Museo Quinta 17 de Octubre
San Vicente, Buenos Aires ,
Aurelia Tizón (m. 1929; her death 1938)
Eva Duarte (m. 1945; her death 1952)
Isabel Martínez Cartas (m. 1961; his death 1974)
YEARS OF SERVICE
JUAN DOMINGO PERóN (Spanish pronunciation: ; 8 October 1895 – 1
July 1974) was an
Argentine lieutenant general and politician. After
serving in several government positions, including Minister of Labour
and Vice President , he was thrice elected
President of Argentina
President of Argentina ,
serving from June 1946 to September 1955, when he was overthrown in a
coup d\'état , and then from October 1973 until his death in July
During his first presidential term (1946–52),
Perón was supported
by his second wife,
Eva Duarte ("Evita"), and the two were immensely
popular among many Argentines. Eva died in 1952, and
elected to a second term, serving from 1952 until 1955. During the
following period of two military dictatorships, interrupted by two
civilian governments, the
Peronist party was outlawed and
exiled. When the left-wing
Hector Cámpora was elected
President in 1973,
Perón returned to
Argentina and was soon after
elected President for a third time. His third wife, María Estela
Martínez , known as Isabel Perón, was elected as Vice President on
his ticket and succeeded him as President upon his death in 1974.
Although they are still controversial figures, Juan and Evita Perón
are nonetheless considered icons by the Peronists . The Peróns'
followers praised their efforts to eliminate poverty and to dignify
labour, while their detractors considered them demagogues and
dictators. The Peróns gave their name to the political movement known
Peronism , which in present-day
Argentina is represented mainly by
Justicialist Party .
Peronism is a political phenomenon that draws support from both the
political left and political right.
Peronism is not considered a
traditional party, but a political movement, because of the wide
variety of people who call themselves Peronists, and there is great
controversy surrounding his personality. The following Argentinian
presidents were Peronist:
Hector Campora ,
Isabel Perón , Carlos
Eduardo Duhalde ,
Nestor Kirchner and
Cristina Kirchner .
* 1 Childhood and youth
* 2 Army career
* 3 Military government of 1943–1946
* 4 Perón\'s first term (1946–1952)
* 4.1 Domestic policy
* 4.2 Foreign policy and adversaries
* 4.3 Growth and limitations
* 4.4 Focus on infrastructure
* 5 Eva Perón\'s influence and contribution
* 6 Opposition and repression
Perón and Fascism
* 7.1 Protection of Nazi war criminals
Perón and the Jewish and German communities of
* 8 Perón\'s second term
* 9 Exile (1955–1973)
Che Guevara and
* 10 Perón\'s third term (1973–1974)
* 10.1 Relationship with Allende and Pinochet
Mausoleum and legacy
* 12 References
* 13 Further reading
* 14 External links
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH
Early life of Juan Perón Patio inside the home
Perón was born.
Perón was born in
Buenos Aires Province , on 8
October 1895. He was the son of Juana Sosa Toledo and Mario Tomás
Perón branch of his family was originally Sardinian ,
from which his great-grandfather emigrated in the 1830s; in later life
Perón would publicly express his pride in his Sardinian roots. He
also had Spanish and French Basque ancestry.
Perón's great-grandfather became a successful shoe merchant in
Buenos Aires, and his grandfather was a prosperous physician; his
death in 1889 left his widow nearly destitute, however, and Perón's
father moved to then-rural Lobos, where he administered an estancia
and met his future wife. The couple had their two sons out of wedlock
and married in 1901.
His father moved to the Patagonia region that year, where he later
purchased a sheep ranch . Juan himself was sent away in 1904 to a
boarding school in
Buenos Aires directed by his paternal grandmother,
where he received a strict Catholic upbringing. His father's
undertaking ultimately failed, and he died in
Buenos Aires in 1928.
The youth entered the National Military College in 1911 at age 16 and
graduated in 1913. He excelled less in his studies than in athletics,
particularly boxing and fencing.
Perón (left) and
General José Uriburu (middle), with whose
right-wing coup in 1930 he collaborated.
Perón backed the more
General Agustín Justo, however.
Perón began his military career in an Infantry post in Paraná,
Entre Ríos . He went on to command the post, and in this capacity
mediated a prolonged labor conflict in 1920 at La Forestal, then a
leading firm in forestry in
Argentina . He earned instructor's
credentials at the Superior War School , and in 1929 was appointed to
General Staff Headquarters.
