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Country, western South America. Area: 496,218 sq mi (1,285,198 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 28,887,000. Capital: Lima
. Almost half of the people are Quechua
; nearly one-third are mestizo
s; and most of the remainder are Aymara and people of European ancestry. Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara (all official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant). Currency: nuevo sol. Peru is the third largest country in South America and may be divided into three geographic regions from west to east: the Costa (coast), which consists of a long, narrow belt of desert lowlands; the Sierra (highlands), which is the Peruvian portion of the Andes Mountains
; and Amazonia, the vast forested eastern foothills and plains, consisting mainly of the tropical rainforests of the Amazon River
basin. Peru has a developing mixed economy based largely on services, manufacturing, agriculture, and mining. Most industries, including the petroleum industry, were nationalized in the late 1960s and early '70s, but many were privatized again in the 1990s. Peru is a unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. Peru was the centre of the Inca
empire, whose capital, Cuzco
, was established in the 11th or 12th century. In 1533 the region was conquered by Spanish adventurer Francisco Pizarro
, and it thereafter was dominated by Spain for almost 300 years as the Viceroyalty of Peru
. It declared its independence in 1821, and freedom was achieved in 1824. Peru was defeated by Chile in the War of the Pacific
(1879–83). In 1941 a boundary dispute with Ecuador erupted into war, which gave Peru control over a larger part of the Amazon basin; further disputes ensued until the border was demarcated again in 1998. The government was overthrown by a military junta in 1968; civilian rule was restored in 1980. The government of Alberto Fujimori
dissolved the legislature in 1992 and promulgated a new constitution the following year. The government later successfully combated the Shining Path
and Túpac Amaru
rebel movements. Fujimori won a second term in 1995, but charges of fraud accompanied his election to a third term in 2000; his government crumbled later that year. Fujimori was succeeded by Alejandro Toledo (2001–06), Peru's first democratically elected president of Quechuan ethnicity.