The President of Peru, General Juan Velasco Alvardo, decided to go ahead with his scheduled speech to the nation in Lima, despite the recent riots which rocked the capital earlier in the month.
The President of Peru, General Juan Velasco Alvardo, decided to go ahead with his scheduled speech to the nation in Lima, despite the recent riots which rocked the capital earlier in the month. The decision can be seen as part of the effort being made by the Military Government to rally popular support for the revolution which President Velasco has described as "socialist, humane and christian".
After seven years of social and economic reforms, the Government has won intellectual respect, but little affection. Previous anti-government demonstrations had been shrugged off as signs of frustration from the middle-classes who are reluctantly shedding their privileges.
But the strikers, demonstrators and looters, who swarmed into the streets of the capital on 5 February, belonged to the social categories that the Government has been trying to help. The strikers were young civil guards who were demanding revolutionary changes in the Peruvian police force. And the demonstrators were mostly students frustrated by seven years of enforced political silence. The looters were slum dwellers who barely survive in tin hovels perched above Lima on the barren foothills of the Andes.
During the riots, 86 people died and hundreds were injured. The violence shook the Government, and must have made its task even more difficult. Even the officially-controlled press, which mainly blamed foreign agitators for the riots, commented significantly on the lack of popular organisations to defend the Government.
The group of military officers who make up Peru's Government, came to power in 1968, when they overthrew President Fernando Belaunde Terry in a bloodless coup. They immediately set about reforming Peru's archaic society. Though the Government proudly describes itself as "neither capitalist nor Communist", it lacks any clearly defined ideology, and has therefore never won the complete allegiance of any of the main political parties.