Perón married his first wife,
Aurelia Tizón (Potota, as
Perón fondly called her), on 5 January
Perón was recruited by supporters of the director of the War Academy
José Félix Uriburu , to collaborate in the latter's plans
for a military coup against President
Hipólito Yrigoyen . Perón, who
Agustín Justo , was banished to a remote
post in northwestern
Argentina after Uriburu's successful coup in
September 1930 . He was promoted to the rank of Major the following
year and named to the faculty at the Superior War School, however,
where he taught military history and published a number of treatises
on the subject. He served as military attaché in the Argentine
Embassy in Chile from 1936 to 1938, and returned to his teaching post.
His wife was diagnosed with uterine cancer that year, and died on 10
September at age 30; the couple had no children.
Perón was assigned by the War Ministry to study mountain warfare in
Italian Alps in 1939. He also attended the
University of Turin for
a semester and served as a military observer in countries across
Europe. He studied
Benito Mussolini 's
Italian Fascism , Nazi Germany
, and other European governments of the time, concluding in his
summary, Apuntes de historia militar (Notes about military history),
that social democracy could be a viable alternative to liberal
democracy (which he viewed as a veiled plutocracy ) or totalitarian
regimes (which he viewed as oppressive). He returned to
1941, and served as an Army skiing instructor in
Mendoza Province .
MILITARY GOVERNMENT OF 1943–1946
Main article: 1943
Argentine coup d\'état See also: Argentina
during World War II President
Edelmiro Farrell (left) and his
benefactor, Vice President Juan Perón, in April 1945.
In 1943 a coup d\'état was led by
Arturo Rawson against
Ramón Castillo , who had been fraudulently
elected to office. The military was opposed to Governor Robustiano
Patrón Costas , Castillo's hand-picked successor, who was the
principal landowner in
Salta Province , as well as a main stockholder
in its sugar industry.
As a colonel and his power of premier minister,
Perón took a
significant part in the military coup by the GOU (United Officers\'
Group , a secret society) against the conservative civilian government
of Castillo. At first an assistant to
Secretary of War
Secretary of War General
Edelmiro Farrell , under the administration of
General Pedro Ramírez
, he later became the head of the then-insignificant Department of
Labour. Perón's work in the Labour Department witnessed the passage
of a broad range of progressive social reforms designed to improve
working conditions, and led to an alliance with the socialist and
syndicalist movements in the
Argentine labour unions. This caused his
power and influence to increase in the military government.
After the coup, socialists from the CGT -Nº1 labour union, through
mercantile labour leader
Ángel Borlenghi and railway union lawyer
Juan Atilio Bramuglia , made contact with
Perón and fellow GOU
Domingo Mercante . They established an alliance to promote
labour laws that had long been demanded by the workers' movement, to
strengthen the unions, and to transform the Department of Labour into
a more significant government office.
Perón had the Department of
Labour elevated to a cabinet-level secretariat in November 1943.
Demonstration for Perón's release on 17 October 1945
Following the devastating January
1944 San Juan earthquake , which
claimed over 10,000 lives and leveled the
Andes range city, Perón
became nationally prominent in relief efforts. Junta leader Pedro
Ramírez entrusted fundraising efforts to him, and
celebrities from Argentina's large film industry and other public
figures. For months, a giant thermometer hung from the Buenos Aires
Obelisk to track the fundraising. The effort's success and relief for
earthquake victims earned
Perón widespread public approval. At this
time, he met a minor radio matinee star,
Eva Duarte . The
Peróns at their 1945 wedding
Following President Ramírez's January 1944 suspension of diplomatic
relations with the
Axis Powers (against whom the new junta would
declare war in March 1945), the GOU junta unseated him in favor of
Edelmiro Farrell . For contributing to his success,
appointed Vice President and Secretary of War, while retaining his
Labour portfolio. As Minister of Labour,
Perón established the INPS
(the first national social insurance system in Argentina), settled
industrial disputes in favour of labour unions (as long as their
leaders pledged political allegiance to him), and introduced a wide
range of social welfare benefits for unionised workers.
Employers were forced to improve working conditions and to provide
severance pay and accident compensation, the conditions under which
workers could be dismissed were restricted, a system of labour courts
to handle the grievances of workers was established, the working day
was reduced in various industries, and paid holidays/vacations were
generalised to the entire workforce.
Perón also passed a law
providing minimum wages, maximum hours and vacations for rural
workers, froze rural rents, presided over a large increase in rural
wages, and helped lumber, wine, sugar and migrant workers organize
themselves. From 1943 to 1946, real wages grew by only 4%, but in 1945
Perón established two new institutions that would later increase
wages: the “aguinaldo” (a bonus that provided each worker with a
lump sum at the end of the year amounting to one-twelfth of the annual
wage) and the National Institute of Compensation, which implemented a
minimum wage and collected data on living standards, prices, and
wages. Leveraging his authority on behalf of striking abattoir
workers and the right to unionise,
Perón became increasingly thought
of as presidential timber.
On 18 September 1945, he delivered an address billed as "from work to
home and from home to work". The speech, prefaced by an excoriation of
the conservative opposition, provoked an ovation by declaring that
"we've passed social reforms to make the
Argentine people proud to
live where they live, once again." This move fed growing rivalries
Perón and on 9 October 1945, he was forced to resign by
opponents within the armed forces. Arrested four days later, he was
released due to mass demonstrations organised by the CGT and other
supporters; 17 October was later commemorated as Loyalty Day . His
Eva Duarte , became hugely popular after helping organize
the demonstration; known as "Evita", she helped
Perón gain support
with labour and women's groups. She and
Perón were married on 22
PERóN\'S FIRST TERM (1946–1952)
Perón with military uniform, drinking coffee. President
Perón at his 1946 inaugural parade.
Perón and his running mate,
Hortensio Quijano , leveraged popular
support to victory over a
Radical Civic Union
Radical Civic Union -led opposition alliance
by about 11% in the February 24, 1946 presidential elections .
Perón's candidacy on the Labor Party ticket, announced the day after
17 October 1945, mobilization, became a lightning rod that rallied an
unusually diverse opposition against it. The majority of the centrist
Radical Civic Union
Radical Civic Union (UCR), the Socialist Party , the Communist Party
and most of the conservative
National Autonomist Party
National Autonomist Party (in power
during most of the 1874–1916 era) had already been forged into a
fractious alliance in June by interests in the financial sector and
the chamber of commerce, united solely by the goal of keeping Perón
Casa Rosada . Organizing a massive kick-off rally in front of
Congress on 8 December, the Democratic Union nominated José Tamborini
Enrique Mosca , two prominent UCR congressmen. The alliance failed
to win over several prominent lawmakers, such as Congressmen Ricardo
Arturo Frondizi and former Córdoba governor Amadeo
Sabattini , all of whom opposed the Union's ties to conservative
interests. In a bid to support their campaign, US Ambassador Spruille
Braden published a white paper , otherwise known as the Blue Book
accusing Perón, President Farrell and others of Fascist ties. Fluent
in Spanish, Braden addressed Democratic Union rallies in person, but
his move backfired when
Perón summarized the election as a choice
Perón or Braden". He also rallied further support by
responding to the "Blue Book" with his own "Blue and White Book",
which was a play-off of the
Argentine flag colors, and focused on the
antagonism of Yankee imperialism. He persuaded the president to sign
the nationalization of the Central Bank and the extension of mandatory
Christmas bonuses, actions that contributed to his decisive victory.
Ángel Borlenghi , an erstwhile socialist who, as Interior
Minister, oversaw new labor courts and the opposition's activities.
Perón became president on 4 June 1946, his two stated goals
were social justice and economic independence. These two goals avoided
Cold War entanglements from choosing between capitalism and socialism,
but he had no concrete means to achieve those goals.
his economic advisers to develop a five-year plan with the goals of
increasing workers' pay, achieving full employment, stimulating
industrial growth of over 40% while diversifying the sector (then
dominated by food processing), and greatly improving transportation,
communication, energy and social infrastructure (in the private, as
well as public, sectors).
Perón's planning prominently included political considerations.
