This article places the 1969 Peruvian agrarian reform as a defining moment in the history of Latin American militarism and rural capitalism. By unpacking agrarian reform and the rhetorical transformation of indios into campesinos, this article reveals how General Juan Velasco’s military government (1968–75) enforced economic, ideological, and social discipline through a seemingly empowering language of revolution. Capitalizing on enduring radical demands for land redistribution, Velasco’s military-controlled state co-opted claims for land and social justice promoting a revolutionary message against imperial and oligarchic domination while drawing rural populations into more exploitative social relations. The same social and economic reforms meant to benefit thousands of campesinos through access to land facilitated an unprecedented scenario of rural and agrarian capitalism. Once the military garnered social consent, lands and lives fell under state surveillance, decimating communal autonomies, threatening family subsistence, and unleashing mounting degrees of violence against campesino dissidence and resistance.

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