Military Classes

Peru Table of Contents

The militarily connected population has developed into a significant national sector. Playing an ever more important social role, los militares (the military) have, in effect, emerged as a subsociety, with special attributes and arrangements that set them apart from other social classes as a powerful special interest elite, with its own allegiances and identity, sense of mission, and objectives developed in coherent, relatively independent ways from other national policy and planning processes. No other groups within the population, with the possible exception of the cabals of the oligarchy, can be so characterized.

The people involved in ancillary activities--military industries, medical services, civilian business managers and employees, service and maintenance personnel, in addition to members of family networks who benefit from having one of their number in the armed forces--probably approach 1 million, or 4 percent of the nation's population. The military domain commands 20 percent of central government expenditures, 5 percent more than education, the next largest share of the national budget, and much more than health services, which claimed 5.8 percent in 1988. Indeed, Peru's military expenditures of US$106 per capita exceeded three times the average expenditure per capita of all other South American nations in 1988. Over a twenty-year period, the military budget gained 38 percent in its share of the national budget, whereas education dropped by 35 percent and health gained by less than 5 percent since 1972.

Professionalization has involved areas that few have analyzed but that constitute the major reward system for professional career officers and noncommissioned personnel. These are the elaborate infrastructure and exclusive services for personnel and their families, including beach resorts and hotels, consumer discount cooperatives, casinos and clubs, schools of several types and levels, hospitals and general medical services, insurance coverages, recreational facilities, and a variety of other programs. In addition, there are extensive housing subdivisions in Lima for the officer corps and other military employees, named for the military branches that they serve. There are special retirement provisions and a plethora of other benefits for members of military that are unavailable to others in the society at large.

The sphere of military activities includes an extremely active internal social calendar of commemorative events that have the function of bonding the members and their families more tightly to group interests. In sum, the Peruvian military constitutes a virtually encapsulated society within the larger one and competes with advantage for the public funds vis--vis other interests by operating its own industries, sponsoring its own research and advanced study, and engaging in civic-action programs that often replicate the assigned work of civilian institutions, such as the Ministry of Agriculture. Consequently, the ubiquitous and well-established institutions of military society pervade Peruvian life at every turn and are regarded with skepticism by many who see them as depriving civilian needs of essential resources.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress