507. Telegram From the Embassy in Peru to the Department of State1

7578. For Oliver from Ambassador. Subj: Political Atmosphere.

As you have seen from our recent cables reporting the political battle which erupted out of criticism of the IPC settlement, and the related subsequent split in the Belaunde Accion Popular Party, there has been a drastic change in the political atmosphere in recent weeks. Heretofore, considerable optimism had been engendered as a result of the Hercelles’ cabinet acting effectively and capably for ninety days in use of the special powers granted by the Congress. The fact that the Congress was out of session during that period also assisted by bringing about a sort of moratorium on politics. Unfortunately, the feeling of optimism has been seriously eroded as a result of the spectacle of the President and Vice President, through their adherants, engaging in demeaning battle over the party machinery and facilities and the bitter nightly debate of the issues in the Congress. This together with widespread mistrust of the government’s handling of the IPC settlement has clearly reduced confidence in the democratic machinery and has doubtless encouraged many Peruvians to think along traditional lines of an authoritarian solution. As a result there is a great deal of talk about golpe and some air of expectancy.
We have not been able to pinpoint anything specific and have reason to believe that there is considerable lack of unity within the military itself. However, if a pretext were provided, as for example by serious public disorders, the military might move institutionally.
Last night a rightist demagogue, Leon Velarde, who manipulates some Barriada dwellers for his own purposes spoke seriously to a political officer of the Embassy in terms of the imminence of a golpe in which he planned to be involved. The Embassy officer, in response to his query as to our attitude, told him in no uncertain terms that the US Government and this Embassy is dedicated to the fulfillment by the Belaunde administration of its term of office and the democratic selection of a successor. You may be sure we will lose no opportunity to make this policy crystal clear wherever we think it should be stated.
I don’t intend that this be an alarmist telegram but believe you should know that there has now been created an atmosphere of tension and confusion. Up to this moment, however, all [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and service attaché sources are negative on specific military plans for golpe.2
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 PERU. Confidential; Limdis. Repeated to USCINCSO for POLAD.
  2. Rostow repeated this assessment in a note to the President, October 1: “There is some talk of a military coup, but it does not appear imminent.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Peru, Vol. III, 10/67–11/68) A CIA information report on the possibility of a coup is [text not declassified]; ibid.