Peru, which is as close to bankruptcy as a country can get, has spent almost $700,000 in cash to purchase houses in Bethesda for its three military attaches.

The three houses were purchased between May 1976, and September 1977, for prices ranging from $160,000 to $300,000, according to deeds recorded in the Montgomery County Courthouse in Rockville.

The purchases have angered some Peruvians in Washington and raised the eyebrows of experts in international finance, since the South American country is almost out of the hard currency it needs to buy food and other vital supplies from abroad.

Because of its financial difficulties, international banks have refused to refinance for Peru an important loan, causing financial experts to predict that Peru may be unable to pay those foreign bills due on June 1.

Some Peruvian and American diplomats defended the purchases of the Bethesda houses as a necessary expenditure for the diplomatic mission.

A Peruvian Embassy official said the decision to buy the house was made after a study determined that buying was more economical than renting. He added that the search for the air attache's house began four years ago when Peru's financial situation was much stronger.

A U.S. source said the purchases "could be justifiable," adding that "property in the Washington market is supposed to be a good investment."

However an American economist, who asked not to be identified, said the purchase probably would not be looked upon kindly by Peru's creditors in the New York banks or by the International Monetary Fund, which has been trying to get Peru to enforce an austerity program.

"I can't believe a half-a-million bucks would make a difference in Peru's balance of payments situation," he said, "but they probably should not be spending their scarce hard currency," on the houses.

The three houses bought by the Peruvian government for its military attaches are located at:

6205 Robinwood Rd. (It was purchased May 28, 1976, for $160,000, to be the residence of air attache Gen. Hernan Boluarte.)

8517 Thornden Ter. (It was purchased May 12, 1977, for $235,000, to be the residence of army attache Gen. Atilio Lopez-Ameri.)

6513 Kenhill Rd. (It was purchased Sept. 15, 1977, for $300,000, to be the residence of naval attache Adm. Arturo Calisto.)

Peru's handling of its finances has been critcized frequently by international banking concerns. Most recently, they have been angered by the Peruvian government's military expenditures.

The New York banks that participated in a $400 million loan for Peru to refinance its debts in 1976, reportedly were incensed when the Peruvian military agreed to buy $250 million worth of Soviet fighter planes a few months later.

The Bethesda houses are not the only expensive pieces of real estate Peru owns in the Washington area.

The ambassador's residence at 3001 Garrison St. NW in Chevy Chase is built on about 25 acres of choice land. A source in the real estate business estimated that the estate is worth between $5 million and $7 million.

Peru, which had justified the purchase of the Soviet jets as protection against Chile, its traditional rival to the south, may have a slight lead over Chile in the local real estate race.

Four months after the Peruvians purchased their air attache's house on Robinwood Road, the Chilean government bought the house directly across the street for its own air attache. Chile's tardy entrance into the real estate market may have cost it money, however: Chile had to pay $10,000 more for its house than the Peruvians had to pay for theirs. CAPTION: Pictures 1, 2 and 3, The three Bethesda houses bought by Peru are located at 6205 Robinwood Rd., for $160,000; 8517 Thornden Ter., for $235,000, and 6513 Kenhill Rd., for $300,000. They will house the Peruvian Embassy's military attaches, Photos by Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post