Research Assignment

Our group project focuses on Peru’s internal conflict. I will be speaking on the global contextualization of the conflict, particularly in regard to the Soviet Union. As described by Ruben Berrios and Cole Blasier in Peru and the Soviet Union (1969-1989): Distant Partners, the same events that would eventually lead to the conflict also opened the door for Soviet influence in Latin America. The Soviet Union desperately needed a standalone base of operation in mainland Latin America, one they could reach without relying on western services. (Berrios & Blasier, 366) It was really the beginning of the Peruvian conflict that both made Soviet presence in Peru desired, as well as possible. On the 3rd of October 1968, there was a military coup in Peru that resulted in the replacement of a pro- United States president with a non-partisan general, Juan Velasco Alvarado. Alvarado was himself both against communism and capitalism, and wished to create a more nationalistic political culture in Peru, one that would be less easily influenced by outside powers. (367) Shortly after his installment as president, trade relations between Peru and prominent western countries began to crumble. In particular, the US and France refused to make trades of military supplies on equal ground with Peru. Denied favorable trading with the western powers, Peru took its business to the socialist powers. Not even half a year after Alvarado took power, diplomatic relations were established with the Soviets on the 1st of February, 1969.  (367-368) The Soviet Union now had their foot in the door to Latin America. Trade between the two nations would fluctuate over the years, but experienced a largely upwards growth, peaking between 1975 and 1980. It is worth noting that the bulk of Peruvian imports of the time were military hardware, something that would become more relevant after the start of Peru’s internal conflict in 1980. (370) While Peru did benefit economically from its trade with the socialist nations, it was really the Soviets who would get the most out of the deal, as they secured a firm purchase on the continent. The Soviets were in fact less interested in supporting the communist revolutionaries in Peru than they were in establishing a strong relationship with the country, one which they could use to serve their own goals of global expansion. Indeed, when the Maoist communism splinter party “The Shining Path” (Sendero Luminoso) first emerged in strength in 1980, the Soviet Union did not support them, and were critical in particular of their violent methods. One Moscow-line party leader was quoted with saying “the acts]…[ not only are not revolutionary but they benefit counter-revolutionary groups because they facilitate repressive plans.” (380) The Soviet Union did of course lend support to more moderate left leaning groups, but were decidedly anti-Sendero Luminoso, a view they shared with the Peruvian government. The Soviet Union’s powerplay in Peru meant that it was preferable for them to side with the existing non-communist government, even if that meant going against fellow communists. (380-381) The role of the internal conflict in Peru in the larger ongoing cold war is nothing to be taken lightly; it served as a catalyst for Soviet influence to spread further West, increasing their power on the world stage.

Berrios, Ruben and Blasier, Cole. “Peru and the Soviet Union (1969-1989): Distant Partners.” Journal of Latin American Studies. Vol. 23, No. 2 (May, 1991), pp. 365-384. JSTOR, JSTOR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *