during the conflict. Just under half of the deaths were attributed to Shining Path. The government also perpetuated abuses against the population during the conflict, particularly in rural, indigenous areas of heavy guerrilla activity: thousands were jailed and tortured, and 23,000 deaths are attributed to the armed forces.


Fig. 2 Peru Coca Cultivation 2005-2011

The Shining Path no longer presents a serious threat to the stability of the Peruvian state, but the guerrillas’ continued activities, particularly in the VRAE, have posed a challenge for the Ollanta Humala administration. While the remnants of the Shining Path continue to espouse a Maoist ideology and to launch attacks on security forces, the group is now deeply enmeshed in drug trafficking; the guerrillas’ primary revenue sources stem from either offering protection for drug traffickers operating in the VRAE or participating in coca production and trafficking themselves. Lately some reports indicate that due to the increased police and military pressure in the VRAE, Shining Path has begun moving east into Bajo Urabamba. This move eastward also attests to the growing importance of the Brazilian drug market for Peruvian cocaine.

The underlying issue beneath the Shining Path’s ability to operate in the Upper Huallaga Valley and the VRAE is the lack of state presence and authority in those regions. The VRAE has been under a “state of emergency” since May 2003, but it remains lawless and poverty-stricken. In June 2012, the government announced a 4-year plan for economic development in the VRAE to try and pacify the region, but it has also continued with its militarized strategy against the guerrillas.

Recently the government shut down Shining Path’s attempt to convert its political wing, Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movimiento por Amnistía y Derechos Fundamentales-MOVADEF), into a registered political party. One of MOVADEF's principal political objectives is a general amnesty for those who fought in the armed conflict, including jailed Shining Path founder, Abimael Guzman.

In 2011, the Peruvian government estimated that there were some 13,000 gang members in the country, located primarily in and around Lima. These gangs are predominantly low-level, neighbourhood gangs with weak, if any, ties to organised crime. They engage primarily in extortion, robbery, and kidnapping. While their conflicts between these gangs another contributes to crime in the country, it is not anywhere close to the threat posed by the street gangs, or “Maras,” in Central America. Those gangs are responsible for some of the highest levels of violence in the world in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Based on the last count, there are estimated to be over 1 million firearms in civilian hands in the country; however, only a little more than 200,000 are actually registered.

While Peru as a whole has enjoyed robust economic growth over the past decade, much of the interior of the country has largely been left behind.  Peru’s strong growth and economic development over the last decade have stemmed in a large part from its natural resources, but mining and natural gas projects have also led to ongoing social conflicts with surrounding communities over environmental protection and sustainable local development. The Peruvian government has frequently placed certain provinces under a "state of emergency" due to protests. Doing so suspends the right of assembly and other civil liberties.

Many of these protests have resulted in violent protests and clashes with police. In June 2009, 54 people were killed in clashes in the Amazon between indigenous people and security forces during a protest over oil and gas exploration in the region. In July 2012, the death of five people during protests in the north of the country against the Conga mine project led to the resignation of Prime Minister Oscar Valdes. Oil and gas projects have also been targeted by Shining Path; in April 2012, Shining Path captured, and later freed, 26 gas workers in the VRAE.

Another challenge for Peru is its large illicit timber trade, which feeds corruption and relies at least partly on forced labors. Up to 80% of the country's total timber exports are illegal, bringing in profits of up to $72 million a year. Recently there has been evidence that suggests linkages between the illegal logging industry and the drug trade. The Shining Path is also known to make money from illegal lumber.

Perception of Insecurity

According to Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), the perception of insecurity among Peruvian citizens declined between 2010 and 2012 from 53.8 points to 48.6[1] (See Figure 3.). Despite the decline, Peru still had the highest perception of insecurity in the Americas out of countries surveyed by LAPOP.

The perception of insecurity, especially with regards to fear of violent crime, appears to be somewhat out of proportion with actual crime statistics, particularly when compared to more violent countries in the region which registered more favourable scores in the survey.

Fig. 3 Peru Perception of Insecurity 2010 and 2012

Security and Justice Institutions

Justice Institutions

Peru’s judiciary is organised hierarchically into several bodies. The Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia) is the country’s highest judicial body and exercises jurisdiction over the whole country and acts as the court of final appeal. Beneath the Supreme Court are Superior Courts of Justice (Sala Superior de Justicia) which exercise jurisdiction over 28 so-called Judicial Districts in the country. There are also local trials courts.  The Constitutional Tribunal (Tribunal Constitucional) exercises oversight over matters of constitutionality. The National Judiciary Council (Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura) oversees the appointment of judges and prosecutors at all levels.

The Office of the Attorney General (Fiscalía de la Nación) is tasked with defending the law, the rights of citizens, and public interests, and is housed in the Public Ministry (Ministerio Público–MP). The Ministry of Justice serves as the link between the executive branch and the judicial branch.

The Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría del Pueblo) serves to receive and investigate public complaints against the government for alleged injustices.

According to the 2012 LAPOP survey, Peruvians' confidence in the justice system has increased in recent years, rising from a score of 33.9 points in 2008 to 39.4 in 2012. Similarly, confidence in the Supreme Court increased from 2008 to 2012, rising from 34.4 points to 40.3[2] . However, there are concerns over judicial independence; in the World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report, Peru ranked 125th out of 144 countries for judicial independence. This placed it lower than neighbours Bolivia (97) and Colombia (96) and slightly higher than Ecuador (128).

Peru's judiciary has been marred by corruption scandals. Alberto Fujimori's decade of increasingly authoritarian rule left a legacy of impunity and greatly damaged the impartiality of Peru's judicial system. Following the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2003 report, the government set up special bodies within the judiciary to investigate human rights violations.

Judicial impunity for human rights violations remains a problem. Efforts to prosecute human rights violations by security forces during the conflict have faced many obstacles, most notably pushback from the military and from some politicians. Police and military officials accused of human rights violations are often tried in military courts, leading to concerns about impunity. Former President Fujimori, after fleeing to Japan in 2000, was arrested in Chile in 2005 and extradited back to Peru, where he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights violations. Since his conviction, however, there have been sporadic efforts by some politicians, including Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, who ran against Ollanta Humala in the 2011 presidential election, to secure a pardon for the former president.

The Peruvian military remains resistant to efforts to investigate abuses committed by the armed forces during the internal conflict. Partly as a result of the armed forces' failure to cooperate, the National Criminal Court has a very low conviction rate for human rights cases. During the Alan Garcia administration, many senior officials openly criticized trials of human rights violators. In 2010, then-President Alan Garcia signed a decree that would have placed a statute of limitations on many human rights violations, but reversed course in the face of intense opposition.

In July 2012, the Supreme Court made a controversial decision to reduce the sentences of members of the Grupo Colina, a military death squad responsible for the 1991 Barrios Altos massacre of 15 people. This ruling has caused particular alarm due to the fact that it removed the status of "crimes against humanity" in the Barrios Altos massacre, potentially opening the way for pardons. One of the Supreme Court Justices involved in the case has publicly mocked the concerns of human rights groups and their intent to bring a challenge to the case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights[3] .

Peru’s overcrowded penal system is showing signs of strain. The widespread use of pre-trial detention has caused the inmate population to grow far beyond the prison system's capacity, and in 2011 it was running at 187 percent capacity. In November 2012, Peru’s prison body, the National Penitentiary Institute[4] (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario – INPE), was rocked by a scandal over a party inside a maximum-security prison that led to the dismissal of several prison officials.  This event is indicative of the trouble officials have with asserting full control over some of the country’s prisons.

Recently, there have been several incidents of corruption and prisoner escapes. Like in many other countries in Latin America, prisoners often vastly outnumber prison workers, meaning that the inmates have virtual control over life inside the jails.

Security Institutions

Peru has a centralised police force, the Peruvian National Police (Policia Nacional del Perú-PNP), which is the primary body responsible for citizen security in the country and is housed under the Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior). Peru has the fourth highest police to population ratio in South America, with 341 policemen for every 100,000 people, totaling around 104,000 officers and non-commissioned officers as of 2011.

The PNP has struggled with outdated equipment and a reputation for corruption; the 2012 LAPOP survey registered a score of 40.1 points for Peru in terms of police confidence, the 8th lowest score in the region (See Figure 4.). While torture is not systematic, the country's Human Rights Ombudsman reported that police abuse is a concern. Similarly, the use of lethal force against protestors has led to dozens of deaths in recent years.


Fig. 4 Peru Confidence in Police 2012

In addition to the police, Peru also has legally recognised peasant patrols and self-defense groups. These groups, which have around 200,000 patrol members, are meant to support law enforcement efforts in rural and indigenous communities.

Currently Peru is trying to expand its law enforcement: in October 2012 the Minister of the Interior announced that Peru plans to add 12,000 more police officers and to expand 260 police stations by December 2013. That same month Prime Minister Juan Jimenez Mayor also announced that for 2013 the government has set aside a budget of $500 million for salaries and pensions for both the National Police and the Armed Forces.