Numerous military allies were fielded as candidates, notably Colonel
Domingo Mercante who, when elected Governor of the paramount Province
Buenos Aires , became renowned for his housing program. Having
brought him to power, the
General Confederation of Labour (CGT) was
given overwhelming support by the new administration, which introduced
labour courts and filled its cabinet with labor union appointees, such
Juan Atilio Bramuglia (Foreign Ministry) and Ángel Borlenghi
(Interior Ministry, which, in Argentina, oversees law enforcement). It
also made room for amenable wealthy industrialists (Central Bank
President Miguel Miranda) and socialists such as José Figuerola , a
Spanish economist who had years earlier advised that nation's
ill-fated regime of
Miguel Primo de Rivera . Intervention of their
behalf by Perón's appointees encouraged the CGT to call strikes in
the face of employers reluctant to grant benefits or honor new labor
legislation. Strike activity (with 500,000 working days lost in 1945)
leapt to 2 million in 1946 and to over 3 million in 1947, helping
wrest needed labor reforms, though permanently aligning large
employers against the Peronists. Labor unions grew in ranks from
around 500,000 to over 2 million by 1950, primarily in the CGT, which
has since been Argentina's paramount labor union. As the country's
labor force numbered around 5 million people at the time, Argentina's
labor force was the most unionized in South America. President
Perón (right) signs the nationalization of British-owned railways
watched by Ambassador Sir
Reginald Leeper , March 1948.
During the first half of the 20th century, a widening gap had existed
between the classes;
Perón hoped to close it through the increase of
wages and employment, making the nation more pluralistic and less
reliant on foreign trade. Before taking office in 1946, President
Perón took dramatic steps which he believed would result in a more
economically independent Argentina, better insulated from events such
as World War II. He thought there would be another international war.
The reduced availability of imports and the war's beneficial effects
on both the quantity and price of
Argentine exports had combined to
create a US$1.7 billion cumulative surplus during those years.
In his first two years in office,
Perón nationalized the Central
Bank and paid off its billion-dollar debt to the
Bank of England
Bank of England ;
nationalized the railways (mostly owned by British and French
companies), merchant marine , universities, public utilities, public
transport (then, mostly tramways); and, probably most significantly,
created a single purchaser for the nation's mostly export-oriented
grains and oilseeds, the Institute for the Promotion of Trade (
IAPI wrested control of Argentina's famed grain export sector from
entrenched conglomerates such as
Bunge y Born ; but when commodity
prices fell after 1948, it began shortchanging growers.
were used to fund welfare projects, while internal demand was
encouraged by large wage increases given to workers; average real
wages rose by about 35% from 1945 to 1949, while during that same
period, labor's share of national income rose from 40% to 49%. Access
to health care was also made a universal right by the Workers' Bill of
Rights enacted on 24 February 1947 (subsequently incorporated into the
1949 Constitution as Article 14-b), while social security was
extended to virtually all members of the
Argentine working class.
From 1946 to 1951, the number of Argentinians covered by social
security more than tripled, so that in 1951 more than 5 million people
(70% of the economically active population) were covered by social
security. Health insurance also spread to new industries, including
banking and metalworking . Between 1945 and 1949, real wages went up
by 22%, fell between 1949 and 1952, and then increased again from 1953
to 1955, ending up at least 30% higher than in 1946. In proportional
terms, wages rose from 41% of national income in 1946-48 to 49% in
1952-55. The boost in the real incomes of workers was encouraged by
government policies such as the enforcement of minimum wage laws,
controls on the prices of food and other basic consumption items, and
extending housing credits to workers.
FOREIGN POLICY AND ADVERSARIES
Perón first articulated his foreign policy, the "Third Way", in
1949. This policy was developed to avoid the binary
Cold War divisions
and keep other world powers, such as the United States and the Soviet
Union, as allies rather than enemies. He restored diplomatic relations
with the Soviet Union, severed since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918,
and opened grain sales to the shortage-stricken Soviets.
U.S. policy restricted
Argentine growth during the
Perón years; by
placing embargoes on Argentina, the United States hoped to discourage
the nation in its pursuit of becoming economically sovereign during a
time when the world was divided into two influence spheres. U.S.
interests feared losing their stake, as they had large commercial
investments (over a billion dollars) vested in
Argentina through the
oil and meat packing industries , besides being a mechanical goods
provider to Argentina. His ability to effectively deal with points of
contention abroad was equally hampered by Perón's own mistrust of
potential rivals, which harmed foreign relations with Bramuglia's 1949
The rising influence of American diplomat
George F. Kennan
George F. Kennan , a
staunch anti-communist and champion of containment , fed U.S.
