food / travel

Peru’s Booming Export Product: Restaurants

Peruvian cuisine is appreciated around the world, but business leaders can whet their appetite on the country’s success at spreading its restaurant chains globally: from elsewhere in Latin America to the US and India.

Humala must work to regain his popular appeal with the masses
All the fixings at Bembos in Peru (naota)


LIMA - Peru has a ways to go before it can enjoy the "emerging economic power" status attributed to neighbors Brazil and, to a lesser extent, Chile. But it has begun making an international name for itself in one crowd-pleasing industry: food.

Peruvian businessmen Arnold Wu and his brother, owners of Pardo's Chicken, opened their first foreign branch of the restaurant chain in 2002 – in relatively nearby Santiago, Chile. But they stretched quite a bit further for their second foreign location: Miami, Florida.

There are now 42 Pardo's Chicken restaurants in Peru, Chile and the United States. The Wu brothers don't plan to stop there. They are currently looking for partners in all three countries in order to keep expanding – and quickly. The short-term plan is to open 25 new branches.

Pardo's Chicken is by no means the only Peruvian fast food vendor to be making a go of it abroad. Other successful brands include China Wok, which has 44 branches outside of Peru; La Caravan; Bembos, the first Peruvian chain to break into the Indian market; and Embarcadero 41.

"Every year, more and more Peruvian restaurants open in foreign countries. The most popular business approach is with franchises," says Juan Carlos Mathews, a researcher at Peru's Universidad del Pacífico.

Among all of the Peruvian franchises, 23 have opened branches abroad, says Mathews. And of those, 95% are restaurants, which together pull in about $90 million per year.

Mathews predicts that by the end of this year, the number of Peruvian franchises operating abroad could reach 36, with annuals sales of more than $115 million.

According to Daniel Manrique, president of Peru's National Chamber of Franchises, the top destinations for Peruvian restaurants are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama. The United States is an "interesting" market, he says, since people there have a real appreciation for Peruvian cuisine. But so far the number of Peruvian franchises there is relatively small. Pardo's Chicken, which invites its English-speaking customers to "taste the Peruvian flavor!" is an exception in that regard.

"Exporting franchises to the United States is expensive," says Manrique. "It can cost between $25,000 and $40,000 a month just to rent a place. And in terms of infrastructure, you need to invest at least $1.5 million up front."

Read the full story in Spanish by María Cristina Pezet

Photo – naota

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!