As of 2010, Peru had 192,000 active duty military. Previously, the military’s reputation suffered due to several scandals and incidents of human rights abuses that occurred during the internal conflict, such as many military leaders’ support for Fujimori’s “self-coup” and the attempted cover up of the Barrios Altos massacre.

With regards to internal security, the armed forces have recently increased their involvement in fighting drug trafficking and the remnants of Shining Path, conducting joint operations with the police force.

Peru’s intelligence agency is the National Directorate of Intelligence (Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia–DINI).

Private security is fairly common in Peru, particularly in urban areas. As of 2010, two-thirds of Lima's residents paid for private or community security measures, mostly private security guards. In total, there are over 500 registered private security companies, with around 88,000 personnel. This means there are a similar number of private security personnel as there are police in Peru.

Under the Alan Garcia administration, Peru launched its Strategic National Development Plan: Peru to 2021 (Plan Estratégico de Desarrollo Nacional: Perú al 2021). Among the government’s security aims are plans to increase state presence in vulnerable areas, increase education in schools on the issue of national security and enhance the operation capacity of the armed forces. The government aims to bring the area under coca cultivation down to 38,000 hectares by 2021.

The Plan acknowledges shortcomings in the judicial system and aims to strengthen justice institutions and increase access to justice for people in poverty stricken areas, among other measures.

State of Security and Justice Sector Reform

Justice Sector Reform and Initiatives

Peru began a process of judicial reform in 2006, transitioning to an accusatorial system with public, oral trials. These reforms, which have been slowly implemented, are intended to improve the fairness and speed of judicial proceedings. In 2008, Peru passed a Judicial Career Law that improved the evaluation and oversight of judges.

In response to the growth of MOVADEF, associated with the Shining Path, President Ollanta Humala's administration drafted a harsh law aimed at anyone who "denies or minimizes" Shining Path's violence during the armed conflict. The new law has sparked fears among human rights groups about potential for abuse.

Security Sector Reform and Initiatives

Upon his election in 2011, President Humala began an aggressive purge of the PNP, including several high-ranking officials. In August 2011, Peru’s Congress handed the Interior Ministry and the Department of Defense broader powers to restructure the police and the armed forces.  A new National Public Safety Council (Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Ciudadana) was installed the same month with Humala as its head. The Council’s mandate is to design policies across all sectors of government to help improve citizen security in the country.

In 2010, Peru created an office within the national ombudsman to monitor and mediate social conflicts. Of the 300 local conflicts that were active in 2010, nearly half were related to oil, gas, or mining. Peru is so far the only country to sign on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an international initiative intended to empower citizens of resource-rich countries to fight government corruption.

Parliamentary/Congressional Capacity for Oversight

Peru’s Congress has the power to provide oversight of Executive acts and general public administration. The Legislative branch is separate to the Executive thus ensuring that oversight is provided independently.

Efforts have been made to strengthen Congress’ capacity over the past decade, though concerns persist over the effectiveness of the institution’s oversight. Peru continues to work with outside partners—notably the United States— in improving oversight procedures and the professionalism of Congress members.

Security and Justice Opportunities

Institutional corruption continues to plague the Peruvian government, although the Humala administration has taken some steps such as the purge of the PNP. In the 2012 edition of Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, Peru ranked 83rd out of 176 countries. Its corruption rating was a slight improvement on the score it was given in 2011.

Justice Sector Opportunities

Aiding the effort to fight impunity for human rights violators is a critical part of improving the efficiency of Peru’s judicial system. One major problem is the efforts of many government officials to discredit human rights NGOs, often accusing them of sympathising with the Shining Path or endangering national security. Similarly, an eye must be kept on draconian decrees such as the recently proposed law against “expressing support for terrorism.”

One of Peru's primary problems is the gap in state services and authority between the wealthier coastal region and the interior of the country. In the Andean and Amazon regions of the country, where the population is more dispersed and impoverished, there is less access to judicial services. In recent years the central government has begun trying to devolve power from Lima in order to better serve the population in the rest of the country, but there are a number of obstacles.  More training is needed in order to prepare regional governments for greater responsibility, and corruption remains a problem.

The issue of early intervention and mediation in social conflicts is a potential area for international assistance. In recent years, the executive branch has issued several decrees that shield the police and military from responsibility for deaths or injuries sustained by protesters during demonstrations. The government's approach to social conflict and protests often relies overly on a militarised response rather than on prevention and early identification of potential conflicts.