Argentine goals for economic sovereignty and
neutrality were Perón's disguise for a resurgence of communism in the
U.S. Congress took a dislike of
Perón and his
government. In 1948 they excluded
Argentine exports from the Marshall
Plan , the landmark
Truman administration effort to combat communism
and help rebuild war-torn European nations by offering U.S. aid. This
Argentine financial crises after 1948 and, according to
Perón biographer Joseph Page, "the
Marshall Plan drove a final nail
into the coffin that bore Perón's ambitions to transform Argentina
into an industrial power". The policy deprived
Argentina of potential
agricultural markets in Western Europe to the benefit of Canadian
exporters , for instance.
As relations with the U.S. deteriorated,
Perón made efforts to
mitigate the misunderstandings, which was made easier after President
Harry Truman replaced the hostile Braden with Ambassador George
Messersmith . He negotiated the release of
Argentine assets in the
U.S. in exchange for preferential treatment for U.S. goods, followed
Argentine ratification of the
Act of Chapultepec , a centerpiece of
Truman's Latin America policy. He even proposed the enlistment of
Argentine troops into the
Korean War in 1950 under UN auspices (a move
retracted in the face of public opposition).
Perón was opposed to
borrowing from foreign credit markets, preferring to float bonds
domestically. He refused to enter the
General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (precursor to the
World Trade Organization ) or the
International Monetary Fund . As president,
Perón took an
active interest in the development of sports in Argentina, hosting
international events and sponsoring athletes such as the boxing great
José María Gatica (left).
Believing that international sports created goodwill, however, Perón
hosted the 1950 World Basketball Championship and the 1951 Pan
American Games , both of which
Argentine athletes won resoundingly. He
also sponsored numerous notable athletes, including the five-time
Formula 1 world champion,
Juan Manuel Fangio , who, without this
funding, would have most likely never competed in Europe. His bid to
host the 1956 Olympic Games in
Buenos Aires was defeated by the
International Olympic Committee by one vote.
GROWTH AND LIMITATIONS
Economic success was short-lived. Following a lumbering recovery
during 1933 to 1945, from 1946 to 1953
Argentina gained benefits from
Perón's five-year plan . The GDP expanded by over a fourth during
that brief boom, about as much as it had during the previous decade.
Using roughly half the US$1.7 billion in reserves inherited from
wartime surpluses for nationalizations, economic development agencies
devoted most of the other half to finance both public and private
investments; the roughly 70% jump in domestic fixed investment was
accounted for mostly by industrial growth in the private sector. All
this much-needed activity exposed an intrinsic weakness in the plan:
it subsidized growth which, in the short term, led to a wave of
imports of the capital goods that local industry could not supply.
Whereas the end of World War II had allowed
Argentine exports to rise
from US$700 million to US$1.6 billion, Perón's changes led to
skyrocketing imports (from US$300 million to US$1.6 billion), and
erased the surplus by 1948.
Perón's bid for economic independence was further complicated by a
number of inherited external factors. Great Britain owed Argentina
over 150 million pounds Sterling (nearly US$650 million) from
agricultural exports to that nation during the war. This debt was
mostly in the form of
Argentine Central Bank reserves which, per the
Roca-Runciman Treaty , were deposited in the
Bank of England
Bank of England .
The money was useless to the
Argentine government, because the treaty
Bank of England
Bank of England to hold the funds in trust, something British
planners could not compromise on as a result of that country's debts
accrued under the
Lend-Lease Act .
The nation's need for U.S. made capital goods increased, though
ongoing limits on the Central Bank's availability of hard currency
hampered access to them. Argentina's pound Sterling surpluses earned
after 1946 (worth over US$200 million) were made convertible to
dollars by a treaty negotiated by Central Bank President Miguel
Miranda; but after a year, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee
suspended the provision.
