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Juan Francisco Velasco Alvarado (June 16, 1910 – December 24, 1977) was a left-leaning Peruvianmarker General who ruled Peru from 1968 to 1975 under the title of "President of the Revolutionary Government."

Early life

Velasco was born on June 16, 1910 in Piuramarker, a city on Peru's north coast. He was the son of Manuel José Velasco and Clara Luz Alvarado. One of 11 children of a minor civil servant, he described his youth as one of "dignified poverty." He was married to Consuelo Gonzáles Arriola.

In 1929, he joined the Peruvian Army as a foot soldier. Due to his excellent discipline, he was selected to attend the Chorrillos Military School in Chorrillos, located near Limamarker. In 1934 he graduated at the top of his class. He kept close relationships over the years with some of his military colleagues from this era, most of them later on the Centro de Altos Estudios Militares (CAEM).

Coup d`Etat against President Fernando Belaunde.

During the Belaúnde administration, 1963 - 1968 political disputes became a norm as he held no majority in Congress. Serious arguments between President Belaúnde and Congress, dominated by the APRA-UNO coalition, and even between the President and his own Acción Popular (Popular Action) party were common.

A dispute with the International Petroleum Company over licenses to the La Brea y Pariñas oil fields in northern Peru sparked a national scandal when a key page of a contract (the 11th) was found missing. This proved the catalyst that allowed Armed Forces to seize absolute power and close down Congress, almost all of whose members were briefly incarcerated. General Velasco seized power on October 3, 1968 in a bloodless military coup, deposing the democratically-elected administration of Fernando Belaúnde, under which he served as Commander of the Armed Forces. President Belaúnde was sent into exile. Initial reaction against the Coup evaporated after five days when October 8 the oil fields in dispute were taken over by the Army.

Military revolution and Dictatorship (1968-1975)

The coup leaders named their administration the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces, with Velasco at its helm as President. Velasco's rule was driven by a desire to give justice to the poor and became known as Peruanismo. It was characterized by left-leaning policies, as he nationalised entire industries, expropriated companies in a wide range of activities from fisheries to mining to telecommunications to power production and consolidated them into single industry-centric government-run entities (PescaPeru, MineroPeru, PetroPeru, SiderPeru,Centromin Peru, ElectroPeru, Enapu, EnatruPeru, Enafer, Compañia Peruana de Telefonos , EntelPeru, Correos del Peru, etc.), and increased government control over economic activity by enforcing those entities as monopolies and preventing any private activity in those sectors. The media became more open to left-wing intellectuals and politicos. A root and branch education reform was in march looking to include all Peruvians and move them towards to a new national thinking and feeling; the poor and the most excluded were vindicated and the Día del Indio or Peruvian Indian`s day name was changed to Día del Campesino or Peruvian Peasant`s day every June 24, a traditional holiday of the land, the day of winter equinoccio.

It was also characterised by the increasing use of authoritarian powers, as the administration grew away from tolerating any level of dissent, periodically jailing, deporting and harassing suspected political opponents and repeatedly closing and censoring broadcast and print news media, finally expropriating all of the newspapers in 1974 and sending the publishers into exile.

A cornerstone of his political and economic strategy was the implementation by dictat of an agrarian reform program to expropriate farms and diversify land ownership, much of which had been concentrated in Haciendas' owned by a small percentage of the population who previously had acted like feudal lords and paid starvation wages to the surrounding campesinos who worked on the haciendas; these owners who opposed his program claimed that the expropriation was more akin to confiscation, as they were paid in non-tradable bonds that would eventually become worthless by the government's inflationary policies. Needless to say that only less than 2 % of the Peruvian territory is farmable land; 98 % of the territory is weather arid desert with little rain; harsch mountains with very steped terrain; or wild amazon forest.

Ironically, the deposed Belaúnde administration had attempted to implement a milder agrarian reform program, but it had been defeated in Congress by the APRA-UNO coalition with support of the major landowners. Within this framework, the Velasco administration engaged in an aggressive program of import substitution industrialization, imposing tight foreign exchange and trade controls.

In foreign policy, in contrast with his 1970s Latin American contemporaries, which were mostly right-wing military dictatorships, he pursued a partnership with the Soviet bloc, tightening relations with Cubamarker and Fidel Castro and undertaking major purchases of Soviet military hardware.

Relations between the United States and Peru were tense during Velasco's time in government beginning with the expropriation of the International Petroleum Company (IPC), a subsidiary of Standard Oil, five days after Velasco seized power in 1968. Although the claims over the IPC were ultimately resolved in negotiations between the two governments, disagreements continued over such issues as Peru's claim to 200 mile fishing limit that resulted in the seizure of several US commercial fishing boats and the expropriation of the American copper mining company Cerro de Pasco Corporation. In 1973, Velasco announced during a press conference when questioned about Soviet military advisors in Peru, that the United States Peace Corps was being expelled from Peru.

