Manuel Prado Ugarteche

The aristocratic Peruvian political leader Manuel Prado Ugarteche (1889-1967) was twice president, and although elected by conservative and centrist groups, he attempted to reduce the tensions within his nation by incorporating more popular elements.

Manuel Prado was born in Lima on April 21, 1889. His father, Gen. Mariano Ignacio Prado, was president of Peru for two short periods in the latter half of the 19th century. Manuel Prado graduated from the National School of Engineering in 1915. In 1918 he married Enriqueta Garland, and a son and daughter were born; after 40 years the marriage was annulled, amid popular outcry, and he then married Clorinda Málaga.

After getting his engineering degree, Prado became involved in the management of his family's properties, developing as his speciality the direction of the family banking interests. He also found time for other undertakings: between 1915 and 1919 he taught mathematics at San Marcos and was, in that same period, the editor of the university's Science Review.

Prado also initiated his political career in those years, becoming a member of the Lima Municipal Council in 1915. He then became a member of the Peruvian Congress in 1919 and, even though he had not made himself particularly notable, was forced into exile in 1921 by the dictator-president Augusto Bernardino Leguía. Prado shared that fate with most of the reformist-minded Peruvians of his day, though he himself was hardly an enthusiast for reform. He remained in exile until 1932 and did not resume his political career until 1939.

First Term

When Manuel Prado was elected president in 1939, he had apparently been chosen because of his moderation; he did, in fact, bring a considerable degree of political peace to his nation through his attempts to smooth over divisions and to reduce tensions. He had, it was rumored, reached a secret understanding with the leftwing non-Marxist APRA (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana) before the election, committing himself to the legalization of the party. He did not, in fact, grant the party a legal status, but he did reduce the pressures upon it.

Although no serious attacks were made during Prado's first administration upon the fundamental problems of Peru, he became a popular president. He also managed to stay in office for his full term, something no other civilian president had done since 1914. His administration was able to capitalize upon the defeat of an Ecuadorian force in a border war in 1942, and the diplomatic settlement gave Peru title to vast areas of Amazon territories.

In 1945 Prado cooperated with a newly emerged political force, the National Democratic Front, which represented moderates, including some elements within the APRA itself. The coalition's candidate, José Luis Bustamente y Rivero, was elected as Prado's successor; but soon there was a renewal of violence at the same time that there was a virtual stalemate in government. In October 1948 the army, led by Gen. Manuel A. Odría, deposed Bustamente, outlawed the APRA once again, and established a government which lasted until 1956.

By 1956 a change seemed to be indicated: the era of prosperity under Odría had come to an end, and with it had come the collapse of the public works projects. Also at an end was the political truce that had come into existence. To ward off the threatened renewal of violence, a patchwork coalition of moderate and conservative elements persuaded Manuel Prado to accept the presidency. He took office once again in July 1956.

Second Term

Prado had received the support of the APRA, as well as that of Odría, largely because of the threat of a new reform group, the National Front of Democratic Youth, led by Fernando Belaúnde Terry.

The years of Prado's second administration were ones of crisis. The decline in Odría's last years threatened to become an economic collapse. Government revenues fell off, and, increasingly, the effects of a government-tolerated inflation were felt. Although the Prado regime had the support of a majority, including the APRA, whose adherents were named to Cabinet posts, it still had great difficulty in governing. Some of its economic problems were solved when, in 1959, Pedro Beltrán, a leading spokesman for conservative economic doctrines, was persuaded to accept the premiership and allowed to design new fiscal policies.

These policies, however, brought great unpopularity to the government since they included the elimination of subsidies on foods, gasoline, and many other necessities, as well as the adoption of various belt-tightening reductions in public expenditures. Nationalist elements were infuriated by the allegedly greater profits of foreign-owned oil companies; conservatives were embittered by the apparent dependence of the Prado government upon the APRA and the rumored "deal" that would allow the APRA to capture the coming elections. To the clamor of these two groups was added that of the reformers, represented by Belaúnde.

The election was held in early June 1962, but none of the three principal candidates (Odría, Haya de la Torre, and Belaúnde) managed to get the majority needed. When it was reported that an agreement between the followers of Odría and the APRA had been reached, elements of the army moved upon the presidential palace in the early hours of July 18 and replaced Prado with a three-man junta representing the military services. Prado was soon allowed to go into exile and remained in Paris until his death on Aug. 15, 1967.

Further Reading on Manuel Prado Ugarteche

There is no biography of Prado in English. For an adequate account of Peru during the years of his political prominence see Frederick B. Pike, The Modern History of Peru (1967).

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