Perón accepted the transfer of over 24,000
km (15,000 mi) of British-owned railways (over half the total in
Argentina) in exchange for the debt in March 1948. Due to political
Perón and the U.S. government (as well as to
pressure by the U.S. agricultural lobby through the Agricultural Act
of 1949 ),
Argentine foreign exchange earnings via its exports to the
United States fell, turning a US$100 million surplus with the United
States into a US$300 million deficit. The combined pressure
practically devoured Argentina's liquid reserves and Miranda issued a
temporary restriction on the outflow of dollars to U.S. banks. The
nationalization of the
Port of Buenos Aires and domestic and
foreign-owned private cargo ships , as well as the purchase of others,
nearly tripled the national merchant marine to 1.2 million tons'
displacement, reducing the need for over US$100 million in shipping
fees (then the largest source of Argentina's invisible balance
deficit) and leading to the inauguration of the Río Santiago
Shipyards at Ensenada (on line to the present day). Repairs at
the Río Santiago Shipyards
Exports fell sharply, to around US$1.1 billion during the 1949–54
era (a severe 1952 drought trimmed this to US$700 million), due in
part to a deterioration in terms of trade of about a third. The
Central Bank was forced to devalue the peso at an unprecedented rate:
the peso lost about 70% of its value from early 1948 to early 1950,
leading to a decline in the imports fueling industrial growth and to
recession. Short of central bank reserves,
Perón was forced to borrow
US$125 million from the
U.S. Export-Import Bank to cover a number of
private banks' debts to U.S. institutions, without which their
insolvency would have become a central bank liability. Austerity and
better harvests in 1950 helped finance a recovery in 1951; but
inflation, having risen from 13% in 1948 to 31% in 1949, reached 50%
in late 1951 before stabilizing, and a second, sharper recession soon
followed. Workers' purchasing power, by 1952, had declined 20% from
its 1948 high and GDP, having leapt by a fourth during Perón's first
two years, saw zero growth from 1948 to 1952. (The
U.S. economy , by
contrast, grew by about a fourth in the same interim). After 1952,
however, wages began rising in real terms once more.
The increasing frequency of strikes, increasingly directed against
Perón as the economy slid into stagflation in late 1954, was dealt
with through the expulsion of organizers from the CGT ranks. To
consolidate his political grasp on the eve of colder economic winds,
Perón called for a broad constitutional reform in September. The
elected convention (whose opposition members soon resigned) approved
the wholesale replacement of the 1853 Constitution of
Argentina with a
new magna carta in March, explicitly guaranteeing social reforms; but
also allowing the mass nationalization of natural resources and public
services, as well as the re-election of the president.
FOCUS ON INFRASTRUCTURE
Emphasizing an economic policy centerpiece dating from the 1920s,
Perón made record investments in Argentina's infrastructure.
Investing over US$100 million to modernize the railways (originally
built on a myriad of incompatible gauges), he also nationalized a
number of small, regional air carriers, forging them into Aerolíneas
Argentinas in 1950. The airline, equipped with 36 new
DC-3 and DC-4
aircraft, was supplemented with a new international airport and a 22
km (14 mi) freeway into Buenos Aires. This freeway was followed by one
Rosario and Santa Fe . Reservoir of the Valle Grande
hydroelectric dam, near
San Rafael, Mendoza A hospital near
Rosario , one of hundreds built during the
Perón had mixed success in expanding the country's inadequate
electric grid, which grew by only one fourth during his tenure.
Argentina's installed hydroelectric capacity, however, leapt from 45
to 350 MW during his first term (to about a fifth of the total public
grid). He promoted the fossil fuel industry by ordering these
resources nationalized, inaugurating
Río Turbio (Argentina's only
active coal mine), having natural gas flared by the state oil firm YPF
captured, and establishing Gas del Estado. The 1949 completion of a
gas pipeline between
Comodoro Rivadavia and
Buenos Aires was another
significant accomplishment in this regard. The 1,700 km (1,060 mi)
pipeline allowed natural gas production to rise quickly from 300,000
m3 to 15 million m3 daily, making the country self-sufficient in the
critical energy staple; the pipeline was, at the time, the longest in
Propelled by an 80% increase in output at the state-owed energy firm
YPF , oil production rose from 3.3 million m3 to over 4.8 million m3
during Perón's tenure; but since most manufacturing was powered by
on-site generators and the number of motor vehicles grew by a third,
the need for oil imports grew from 40% to half of the consumption,
costing the national balance sheet over US$300 million a year (over a
fifth of the import bill).
Perón's government is remembered for its record social investments.
He introduced a Ministry of Health to the cabinet; its first head, the
Ramón Carrillo , oversaw the completion of over 4,200
health care facilities. Related works included construction of more
than 1,000 kindergartens and over 8,000 schools, including several
hundred technological, nursing and teachers' schools, among an array
of other public investments. The new Minister of Public Works,
Juan Pistarini , oversaw the construction of 650,000 new,
public sector homes, as well as of the international airport , one of
the largest in the world at the time. The reactivation of the dormant
National Mortgage Bank spurred private-sector housing development:
averaging over 8 units per 1,000 inhabitants (150,000 a year), the
pace was, at the time, at par with that of the United States and one
of the highest rates of residential construction in the world.