Economically, the Velasco administration's policies were ultimately unsuccessful. The government ran deeper into debt and was forced to devalue the currency and ran inflationary policies.

Fisheries and agriculture were particularly visible failures; PescaPeru aggressively overfished the anchoveta, a fish used primarily as material for fishmeal production and a key element in the Peruvian sea ecosystem, which resulted in record production for a couple of years but combined with an El Niño event in 1972 led to an absolute collapse that would take over a decade to partially recover, while the badly mismanaged agrarian reform resulted in the creation of thousands of capital-poor and mostly uneducated small farmers whose production and distribution capacity fell substantially short of the pre-reform production. This, coupled with the trade restrictions, led to periodic shortages, rationing, and increased social unrest.

On his death, Juan Velasco Alvarado was carried on the shoulders of campesinos for six hours around Lima, to show their respect and gratitude for his efforts on their behalf.

Military Plans for reconquest of Tarapaca Department (1968-1975)

General Velasco's other main goal besides the nationalization of the main areas of the Peruvian economy and the agrarial reforms, was to militarily reconquer the lands lost by Peru to Chilemarker in the War of the Pacific.

It is estimated that from 1970 to 1975 Peru spent up to 2 Billion USD on Sovietmarker armament.[72276] According to various sources Velasco's government bought between 600 to 1200 T-55 Main Battle Tanks, APC`s, 60 to 90 Sukhoi 22 warplanes, 500,000 assault rifles, and even considered the purchase of a British carrier Centaur-class light fleet carrier HMS Bulwark.3. [72277]

The enormous amount of weaponry purchased by Peru caused a meeting between former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet on 1976.4.[72278]Velasco's military plan was to use massive sea, air, and land invasion against Chile.5.[72279]At that time Chile was almost broke financially and even in 1999 General Pinochet claimed that if Peru attacked Chile during 1975, Peruvian forces could have penetrated deep into Chilean territory all the way to Copiapómarker city located half way to Santiago. To defend itself a launching a preventive war was considered by militaries in Chile, Chilean Airforce General Fernando Matthei opposed a preventive war and responded that I can garantize that the Peruvians would destroy the Chilean Air Force in the first five minutes of the war.

The D-Day for a Peruvian attack was supposed to be on October 5 1975.

Overthrow

Economic difficulties such as inflation, unemployment, food shortages (arising from the unsuccessful economic policies), and increased political opposition after the 1974 crackdown on the press ultimately increased pressures on the Velasco Administration and led to its downfall. On August 29, 1975, a number of prominent military commanders initiated a coup in the southern city of Tacnamarker, nicknamed El Tacnazo.

The military commanders of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th military regions declared that Velasco had not achieved most of what the "Peruvian Revolution" had stood for and was unable to continue in his functions. Prime Minister Francisco Morales Bermúdez was then appointed president, by unanimous decision of the new military junta.

Prior to being deposed, Velasco had been seriously ill for at least a year; he had lost a leg to an embolism, and his cognitive abilities and personality were rumoured to have been affected by related circulatory problems. At the time of the coup, he was convalescing in the Presidential winter residence at Chaclacayomarker, countryside 20 kilometers east of Lima.

General Velasco immediately called for a meeting with his council of ministers, at Government Palace in downtown Lima, where he discovered that there was little or nothing to do.

President Velasco made a last speech to the nation on the evening of August 29, 1975, announcing his decision not to resist the coup because 'Peruvians cannot fight against each other´.

General Velasco kept a low profile in Peruvian politics until his death in 1977.

Famous Remarks

"Los Chilenos se dejen de cojudeces o mañana desayuno en Santiago" Translation: "Chileans must stop their bullshit or tomorrow I'll have breakfast in Santiagomarker."

"¡Que importa una pierna, mientras un valiente gobierna!" Translation: "A leg doesn't matter whilst a brave man governs!"

"Campesino, el dueño nunca mas va a comer de tu pobreza". Translation: "Peasant, the landlord will not eat again from your poverty."

Footnotes and references

  1. Caretas. "La veces que Pinochet casi Ataca al Perú de Sorpresa" June 3, 2004.


2. http://www.ford.utexas.edu/library/guides/guidecollectionsa-m.asp

External links

La veces que Pinochet casi Ataca al Perú de Sorpresa Translation'The time Pinochet almost attacks Peru by surprise
  • [72281]Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. KISSINGER, HENRY A.:
Photocopies of selected files from the Kissinger Papers at the Library of Congress, 1974-1977 (6 feet)Secretary of State. Assistant to the President for National Security.Unprocessed - closed to research.

References


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