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Peru Table of Contents


Reformer and Agent of Change

If hostility to APRA extended the FF.AA.'s role as guardian of the liberal elite, it also combined with a number of other developments to move the military in the 1960s in the direction of reformer and agent of change. United States military assistance during and after World War II, which contributed to modernization and professionalization and encouraged such new activities as civic action, was one factor. A second factor was the establishment of a specialized advanced military officer training center in 1951 that slowly made officers more aware of Peru's own national reality. The Advanced Military Studies Center (Centro de Altos Estudios Militares--CAEM) in Lima offered an annual concentrated program of study to selected officers and a few civilian government counterparts that was largely devoted to important social, political, and economic issues. A third element was the emergence in the 1956 elections of a non-APRA civilian reformist political alternative, Fernando Belaúnde Terry's Popular Action (Acción Popular--AP) party, as APRA moved right in its attempt to gain political power. A fourth important influence on changing military perspectives was the brief rural insurgency in 1962-63 and again in 1965, which helped the military appreciate the potential future costs of continued government failure to respond to local needs and demands in a timely fashion. The armed forces' awareness of Peru's external dependency was heightened by two decisions by the United States: first, the United States government's unwillingness to sell Northrop F5 jets to Peru in 1967 and, second, its involvement on an ongoing basis in the 1960s with the International Petroleum Company (IPC) negotiations with Peru over nationalization.

Then the first elected government of Belaúnde (1963-68), which the military supported and helped make possible during its junta (1962-63), stumbled in its reformist efforts and mismanaged the IPC nationalization. Thus, the stage was set for the October 3, 1968, coup by the armed forces that had widespread popular support. For most of the military docenio (twelve-year rule) that was to follow (1968-80), Peru had a reformist military government. Led by the army, the FF.AA. became agents of change and state expansion based on a concept of security that they had gradually developed, a concept that defined national defense in terms of national development.

Even though the military regime under army General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-75) and army General Francisco Morales Bermúdez Cerrutti (1975-80) carried out a number of significant and far-reaching reforms, it ultimately failed. The military rulers tried to do too much too quickly and with insufficient resources. They overextended themselves with foreign loans when domestic capital came up short. They had more than their share of bad luck, from General Velasco's fatal illness to floods, droughts, and earthquakes, to delays in getting oil exports underway. They preached full participation, but often imposed reforms made in Lima rather than being responsive to local circumstances and implemented them with central-government bureaucrats rather than local leaders. They stretched their military officers too thin over too many responsibilities and ran them to the point of exhaustion.

Data as of September 1992