The Role of the Military Regime in Latin American Countries

Admittedly, these were politically ‘exclusionary’ regimes as they constricted the political arena using coercion and co-optation; and often blamed the populist leaders for squandering the financial resources and excessively mobilising the under-classes particularly the labour.

Authoritarian regimes on the whole succeeded in restoring economic growth rates and in fact, during the 1960s and the 1970s, rates of economic growth in Latin America at times surpassed those of the developed nations. However, economic growth came at a considerable social cost in terms of deepening economic and social inequalities and regime violence.

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Another noticeable feature was that these were a sort of middle class military coups. Military juntas in the more industrialised countries of Latin America particularly were allied to and enjoyed the support of conservative status quoist middle classes. Besides, the ruling juntas had immediately embarked upon the economic modernising programmes.

For instance, the Brazilian military junta undertook mega development projects such as developing Amazonia through roads and settlements, major hydro-electric projects and initiated state-owned enterprises for the development of a sophisticated technological and industrial base in fields such as nuclear energy, conventional armaments and heavy industry. This led to the view that military authoritarian regimes were anti-democratic but modernising regimes.

In the 1960s, political scientists were concerned with the world­wide spread of authoritarianism. Explanations for the growth of authoritarianism had first focused on the military.

While examining the nature and orientation of BA regimes, O’Donnell and others proceeded from the definition of authoritarianism. The term has been defined variedly but the following definition given by Juan Linz is found to be comprehensive and satisfactory:

Authoritarian regimes are political systems with limited, not responsible, political pluralism; without elaborate and guiding ideology (but with distinctive mentalities); without intensive or extensive political mobilisation (except at some points of their development); and in which a leader (or occasionally a small group) exercises power within formally ill-defined limits but actually quite predictable ones.

O’Donnell’s has laid particular emphasis on the role of foreign capital in the development strategies of bureaucratic authoritarian regimes. This brings his analysis closer to the dependency approaches.

Further developing the analyses of bureaucratic authoritarian regimes, analysts have emphasised on several more related aspects. For instance, Gerardo Munck has highlighted the technocratic aspect of these regimes.

More than bureaucratic, military regimes were technocratic in their outlook and policy designs. Bureaucratic authoritarian regimes saw the rise of public sector technocracy and in this respect; these were not simple military regimes.

James Malloy emphasises on the corporatist character of bureaucratic authoritarian regimes and the relative autonomy of the state visa-vis the dominant social classes and economic interests.

Bureaucratic authoritarian regimes were relatively autonomous in imposing on the society a system of interest representation based on limited pluralism. These regimes succeeded in eliminating the spontaneous interest articulation and established a limited number of authoritatively recognised groups that interacted with the governmental apparatus.

They were able to make even the domestic business to fall in line with the regimes’ chosen development strategies. The phenomenon of corporatism had especially become deeply entrenched in the more industrialised countries of Latin America; so much so, Malloy seems to have rightly understood, that post-military civilian regimes will also practice corporatist control over the various organised interests of the society.

Malloy relates corporatism of the bureaucratic authoritarian regimes to the ‘second’ crisis of the ‘delayed and dependent’ capitalist development process. The failure of populism had signified the ‘exhaustion’ of the ‘easy’ phase of import substitution industrialisation. ISI had developed structural bottlenecks by the mid- 1950s and redistributive conflicts were threatening the very authority of Latin American states.

By 1960s, the crisis of the ‘delayed and dependent’ capitalist development had brought about a general crisis of public authority. The ‘first’ crisis had occurred in the 1930s, as the fallout of world-wide depression, when the primary product export growth model had failed.

It was the ‘first’ crisis of public authority and domination; and populist authoritarian regimes had responded by launching an import substituting development strategy under multi-class coalitional governments.

Populist regimes had practiced inclusionary corporatism. Malloy has argued that populist regimes were only implicitly corporatist. Military regimes were a response to this generalised crisis of ISI and the challenges to the public authority of the state.

As with populist authoritarianism, so with military authoritarianism, the external stimulus for economic growth and modernisation had accentuated the crisis of public authority in the sense that the multiplicity of societal interests created by modernisation could not easily be integrated into the political structures to guarantee political stability.

Perce: A Revolutionary Military, 1968-1980

General Juan Velasco Alvarado, heading middle class-oriented officers’ corps, staged a military coup in Peru in 1968 that has been described as ‘reformist’ and, some time as a ‘revolutionary’ military regime.

The military junta itself described the coup as ‘revolution from above’ and embarked on a path of development which they declared was neither capitalist nor socialist. A distinctive feature of the military regime was its autonomy from both the dominant classes including the powerful landowning oligarchy, industrialists and foreign Capitalists as well as the dominated classes of Peru.

The autonomy of the military junta from the given social forces has made analysts describe the regime as ‘Nasserite’ or ‘Bonapartist’ for the regime embarked on a path of development that seems to have been worked out by the junta itself without undue influence of any powerful social or political actors.

The military authoritarian regime professing radical aims introduced a variety of structural changes that intended to weaken the economic and social position of the landed oligarchy and strengthen the hold of modern industrial capitalism in Peru.

Sometimes, the military coup has also been described as a ‘bourgeois revolution’, which became state capitalism benefiting the bureaucratic managerial class, professionals and white collar workers.

The expropriated lands were converted into agricultural cooperatives, which were linked to government bureaucracy and so involved an expansion of administrative middle class occupations. Agricultural credit banks and procurement agencies were set up-all in the end benefiting the peasantry.

Land reform however did not benefit in any way the subsistence peasantry, which continued to till their small plots of land. The net result was to expand and aid the middle levels of rural society and to offer little assistance to the really poor in the rural areas.

Similar policies were pursued towards the urban sector the society. State came to own basic industries and economic infrastructure leaving the modern dynamic sector of the economy in private hands.

This involved expropriation of foreign capital in areas such as land and mining whereas both foreign investment and domestic enterprises were encouraged in the industrial and banking sectors.

The aim was to encourage domestic entrepreneurs to participate with the state in areas of economic activity previously monopolized by the foreign capital and in the dynamic manufacturing sector.

Analysts have argued that the military had intended to strengthen the weak and dependent bourgeoisie and enable it to make a break both from semi-feudal forces and the foreign capital so that there could evolve an independent and strong class of modern industrial capitalists in Peru.

All in all, the outcome of various structural changes was large-scale state ownership of banking, manufacturing and mining sectors. It was state capitalism, and by 1975, two-third of banking sector was state-owned, half of the: total productive investment came from the state, and a fifth of industrial production and more than 50 per cent of mining output came from state-owned enterprises.

The ‘reformist’ military regime also brought into effect new labour laws entailing profit-sharing and worker’ participation in the: management. The government also set up state-run workers’ cooperative with their management in the hands of the workers under the principle of ‘subordination of capital to the labour.

The social property sector however remained limited and often lacked necessary funding from the state. But like land reforms, it benefited only those with a permanent job and left out the vast number of self-employed. To the credit of the regime, government expenditure however also went up in terms of extending urban facilities to the towns.

The regime maintained its autonomy from the underlying economic forces; and by introducing structural changes sought to change the pattern of class formation and societal balance in favour of national bourgeoisie, state bureaucracy and the white-collar workers.

The military authoritarian rule was based on ‘inclusionary’ corporatism; and, unlike military authoritarian regimes in Argentina and Chile, did not resort to violence and repression as a tool of state policy.

Its stated goal to form a multi-class coalition under the aegis of the state and introduction of social welfare programs have also led to the regime being described as ‘authoritarian populist’ regime.

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