Country Listing

Peru Table of Contents


Local and Regional Government

Municipal Governments

The process of independent municipal government was initiated with the first nationwide municipal elections in December 1963. This process was halted by twelve years of military rule after 1968, but was reinitiated with the November 1980 municipal elections (see table 18, Appendix). Each municipality has been run autonomously by a municipal council (consejo municipal), a provincial council (consejo provincial), and a district council (consejo distrital), all of whose members were directly elected. Municipalities had jurisdiction over their internal organization and they administered their assets and income, taxes, transportation, local public services, urban development, and education systems.

Yet, the autonomy of municipalities may have been reduced by their financial dependence on the central government. Their funds have come primarily from property taxes, licenses and patents required for professional services, market fees, vehicle taxes, tolls from bridges and roads, fines, and donations from urban migrant clubs. In the majority of municipalities, where the bulk of the inhabitants are poor, those with legal title to a home are in the minority; few people even own their own vehicles; roads are not paved; and there is a dramatic shortage of basic services, such as water and electricity. Most municipalities can hardly generate the revenue to cover operating costs, much less to provide desperately needed services. Thus, a degree of dependence on the central government for resources may limit somewhat the potential for autonomous initiative. Although this is hardly unique in Latin America,the shortage of resources in Peru is particularly extreme.

The municipal process has also come under substantial threat from the SL. An important component of its strategy was to sabotage the 1989 municipal and presidential elections. The group launched a ruthless campaign in which elected officials or candidates for electoral offices were targeted. During the 1985- 89 period, the SL assassinated 45 mayors. In a campaign of violence prior to the 1989 elections, it killed over 120 elected officials or municipal candidates, resulting in the resignation or withdrawal of 500 other candidates. In December 1988, dozens of Andean mayors resigned, citing lack of protection from terrorist threats; many rural towns were left with no authorities whatsoever. Voters were also threatened with having their index fingers chopped off by the SL. The threats were most effective in the more remote regions, such as Ayacucho, where null and blank voting in the 1990 elections was the highest in the country.

Data as of September 1992