South America

Peru in the 1960’s and 1970’s

PG Beltrán, prime minister and finance minister, practically governed, in place of the inept president M. Prado Ugarteche, from 1959 to 1962. He cleverly stemmed inflation with an austerity regime and trying to implement a policy in favor of masses. However, he did not succeed in overcoming the distrust of the right or in satisfying the left; in Parliament his initiatives were systematically rejected both by the followers of Odria and by the aprists, the faithful of Haya de la Torre.

According to Directoryaah, three candidates stood in the elections of June 1962: the former dictator Odría, the head of the APRA, Haya de la Torre, and F. Balaúnde Terry, defeated in the previous elections. The response of the polls gave the victory to Haya; but the army, which did not tolerate aprismo, intervened (July 18) seizing power and arresting the old president Prado whose mandate had not yet expired. A military junta, headed by General R. Pérez Godoy, suspended constitutional guarantees, dissolved the congress and used an iron fist against the opposition. Strikes and riots broke out in the mines and plantations, while many lands were invaded by laborers, whose violence was suppressed by the army battalions. Pérez Godoy’s authoritarian systems displeased the junta, which replaced him with General N. Lindley López (March 1963) after a plot to overthrow the government was foiled in January. The junta, keeping its promise, allowed regular elections on 9 June 1963, which led to the presidency of the Republic the head of Acción popular, F. Belaúnde Terry, supported by the small Christian Democratic party and the left. His government, characterized by an unusual dynamism, aimed at solving the serious social and economic problems that afflicted the country. The main initiatives concerned the fight against illiteracy, the construction of housing for the poor. the fight against backwardness in the interior of the country (with the collaboration of university students) and the law on agrarian reform (May 1964). In reality, this reform had been envisaged in the past, but had not achieved any effect due to the lack of implementing regulations. The Church had already expressed its opinion in this regard and set an example: the archbishop of Cuzco (where the discontent of the peasants had exploded), Monsignor C. Jurgens, offered the government 13.

However, the efforts of Belaúnde – accused by the opposition of pro-communism – did not yield appreciable results. His reformism was regarded with distrust by the owners, who opposed expropriations in every way, while the left and ultra-nationalists accused him of acquiescence towards the USA for the lack of nationalization of the International Petroleum Company, associated with Standard Oil. In June 1967, however, Belaúnde was forced by Congress to partially expropriate the aforementioned company, putting relations with Washington in crisis. These relations later became more tense due to the purchase of French military jets, preferred to the North American ones. In the parliamentary opposition (Odría’s party and Haya de la Torre’s party had 110 votes in the congress, while Belaúnde controlled 75), there was also terrorism in the steep streets of the Sierra and the emergence of organized rural guerrilla warfare. The deterioration of the situation led, on 3 October 1968, to a military coup which ousted Belaúnde from power a year before his term of office expired. A junta headed by General J. Velasco Alvarado, presenting itself as an element of rupture against the inoperative reformism of the deposed government, dissolved the Parliament, implemented the nationalization of the subsoil (with the consequent definitive expropriation of Standard Oil) and decreed a new agrarian reform. The military, who for the first time in Peruvian history promoted social reforms, expressed their intention to transfer real power to the country’s new nationalist bourgeoisie. The revolutionary process tended to a dynamic capitalism under the leadership of technocrats capable of eliminating foreign capital, oligarchic structures and old and inept political-economic classes. Relations with the USA broke down again in 1969 when Peru declared the new limit (200 miles) of territorial waters and confiscated North American fishing boats; ITT-controlled telephone companies were also nationalized. On the other hand, Peru re-established (February 1969) diplomatic relations with the USSR, with which he signed a commercial and technical assistance treaty; other agreements were made with the countries of Eastern Europe. To the suspension of US military supplies, Lima responded by ordering the removal of US military missions and refusing the visa. entry to Nelson Rockefeller (May 23, 1969), appointed by President Nixon to carry out an exploratory mission throughout Latin America. However, General Alvarado reiterated (July 28) that the Peruvian revolution was not inspired by any Marxist model, and that its policy had only one goal: the socio-economic progress of Peru.

The impetuous reformism of the military was not slowed down by the catastrophe of May 1970 (when the Peru was hit by an earthquake, with enormous devastation and thousands of victims): after the nationalization of the fishing industry (fundamental for the Peru) it was proclaimed the “general law on industries” (July 27, 1970), which provided for the participation of workers in the management of enterprises. Signs of discontent emerged, but the opposition was not tolerated: former president Belaúnde, guilty of raising criticism of the regime, was expelled from the country (December 26, 1971). The flight of capital and the lack of popular participation in the solution of problems did not represent real obstacles: in April 1971 a national system for social mobilization (SINAMOS) was created, destined to form the basic political force of the revolution; in October 1973 the “Inca” plan was approved, a drastic program for the redistribution of wealth and the increase in production; in the first days of 1974 the nationalization of the American Cerro de Pasco Corporation, the most important mining and steel company in Peru, was achieved. The relations with the USA, however, improved and the Peru saw renewed the credits of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, without which the reforms would have been very difficult. The deterioration of the economic situation caused by the world crisis and the negative outcome of some reforms sparked protests and a reawakening of the opposition. The government responded by outlawing the Partido de acción popular (July 10, 1974.) and by expropriating some newspapers in Lima, which were subsequently assigned to the workers. But in February 1975, following violent riots and a strike by the civil guard, a state of emergency was proclaimed throughout the country; calm re-established, the opposition party APRA (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana) was accused of having fomented the revolt.

The Fr, who in 1973 had participated in the meeting of the “non-aligned” countries of Algeciras, organized in Lima, from 25 to 30 August 1975, the conference of foreign ministers of these countries, chaired by General Alvarado. But on 29 August a bloodless coup d’etat deposed the president, who was replaced by General F. Morales Bermúdez, former prime minister and defense minister. At the close of the conference of the “non-aligned” Bermúdez declared that the ideals of the new revolution continued to be identical to those of 1968; however, the reorganization of the military and government leaders followed (for the first time since 1968 a civilian was admitted to the government). The following two-year period 1976-77 was characterized by further replacements in government offices, from the purging of former collaborators of the deposed president Alvarado, from the awakening of the opposition, with repeated recourse to a state of emergency. In the elections of June 1978, APRA supplanted the Christian People’s Party, reaching a relative majority with 35% of the votes.

Peru in the 1960's and 1970's