Production line at the state military industries facility, 1950; on
line since 1927, Perón's budgets modernized and expanded the complex.
Perón modernized the
Argentine Armed Forces , particularly its Air
Force . Between 1947 and 1950,
Argentina manufactured two advanced jet
aircraft: Pulqui I (designed by the
Argentine engineers Cardehilac,
Morchio and Ricciardi with the French engineer
Émile Dewoitine ,
condemned in France in absentia for collaborationism ), and Pulqui II
, designed by German engineer
Kurt Tank . In the test flights, the
planes were flown by Lieutenant Edmundo Osvaldo Weiss and Tank,
reaching 1,000 km/h (620 mph) with the Pulqui II.
testing the Pulqui II until 1959; in the tests, two pilots lost their
lives. The Pulqui project opened the door to two successful
Argentinian planes: the
IA 58 Pucará and the
IA 63 Pampa ,
manufactured at the Aircraft Factory of Córdoba.
Perón announced in 1951 that the
Huemul Project would produce
nuclear fusion before any other country. The project was led by an
Ronald Richter , who had been recommended by
Kurt Tank .
Tank expected to power his aircraft with Richter's invention. Perón
announced that energy produced by the fusion process would be
delivered in milk-bottle sized containers. Richter announced success
in 1951, but no proof was given. The next year,
Perón appointed a
scientific team to investigate Richter's activities. Reports by José
Antonio Balseiro and Mario Báncora revealed that the project was a
fraud. After that, the
Huemul Project was transferred to the Centro
Atómico Bariloche (CAB) of the new National Atomic Energy Commission
(CNEA) and to the physics institute of the Universidad Nacional de
Cuyo , later named
Instituto Balseiro (IB). According to a recently
aired History Channel documentary, the secrecy, Nazi connections,
declassified US intelligence documents, and military infrastructure
located around the remote facility all argue for the more likely
objective of atomic bomb development. The
Argentine navy actually
bombed multiple buildings in 1955 - an unusual method of
decommissioning a legitimate research facility.
EVA PERóN\'S INFLUENCE AND CONTRIBUTION
Eva Perón (left) tending to the needy in her
capacity as head of her foundation
Eva Perón was instrumental as a symbol of hope to the common laborer
during the first five-year plan . When she died in 1952, the year of
the presidential elections, the people felt they had lost an ally.
Coming from humble origins, she was loathed by the elite but adored by
the poor for her work with the sick, elderly, and orphans. It was due
to her behind-the-scenes work that women\'s suffrage was granted in
1947 and a feminist wing of the 3rd party in
Argentina was formed.
Simultaneous to Perón's five-year plans, Evita supported a women's
movement that concentrated on the rights of women, the poor and the
Although her role in the politics of Perón's first term remains
disputed, Eva introduced social justice and equality into the national
discourse. She stated, "It is not philanthropy, nor is it charity...
It is not even social welfare; to me, it is strict justice... I do
nothing but return to the poor what the rest of us owe them, because
we had taken it away from them unjustly." Partial view of the
"Children\'s Republic " theme park.
She established the
Eva Perón Foundation in 1948, which was perhaps
the greatest contribution to her husband's social policy. Enjoying an
annual budget of around US$50 million (nearly 1% of GDP at the time),
the Foundation had 14,000 employees and founded hundreds of new
schools, clinics, old-age homes and holiday facilities; it also
distributed hundreds of thousands of household necessities,
physicians' visits and scholarships, among other benefits. Among the
best-known of the Foundation's many large construction projects are
the Evita City development south of
Buenos Aires (25,000 homes) and
Republic of the Children ", a theme park based on tales from the
Brothers Grimm . Following Perón's 1955 ousting, twenty such
construction projects were abandoned incomplete and the foundation's
US$290 million endowment was liquidated. An August 1951 rally
organized by the CGT for a Perón-Evita ticket failed to overcome
military objections to her, and the ailing first lady withdrew.
The portion of the five-year plans which argued for full employment,
public healthcare and housing, labour benefits, and raises are a
result of Eva's influence on the policy-making of
Perón in his first
term, as historians note that at first he simply wanted to keep
imperialists out of
Argentina and create effective businesses. The
humanitarian relief efforts embedded in the five-year plan are Eva's
creation, which endeared the
Peronist movement to the working-class
people from which Eva had come. Her strong ties to the poor and her
position as Perón's wife brought credibility to his promises during
his first presidential term and ushered in a new wave of supporters.
