Thursday, July 29, 2010


We went to the movies last night in San Isidro.   While waiting for the showing we noticed that in the audience a few rows ahead of us and to the side was sitting Francisco Morales Bermudez Cerutti.

Mr. Morales Bermudez is a former Peruvian Army general.  He is also a former president of the country by virtue of having presided over the military dictatorship that ran the country from 1975 to 1980.   Morales Bermudez and his cronies overthrew the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces headed by Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado.

Velasco and a group of reformist military officers had overthrown the democratically-elected government of Fernando Belaunde Terry in October of 1968 and quickly set about restructuring the Peruvian economy to break the power of the old aristocracy and to break the stranglehold of foreign capitalism over key resources.  They nationalized oil resources and refineries and then the mines.  When the oligarchs objected, the military nationalized their newspapers and handed over to labor unions.   And, in the biggest move of all, they expropriated large landholdings in the mountains and on the coast -including some of my family's- and redistributed the land amongst peasant communities and agricultural cooperatives.

Inevitably, there arose even within the military itself, sectors who felt that the reforms were going too far.  Enter: Morales Bermudez, Velasco's head of the Ministerial Council and Minister of War.

On 29 August 1975, Morales Bermudez moved against Velasco, removing him from office and forcing his sympathizers to resign their offices or move into retirement.

The Velasquizta reforms were quickly halted and Peru brought back into the fold of the IMF, with the accompanying economic "shock therapy".  The inflation, constant monetary devaluations, and shortages of consumer goods and basic foodstuffs, and plain old corruption, got old really fast.

As restiveness with Morales Bermudez's counter-reformist policies grew, the old bugger kept us under increasingly-frequent states of emergency and  nighttime curfews.   People were killed, opposition figures -specially from the left, including Velasquistas- were jailed or exiled, until it all got to be too much and the military organized elections for an assembly to draft a new Constitution, and later to elect a civilian president.

Today, there are more than a fewPeruvians who hold Morales Bermudez in high regard, viewing him as an elder statesman, who credit him with returning Peru to democracy and saving Peru from the "excesses"of the Velasco period.  I am not among them.

Nonetheless, I couldn't help but feel for the old general, sensing how irritating it must have been to him, as an old military man, to have people moving about during the national anthem -played before the movie, as yesterday was Independence Day.  Whatever he must have been feeling, he stood at attention, singing, throughout, and as the last note faded, his voice rang out in the theater: "¡Viva el Perú!"

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