American Popular Revolutionary Alliance
APRA, Peru's oldest and only well-institutionalized party, was founded by Victor Raul Haya de la Torre in Mexico City in May 1924 as an anti-imperialist solution to Peru’s problems. During the 1930s, a popular movement, with origins in Mexico, known as the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana, or American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, or APRA, spread to Peru under the leadership of Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre. This continent-wide popular alliance quickly became a prominent center-left political party in Peru and a strong antagonist to Peru’s armed forces.
The APRA program espoused an anti-imperialist, Marxist oriented but uniquely Latin American-based solution to Peru's and Latin America's problems. APRA influenced several political movements throughout Latin America, including Bolivia's Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario — MNR) and Costa Rica's National Liberation Party (Partido Liberation Nacional — PLN).
In the presidential election of 1931, Luis Sánchez-Cerro (1931-33) defeated APRA’s Haya de la Torre, who accused Sánchez-Cerro of fraud. In July 1932, APRA followers staged a popular rebellion in Trujillo, which resulted in the execution of approximately 60 army officers and the deaths of at least 1,000 APRA members and their sympathizers.
The Peruvian armed forces, like those of most other Latin American countries, saw themselves as the political arbiters of the country and believed it their duty to intervene in the political processes of the state when stability was threatened. In Peru this general attitude was strengthened by the army's desire to keep its arch—enemy Haya de la Torre and his American Popular Revolutionary Action (APRA) party away from control of the government.
The enmity of the only two well—organized forces in Peru, the military and APRA, dates back to 1932 when some 6,000 Apristas were massacred by the army in retaliation for APRA's killing‘of 26 soldiers. Neither group has forgotten that year, and in 1962 it was Haya de la Torre‘s apparent victory at the polls that prompted the military to initiate a coup d'etat and rule the country for a year.
Years of repression and clandestinity, as well as single-handed dominance of the party by Haya de la Torre, resulted in sectarian and hierarchical traits that were analogous to some communist parties. In addition, opportunistic ideological swings to the right by Haya de la Torre in the 1950s, in exchange for attaining legal status for the party, resulted in an exodus of some of APRA's most talented young leaders to the Marxist left. These shifts created cleavages between APRA and the rest of society and were significant obstacles to democratic consensus building during APRA's 1985-90 tenure in government.
Considered a radical left-wing movement in the early 1930s, it gathered substantial mass support and by the 1950s, evolved into a slightly left-of-center, middle-class organization with a strong labor base. Consequently, the party lost some of its most talented young leaders to the Marxist left.
In any case, the party maintained a devoted core of followers that remained permanent party loyalists. In May 1989, APRA chose as its standard bearer Luis Alva Castro, a long-time rival to President Garcia. APRA was as much a social phenomenon as a political movement, with a significant sector of society among its membership whose loyalty to the party and its legacy was unwavering. Despite APRA's disastrous tenure in power, in the first round of the 1990 elections it obtained 19.6 percent of the vote, more than any other of the traditional parties.
By 2011 the ruling APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) party was the most fully structured in the country, with a solid 20% of core supporters among the electorate largely concentrated in the coastal areas. Many observers described the APRA as the only true political party in Peru, alone in having a serious party machinery capable of mobilizing its mass membership during electoral and non-electoral periods, and known for the strict discipline of its members of Congress and rank and file - once a decision at the top level has been made.
The APRA's approach to the 2010 elections remained ill-defined, however, largely because President Alan Garcia was constitutionally barred from running in 2011 and widely reported to be contemplating a third run in 2016. To many observers, this calculation meant that Garcia seeks to maintain control of the party in the interim and could choose to do so by throwing his support to a non-APRA party presidential candidate in 2011. Nevertheless, APRA stalwarts, including former PM Jorge Del Castillo, publicly stated their interest in becoming the party's candidate for 2011.
The APRA’s dismal performance in the 2011 electoral contest manifested its organizational decay and loss of direction, among other frailties. It also confirmed the tradition that voters inflict penalties on governing parties. The party fielded a party outsider with former minister Mercedes Araoz, as public opinion polls revealed her to be the least radioactive member in the APRA universe. However, after a dispute with APRA heavyweight Jorge del Castillo, whom she wanted not to include in the parliamentary party list due to his association with a corruption scandal, she resigned.
In the end, APRA failed to field a candidate for the 2011 presidential elections and barely managed to surpass the 5% thresholdbarrier to gain representation in Congress, where its delegation was reduced to a ceremonial four seats.
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