military began to shed its earlier role as defenders of oligarchical power and undertook a serious re 
evaluation of their strategic mission. Military leaders placed new emphasis on the need for state
modernization, industrial development, land reform and national integration. Although President
Fernando Belaunde Terry (1963 1968) had been elected with the promise to realize such reforms within
a democratic context, his government was stymied by the combined opposition of conservative elites and
the APRA in Congress. The Armed Forces then decided to take matters into their own hands.
In contrast to the exclusionary, authoritarian military regimes that came to power elsewhere in Latin
America in the 1970s, the GRFA declared a  third way  that was neither capitalist nor socialist. In
power, the military implemented the most extensive land reform in Latin America outside of Cuba,
undermining the economic base of the oligarchy and converting large estates on the coast and in the
sierra into agrarian cooperatives owned by former workers of the land. Distrustful of parties and other
intermediaries, the GRFA attempted to create  corporatist,  top down organizations to channel political
participation, though these had little success. Urban shantytowns were given legal recognition and access
to state resources. The government also recognized indigenous and peasant communities, trying to erase
the stigma and racism of the past and incorporating highland Indians as citizens. Bilingual education
programs were launched and Quechua was recognized as an official language of the country along with
The GRFA failed at its own stated objectives of increased national development and the eradication of
social injustice. Instead, it ended in economic recession, with an unprecedented foreign debt and
persistently high levels of poverty and inequality. By 1975, the Peruvian Armed Forces began to prepare
for their withdrawal from power, in the face of a groundswell of labor strikes, mass protest and marches.
However, the dramatic experiences of the 1970s also created new conditions for a more inclusive
democracy in the years ahead.
The Return to Democracy in 1980 and the New Competitive Political Arena
Peru embarked on its first genuine experiment with full formal democracy in 1980. This time new factors
worked in favor of democratic rule, including a new Constitution, a larger and more diverse electorate,
free and fair elections, respect for civil liberties, a free and lively press, a broader party system, and a
citizenry that was better organized than ever to defend its new rights. However, within a few years, this
new regime would be shaken to its roots by profound economic crisis, political violence and deepening
The Armed Forces convened elections for a Constituent Assembly in 1978 in order to draft a new
Magna Carta and prepare the way for a change of regime. While Belaunde's Accion Popular (AP) party
abstained from the 1978 elections, nearly a third of the seats were won by parties to the left of the APRA,
underscoring the emergence of new forms of participation and representation that barely existed when the
military took power a decade earlier. The APRA won another 35% of the vote, assuming a clear position
at the center of the new political spectrum, and a more modern right wing, led by the Partido Popular
Cristiano (PPC) with indirect support from the AP won another 24% of the vote.
Peru's new Constitution of 1979 was drafted by an Assembly representing the political left, right, and
center, and its composition reflects this diversity of viewpoints. This Constitution was to set the rules of
the game for Peru's transition to elected rule in 1980. Several analysts have argued that many of the
strengths and weaknesses of the subsequent democratic period of the 1980s can be traced back to the
machinations of 1979 and the behavior of these principal political actors. The Left contributed to the
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