Security Sector Opportunities

The PNP has repeatedly identified that its weaknesses include limited resources, weak infrastructure, and ongoing corruption cases. Despite adding over 5,000 officers in 2011, the PNP still suffers from staff shortages and lacks training. Former police officials have also publicly suggested that poor working conditions and pay for police have led to a lack of motivation.

While increasing security sector resources is an important step, the most urgently needed reforms for the PNP are qualitative rather than quantitative; Peru already far exceeds the UN’s recommended peacetime police to population ratio of 1 police officer for every 400 people. It’s still too early to tell whether the current, somewhat limited, reform efforts, such as recent executive decrees aimed at modernising police and military intelligence divisions and improving the disciplinary system, will have a measurable effect on the police and armed forces’ effectiveness and reputation among the population.

The PNP is accustomed to receiving aid and training from outside actors, and has sought international cooperation on the issue of police reform. Peru receives the third-highest amount of US police assistance in Latin America, although at $46 million a year it is far behind Mexico and Colombia, the top two recipients. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has assisted justice and security reform in Peru and helped with procurement of police uniforms and equipment.

Given its openness to outside observers and partners, and the fact that it is currently undergoing a period of growth and possible restructuring, there is room for engagement and support for reform efforts from international actors.

Civil Society Actors for Engagement

Peru has several important justice and human rights-focused NGOs, most notably the National Coordinator for Human Rights[5] (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CNDDHH), the Institute for Legal Defense[6] (Institute de Defensa Legal – IDL), and the Association for Human Rights[7] (Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos-APRODEH). These NGOs have campaigned for justice for human rights violations committed by leaders and state security forces during the armed conflict. All three organisations have been the target of verbal attacks and accusations by high-level security officials in both the Garcia and the Humala administrations. Peru also has many indigenous organisations.


Centro Nacional de Planeamiento Estratégico, “Plan Bicentenario: El Perú hacia el 2021,” March 2011

Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, “Informe Annual 2011-2012,” April 2012

Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2012: Peru,” January 2012

Red de Seguridad y Defensa de América Latina, “Atlas Comparativo de la Defensa en América Latina y Caribe Edición 2012,” October 2012

Small Arms Survey, “Small Arms Survey 2012: Moving Targets,” August 2012

Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, “Peru – Gun Facts, Figures and Law,” Data retrieved from

The AmericasBarometer by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), Vanderbilt University, “The Political Culture of Democracy in the Americas, 2010: Democratic Consolidation in the Americas in Hard Times,” December 2010

The AmericasBarometer by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), Vanderbilt University,"Cultura política de la democracia en Perú, 2012: Hacia la igualdad de oportunidades." November 2012.

The AmericasBarometer by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), Vanderbilt University, “The Political Culture of Democracy in the Americas, 2012: Towards Equality of Opportunity,” November 2012 (Preliminary Version)

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Homicide Statistics 2012,” Data set retrieved from

U.S. Department of State, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011,” May 2012

U.S. Department of State, “2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume 1: Drug and Chemical Control,” March 2012

World Economic Forum, “The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013,” September 2012


[1] LAPOP recodes respondents’ answers into a scale of 0-100 with a higher score representing a higher perception of insecurity.

[2] LAPOP recodes respondents’ answers into a scale of 0-100 with a higher score representing a higher level of confidence.

[3] The Court is the judicial institution of the Organisaton of American States (OAS). Its role is to apply and interpret the American Convention on Human Rights, along with other treaties on the same issue.

[4] The INPE is housed under the Justice Ministry (Ministerio de Justicia).

[5] More information on their website:

[6] More information on their website:

[7] More information on their website:

Igarapé Institute

The Igarapé Institute is a southern think tank devoted to evidence-based policy and action on complex social challenges including global drug policy, citizen security and international cooperation. Its goal is to stimulate humane engagement on emerging security and development issues. Across all its programs, the Institute adopts a three-prong approach:

  1. Diagnose challenges through cutting-edge research;
  2. Trigger informed debate and action across public and private spheres; and
  3. Design tailor-made solutions that are people-centered.

The International Security Sector Advisory Team

The International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT) provides practical support to the international community in its efforts to improve security and justice, primarily in conflict-affected and fragile states. It does this by working with a group of member states and institutions to develop and promote good security and justice reform practices and principles, and by helping its members to build their capacity to support national and regional security and justice reform processes.