Revolutionary Nationalism in Peru

Since it seized power in 1968 the Peruvian military régime has constantly and somewhat arrogantly dramatized itself as being nationalist and revolutionary. These two terms are not evidence of any great originality in Latin America. Nationalism-of the Left or of the Right-is a common attribute of most of the 20 Latin American republics, once compared by the Guatemalan writer Juan José Arevalo to sardines trying to escape from the voracious North American shark. Some of the manifestations of a nationalist current now running more strongly than ever south of the Rio Grande are the disastrous armaments race, the persistence of anachronistic border disputes, the justification being made of strictly national values, the stagnation of the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) and the deadlock in the Central American Common Market, the refusal of certain countries to include themselves in what is considered to be the most ignominious region of the third world and the justifiable desire for recovery of national resources.

The consequences of this nationalist trend are not all negative-on the contrary. Concern for being, or for appearing to be, revolutionary is evident. Mexico has "institutionalized" a revolutionary party which sprang from a profound upheaval early in this century. Cuba has related the term "revolution" to all evolutions and all possible techniques over the past 11 years. The great majority of minor political groups of both the Left and the Right in the Caribbean area as well as in Central America are also "revolutionary." The Venezuela of Rafael Caldera, as well as the Chile of Eduardo Frei, have pursued a Christian-Democratic experiment in "revolution." In expelling Perón in 1955, the Argentine military junta affirmed its desire to bring about a "liberating revolution;" and the Brazilian military, which in a coup d'état overthrew the weak but constitutional régime of João Goulart, continues to style its own régime revolutionary. Thus the fact of proclaiming one's policies nationalist and revolutionary in 1971 does not a priori constitute any reason for great interest. That is no doubt why the Peruvian military coup de force was initially received with disapproval and skepticism.

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