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Peru Changing Constitutional Basis
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    The Peruvian military's relationship to the country's politics over the years was more related to the economic, social, and political issues of the moment and to internal armed forces dynamics than it was to specific legal dispositions. Constitutions themselves changed frequently, in keeping with the divergent and shifting views on the best way to build the Peruvian nation (see Constitutional Development , ch. 4). However, Peru's constitutional history became more regularized in the twentieth century with the constitutions of 1933 and 1979. Each reflected the circumstances prevailing at the time of its drafting, including those provisions related to the military.

    The constitution of 1933 was written in the aftermath of the 1930 coup, the 1931 elections in which the upstart reformist APRA party had made such a strong showing, and the violence of the 1932 Trujillo massacres. Members of the Constituent Assembly, now purged of APRA party members, were concerned about law and order and with protecting the political system from such mass-based parties as APRA. Article 213 of the constitution of 1933 clearly defined for the military a major role in national affairs: "The purpose of the armed forces is to secure the rights of the Republic, the fulfillment of the Constitution and the laws, and the preservation of public order." Each of the subsequent military interventions in politics justified the action on the basis of Article 213--in 1934 (canceling elections), 1936 (annulling elections), 1939 (restricting eligible parties and candidates), 1948 (coup), 1962 (coup), and 1968 (coup), although not 1975 (a coup gently removing the ailing General Velasco).

    With the constitution of 1979, however, a very different situation prevailed. The military had been in power for a number of years and most of the civilians elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1978 were concerned with how to get the FF.AA. out of government and how to keep them out in the future. The Constituent Assembly did codify the major reforms of the military regime, but members also noted in Article 273 and Article 278 that the role of the armed forces was to "guarantee the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Republic." This was a much more limited mandate for the military than in the constitution of 1933. The police forces were given responsibility for internal order. However, under unusual circumstances as determined by the president, a temporary state of emergency or a state of siege could be declared in which the military would play an internal order role (Article 231). The president was commander in chief of the armed forces, with the authority to declare war or sign peace agreements with the authorization of Congress.

    Under the constitution of 1979, promotions to general officer had to be confirmed by the Senate and could only fill existing vacancies. Military personnel could not vote and could not run for public office until six months after resignation or retirement. Military and police were subject to the Code of Military Justice. These dispositions were clearly designed to limit the political role of the military and to place them in a position subordinate to civilian authority.

    The principle of the supremacy of civilian authority established in the constitution of 1979 was compromised to a significant degree, however, by several subsequent decrees and laws passed in response to the unexpected development of the domestic insurgency in the 1980s. The Law of Political-Military Commands of June 1985 established and legalized the operation of Political-Military Commands in the areas of the country declared to be in a state of emergency. Another was Decree Law 171, which stipulated that the military in the emergency areas were on active duty full time and therefore could only be tried in military courts. Furthermore, although a state of emergency or a state of siege could only be declared for a ninety-day period, these could be renewed indefinitely by presidential decree. As of late 1991, military personnel had the right to vote.

    Each of these dispositions limited in practice the primacy of the role of civilian authority set forth in the constitution 1979 and produced a potential scenario in which civil authority was formal and the real power was that of the military. With the steady expansion in the number of provinces declared by the president to be in a state of emergency between 1982 and 1991, this possible scenario became more and more a reflection of reality. After President Fujimori's self-coup of April 1992 suspended Congress and the judiciary, decree laws defined terrorist acts as treason, provided for trials of alleged terrorists in military courts, and increased maximum sentences on conviction from twenty years to life imprisonment without parole. SL head Guzmán and key lieutenants were tried, convicted, and sentenced to the maximum penalty in October 1992 under these decrees.

    Data as of September 1992

    NOTE: The information regarding Peru on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Peru Changing Constitutional Basis information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Peru Changing Constitutional Basis should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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