Peru in the 1930’s and 1940’s

By | December 21, 2021

The gen. Oscar R. Benavides ruled with energy not devoid of wisdom. The elections of 1936 were apparently about to give victory to LA Eguigúren, supported by “Apra” (see, in this second App., I, p. 223), when the Benavides canceled them and had their mandate extended for three years. In the international field, relations with Mexico resumed (1933), the conflict with Colombia for Leticia was resolved (1934), trade treaties signed with Chile (1934) and England (1936) and the friendship pact with Bolivia (1936), tense relations with Ecuador continued, until direct negotiations were broken in October 1938, without actually starting the arbitration procedure envisaged by the 1936 agreements. At the end of 1938, the eighth Pan-American Conference; when the war broke out in Europe, Peru declared itself neutral.

Inside, organized the political police under the leadership of a fascist mission, the Benavides severely repressed the activities of the APRA and the attempted coup d’etat (February 1939) of the interior minister gen. Antonio Rodríguez, who met his death there. But the financial reorganization, the gradual recovery of the markets, after the crisis of 1930, and the political tranquility allowed the completion of a vast program of public works and social legislation: grain production was favored even though rice was the main food. In 1935 the Ministry of Education was established and the (autonomous) universities were reopened, closed in 1931 due to the political activities of students. The census was prepared, and in 1939 important constitutional reforms and elections were held. For Peru 2019, please check

With the victory, against the candidate of the “Unión revolucionaria” sanchezcerrista J. Quesada, of the government one, Manuel Prado Ugarteche (son of Mariano) – who took office on December 8, 1939 – oligarchic conservatism continued in power. The Prado maintained internal order, despite the clandestine activities of the Apra, with less harshness; the policy of public works continued, of support for nascent industries and gave a vigorous impulse to colonization. At the Rio de Janeiro conference (January 1942), in which the quarrel with Ecuador was also resolved (which in 1941, after a diplomatic crisis, had led to an armed conflict, favorable to Peru in the Zarumilla clash), the Peru’s attitude was decisive. The rupture of relations with the Tripartite powers was accompanied or followed by severe measures: suppression of air services of the “Lufthansa” (the German steamships in Callao sank or fled), vigilance on the activities of Japanese and Germans (several of them, suspects espionage, were deported; the Italians remained undisturbed). The US provided weapons, technicians, tools and loans for large companies including rehabilitation and colonization, contracts for the purchase of raw materials; they facilitated the patrolling of the Pacific. Thus, despite the diminished imports and the incipient shortage of foodstuffs, there was a period of prosperity, and the country was able to recover from the consequences of natural disasters,

The climate of euphoria, the enthusiasm for the victories of democracies, the memory of democratic governments (Piérola) and the desire for freedom and social justice led to the formation, under the presidency of the poet and orator José Gálvez, but with the support also of Benavides (now a marshal; later died in Lima on 2 July 1945), of a vast democratic concentration, in which the APRA also participated. The elections of 1945, hailed as the beginning, or the return (“un ’98 sin bolas”: allusion to Piérola) of a regime of freedom and normality, led to the presidency (from 28 July 1945) JL Bustamente Rivero, against the winner of Zarumilla, general (later marshal) EG Ureta.

The APRA, mostly in the congress, canceled the constitutional reforms of 1939 and maintained a political power without responsibility, while causing total and partial ministerial crises; nevertheless he participated in the government in January 1946, when in partial elections he further increased his representation in parliament; but this did not remove the dualism between the constitutional and party organs, under the orders of his head VR Haya de la Torre, who was not even a deputy and organized demonstrations, followed by counter-demonstrations and riots (serious in Lima, April 1946). The assassination (January 1947) attributed by public opinion to aprists, of F. Graiña G., editor of the important conservative newspaper La Prensa, caused the detachment of the aprists from the government ”

Since then, the disagreement between the president, diplomat and jurist yearning for constitutionality and to govern with the support of parliament, and, on the one hand, the Apra badly concealing its intimate nature as a basically totalitarian party, on the other, the conservatives, whose representatives, fearing the aprist majorities, abstained from parliamentary work, paralyzing legislative activity, while the economic and financial conditions worsened continuously, and with them discontent. The president had to resort to energy measures and military cabinets; but the violent solution was being prepared. The Callao revolt, on 3 October 1948, when Aprist elements took possession of the Almirante Grau and other ships, as well as the Naval School of La Punta, was sedated after 24 hours of combat; measures were immediately taken against the APRA; but already on the 27th of the same month the former Minister of the Interior, gen. M. Odría, placed himself at the head of a military movement in Arequipa, which was joined by the garrisons of Cuzco and other centers. Bustamente, considered by the conservatives and the military to be too weak, and abandoned by all, had to leave; and the Odría set up a Junta de gobierno which, on November 2, banned the Aprista and Communist parties and adopted measures to reconcile them with popular favor. The University of San Marco, where the students tried to resist, has been closed.

In the international field, Peru declared war (February 12, 1945) on Germany and Japan; signed (14) the declaration of the United Nations; definitively regulated (exchange of letters between presidents on 17 July 1945) the establishment of the borders with Ecuador; concluded agreements (May 1946) with Bolivia for the education of indigenous people, with the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees welcoming specialized workers; air navigation agreements (establishment of new lines) with the US, economic with the United Kingdom (for which Peru, as of 1 August 1948, left the “American Account area” as regards payments in sterling) and re-established normal diplomatic relations with Spain.