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Popular Action

Fernando Belaunde Terry founded Popular Action (Action Popular—AP) in 1956 as a reformist alternative to the status quo conservative forces and the controversial APRA party. Coups have repeatedly interrupted civilian constitutional government. The most recent period of military rule (1968-80) began when Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado overthrew elected President Fernando Belaunde Terry of the Popular Action Party.

Although Belaunde's message was not all that different from APRA's, his tactics were more inclusive and less confrontational. He was able to appeal to some of the same political base as APRA, primarily the middle class, but also to a wider base of professionals and white collar workers.

The military supported the government of President Fernando Belaunde, who defeated Haya de la Torre in the 1963 election, until economic problems and difficulties with the APRA-dominated congress appeared to the army to be threatening public order. Belaunde was surprisingly successful in getting his programs through congress in his first years in office, but by 1967 he was stymied in congress and unable to gain legislative approval for needed programs of austerity and tax reforms.

Inflationary pressures fueled by government deficits led to increasing balance of payments difficulties after 1966. A major devaluation of the sol in September 1967 helped the balance of payments but failed to restore business confidence and economic growth continued its decline in 1968. Efforts to deal with the government deficit and improve investor confidence were made even more difficult by the impasse in congress over the election of officers in the senate.

For several weeks in the late summer of 1967 this impasse prevented congress from meeting and further disillusioned the Peruvian public and the military with the performance of politicians. During this period there were indications that the armed forces, led by Minister of War General Julio Doig, would intervene to correct the situation.

In 1967 and 1968 APRA tried to show the military that it would have nothing to fear from an APRA victory in the elections scheduled for June 1969. Legislation favoring the military, such as provision of funds for new equipment, received APRA support. APRA leaders believed they stood a good chance in the 1969 elections and wanted to do nothing that would prompt the military to take over the government and prevent them from finally gaining power. So, in the summer of 1968, with economic problems becoming even more serious and the threat of military intervention increasing, the APRA-dominated congress granted the Belaunde administration special powers for 60 days to act through decrees to meet the growing problems.

There is little doubt that top army leaders, particularly the commander of the army General Juan Velasco, disliked the Act of Talara, but it was not the only motivating factor in their decision to oust Belaunde, and very probably not even the primary one. One of the most important factors was the split in the Popular Action party, which almost assured an APRA victory in the June 1969 elections. The army had seemed willing to allow an Aprista to be president, but only if the candidate was not the founder of the party, Haya de la Torre. APRA‘s announcement that Haya would in all probability be its presidential candidate apparently convinced the army's leaders that the elections should not be held. Added to this was the fact that General Velasco had serious disagreements with Belaunde over who would be named to fill the military posts in the cabinet.

The military, led by General Juan Velasco, carried out a bloodless coup against President Belaunde on 3 October 1968, using as its excuse the heated controversy over Belaunde‘s settlement with the US-owned International Petroleum Company (IPC). Although the military was concerned with the IPC settlement and several other problems, the primary motivations for the coup were probably essentially the same as those that had prompted such moves in the past, namely the ambition of a particular officer and the desire to keep Haya de la Torre and his American Popular Revolutionary Party (APRA) from gaining the presidency.

The military rulers of Peru this time, however, were more radical and nationalistic than those of the past, and with Argentina as an example, they had highly ambitious plans for the country. In addition, the expropriation of the IPC has given this group a degree of support never before enjoyed by a military government. It seemed likely, therefore, that the armed forces would have little difficulty in sustaining themselves in power for a long time.

The AP had significant electoral success, attaining the presidency in 1963 and 1980, but the party was more of an electoral machine for the persona of Belaunde than an institutionalized organization. In addition, whereas in the 1960s the AP was seen as a reformist party, by the 1980s—as Peru's political spectrum had shifted substantially to the left—the AP was positioned on the center-right.

With the debacle of the second Belaunde government, the AP fared disastrously in 1985, attaining only 6.4 percent of the vote. In 1990 the AP participated in the elections as a part of the conservative coalition behind Mario Vargas Llosa and suffered, as did all political parties, an electoral rejection.

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Page last modified: 08-03-2016 19:12:17 ZULU