Peru returns to democracy

It was a sweet vindication for Fernando Belaunde Terry, the Peruvian president ousted by the military 12 years ago. But in returning to the Peruvian presidency in the first election for a president and Congress since the Army coup, Mr. Belaunde Terry encounters a nation sharply changed from the country he governed in the 1960s.

Peru's economic and social foundations have undergone a basic restructuring in the past decade. Oil, mining, fish meal, and banking have been nationalized, a sweeping agrarian reform program begun, and the traditional landholding gentry have lost of much of their economic and political power.

Mr. Belaunde Terry also inherits a country whose population has soared in the intervening years from 11 million to just over 18 million. Half of the nearly 6 million Peruvians who went to the polls May 18 had never before voted.

Yet all three of the major contenders -- Mr. Belaunde Terry, Armando Villanueva del Campo, and Luis Bedoya Reyes -- are men who were top political leaders 12 years ago when the military took over. There is a risk that this old political structure may not be able to cope with the new economic and social situation with which the country now finds itself.

Although Mr. Belaunde Terry's victory was hard for some of the military to swallow many military men were obviously happier with his win than they would have been with either of the other two key candidates.

A victory for Mr. Villanueva del Campo, whose Alianza Popular Revolucionario Americano (APRA) has long been detested by the military, would have been much harder for the military to accept.

Ironically, APRA might have emerged the victor if Peru's grand old man of politics, Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, were still around. His passing last August, which led to Mr. Villanueva's selection as the APRA candidate, left a huge vacuum in Peruvian politics.

As the May 18 vote count continued, Mr. Belaunde Terry was outdistancing his opponents and amassing almost 50 percent of the vote.

His ouster by the military in 1968 resulted from a charge that he had reneged on a campaign promise to nationalize the Standard Oil of New Jersey subsidiary in Peru. Within days of the Oct. 3 takeover, the company was nationalized.

That started a series of nationalist moves that transformed the nation's economic and social structure. But all did not go smoothly. There were quarrels with the United States, lowered agricultural production, and a decline in Peru's overall economic performance.

Some of the military, led by the current President, Gen. Francisco Morales Bermudez Cerruti, became increasingly unhappy with developments and with the confrontational approach of the first wave of military leaders after 1968.

These officers carried out a coup d'etat, but they did not alter the nationalist economic changes. Instead, they adopted an improved administrative approach, strengthening the economic structure but retaining reforms.

The economic and social revolution has created a political paradox this election year. Each of the presidential candidates represents politics as they were more than a decade ago. There are, as a result, forecasts that Peru is in for a period of instability. As if in recognition of this, Mr. Belaunde Terry said following his victory: "The road ahead is much rougher than when I was president before."

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