Struggles for Modernization: Peru and the United States, 1961--1968

Date of Completion

January 2010


History, Latin American|History, United States|Political Science, International Relations




On March 13, 1961, President John F. Kennedy enthusiastically announced the launching of the Alliance for Progress, an economic and social development program for Latin America designed not only to combat communism but also to remake the region in the image of the United States, channeling nationalist Latin American forces toward a U.S. model of modernization. In Peru, these U.S. efforts coincided with intense popular mobilization and the emergence of reformist forces that demanded a greater voice in running the country and a state that would fulfill their needs and aspirations for a more equitable society. The mobilization of these social actors worried not only the elites governing Peru and the United States, but also an increasingly progressive sector of the Peruvian armed forces. This segment of the military became convinced it had a preeminent role to perform in society as an agent of modernization. ^ Employing newly declassified U.S. government documents, this dissertation explores the policies of both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations toward Latin America through the examination of U.S.-Peruvian relations between 1961 and 1968. A critical test of the United States's commitment to democracy and reform in Peru involved Washington's reaction to the July 1962 military coup that overthrew President Manuel Prado y Ugarteche (1956–1962). Ultimately, the policies of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations toward the democratically-elected government of Fernando Belaúnde Terry (1963–1968), a government that had been widely expected to carry out the reforms envisioned by the Alliance for Progress, contributed to that government's eventual downfall. Ironically, Washington's policies also inadvertently facilitated the coming to power of the highly nationalistic military regime led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968–1975) that challenged U.S. hegemony and its version of modernization. ^