Juan Velasco Alvarado

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Juan Velasco Alvarado
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Full Title: 1st President of the Revolutionary Government
Term of Office: October 3, 1968August 29, 1975
Predecessor: Fernando Belaunde Terry
Successor: Francisco Morales Bermúdez
Date of Birth: June 16, 1910
Date of Death: December 24, 1977
Political party: None - Peruvian Army
Profession: Army General

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


Early Years

Velasco was born on June 16, 1910 in Piura, a city on Peru's north coast. He was the son of Manuel José Velasco and Clara Luz Alvarado. He was married with Consuelo Gonzáles Arriola.

In 1929, he joined the Peruvian Army as a soldier. Due to his excellent discipline, he was selected to attend the military academy of Chorrillos, located near Lima. 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).

Presidency (1968-1975)

During the Belaúnde administration, political disputes were already becoming a serious problem, with 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. This gave the armed forces the excuse to seize absolute power and close down Congress. Gral. Velasco seized power on October 3, 1968 in a military coup, deposing the democratically-elected administration of Fernando Belaúnde Terry, in which he served. President Belaúnde was send into exile, and by October 8 the oil fields in dispute were taken over by the Army.

The coup leaders named their administration the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces, with Velasco at its helm as President. Velasco's rule, known as Velascato, was characterized by policies of a left-leaning bent, as he nationalized entire industries, expropriating companies in a wide range of activities from fisheries to mining to telecommunications to power production and consolidating them into single industry-centric government-ran entities (PescaPeru, MineroPeru, PetroPeru, ElectroPeru, EntelPeru, etc.), and increased government control over economic activity by enforcing those entities as monopolies and preventing any private activity in those sectors.

It was also characterized 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 them all 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 Latifundios owned by a small percentage of the population; opponents of 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.

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 Latifundistas. 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 Cuba and Fidel Castro and aggressively purchasing Soviet military hardware; this close relationship earned him the hostility of the American Administrations, which engaged in trade, economic, and diplomatic pressure.

Economically, the Velasco administration's policies were ultimately unsuccessful; as the government-ran industrial operations grew corrupt and inefficient and drained resources, 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.


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 Tacna, 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 Chaclacayo, a small city near Lima. He immediately decided to meet with his council of ministers, where he discovered that there was little or nothing to do. He made a last speech to the nation, announcing his decision not to resist the coup.

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

Preceded by:
Gral. Julio Doig Sánchez
Commander-in-Chief of the Army
September 1967 – October 1968
Succeeded by:
Gral. Ernesto Montagne Sánchez
Preceded by:
Fernando Belaúnde Terry
President of the Revolutionary Government
October 1968– August 1975
Succeeded by:
Francisco Morales Bermúdez

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See also

es:Juan Velasco Alvarado


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