511. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Peru Coup

The Military Junta appears firmly in control in Peru, supported by a united military establishment and some conservative civilians. Scattered violent protest acts by students are being quickly suppressed.2 Labor has not heeded an effort to mount a general strike. Leaders of the majority APRA party strongly oppose the coup, but are apparently lacking weapons or capability for active resistance.

Detailed contingency plans for the coup were drawn up by the Peruvian Army many months ago which accounts for the smoothness of the operation. We don’t know exactly what triggered their final decision, but the main motives apparently included:

  • —the growing conviction that a much hated APRA leader would succeed Belaunde as President if elections were held next year;
  • —unhappiness with political instability and economic doldrums;
  • —lack of confidence in Belaunde’s choice of military ministers and his disregard of “military interest” in such matters as budgets and sophisticated weapons;
  • —resentment at the terms of the IPC oil settlement;
  • —personal ambition of General Velasco, Army Chief of Staff, soon to be retired.

State is carrying on consultations with other OAS governments prior to making any recommendation about recognition of the new regime. This process could go on for an extended period, perhaps as long as a month.

Unlike the case of the Argentine coup in 1966, we have made no official statement condemning the action of the military leaders, although State officials have made our unhappiness clear on a background basis. Oliver believes it better to allow the weight of Latin [Page 1061]American sentiment to register first. So far, only Venezuela has officially deplored the coup.

Secretary Rusk appears Sunday morning on “Issues and Answers” and may, of course, be questioned about these events.3

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Peru, Vol. III, 10/67–11/68. Confidential. A copy was sent to George Christian. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Another copy indicates the memorandum was drafted by Lewis. (Ibid., Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 97)
  2. On October 5 the Embassy received a note, dated October 3, which officially announced the formation of a new government under Division General Juan Velasco Alvarado. The note declared that the government had decided to respect its international obligations and intended to maintain cordial relations with the United States. (Telegram 7726, October 6; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–9 PERU)
  3. Rusk was interviewed, but did not receive any questions on Peru. For a transcript of the interview, see Department of State Bulletin, November 4, 1968, pp. 471–480.