The first lady's willingness to replace the ailing Hortensio Quijano
as Perón's running mate for the 1951 campaign was defeated by her own
frail health and by military opposition. An 22 August rally organized
for her by the CGT on Buenos Aires' wide
Nueve de Julio Avenue failed
to turn the tide. On 28 September, elements in the
Argentine Army led
General Benjamín Andrés Menéndez attempted a coup against
Perón. Although unsuccessful, the mutiny marked the end of the first
lady's political hopes. She died the following July.
OPPOSITION AND REPRESSION
Among upper-class Argentines, improvement of the workers' situation
was a source of resentment; industrial workers from rural areas had
formerly been treated as servants. It was common for better-off
Argentines to refer to these workers using classist slurs like "little
black heads" (cabecitas negras, the name of a bird), "greased" (grasas
which came from people with grease on their hands or fingernails,
i.e., blue-collar workers ), "shirtless" (descamisados, since they
doffed their shirts to perform manual labor). Conservative Radical
Civic Union Congressman Ernesto Sammartino mused that Perón's voters
were a "zoological flood" (aluvión zoológico). In the 1940s,
upper-class students were the first to oppose
Peronist workers, with
the slogan: "No to cheap shoe dictatorship" (No a la dictadura de las
alpargatas). A graffiti revealing the strong opposition between
Peronists and anti-Peronists appeared in upper-class districts in the
1950s, "Long live cancer!" (¡Viva el cáncer!), when
Eva Perón was
ill. She died of cervical cancer in 1952 at the age of thirty-three.
At a time when credentialed teaching personnel were in short supply,
Perón had fired more than 1,500 university faculty who opposed him.
These included Nobel laureate
Bernardo Houssay , a physiologist,
University of La Plata physicist Rafael Grinfeld, painter Emilio
Pettoruti , art scholars
Pío Collivadino and
Jorge Romero Brest , and
Jorge Luis Borges , who was appointed "poultry inspector"
Buenos Aires Municipal Wholesale Market (a post he refused).
Many faculty left the country and migrated to Mexico or the United
States. Weiss recalls events in the universities:
As a young student in
Buenos Aires in the early 1950s, I well
remember the graffiti found on many an empty wall all over town:
"Build the Fatherland. Kill a Student" (Haga patria, mate un
Perón opposed the universities, which questioned his
methods and his goals. A well-remembered slogan was, Alpargatas sí,
libros no ("Shoes ? Yes! Books? No!"). Universities were then
'intervened'. In some, a
Peronist mediocre was appointed principal.
Others were closed for years."(Weiss, 2005, p. 45)
The labor movement that had brought
Perón to power was not exempt
from the iron fist. Elections in 1946 to the post of Secretary General
of the CGT resulted in telephone workers' union leader Luis Gay's
victory over Perón's nominee, former retail workers' leader Ángel
Borlenghi—both central figures in Perón's famed 17 October
comeback. The president had Luis Gay expelled from the CGT three
months later, and replaced him with José Espejo, a little-known
rank-and-filer who was close to the first lady. This was done on
unsubstantiated charges that he had colluded with Perón's enemy, the
former U.S. Ambassador
Spruille Braden . Union leader Cipriano
Reyes , jailed for years for turning against
The meat-packers' union leader, Cipriano Reyes , turned against
Perón when he replaced the Labor Party with the
Peronist Party in
1947. Organizing a strike in protest, Reyes was arrested on the charge
of plotting against the lives of the president and first lady, though
the allegations were never substantiated. Tortured in prison, Reyes
was denied parole five years later, and freed only after the regime's
1955 downfall. Cipriano Reyes was one of hundreds of Perón's
opponents held at Buenos Aires' Ramos Mejía
General Hospital, one of
whose basements was converted into a police detention center where
torture became routine.
The populist leader was intolerant of both left-wing and conservative
opposition. Though he used violence,
Perón preferred to deprive the
opposition of their access to media. Interior Minister Borlenghi
administered El Laborista, the leading official news daily. Carlos
Aloe, a personal friend of Evita's, oversaw an array of leisure
magazines published by Editorial Haynes, which the
bought a majority stake in. Through the Secretary of the Media, Raúl
Apold , socialist dailies such as La Vanguardia or Democracia, and
conservative ones such as La Prensa or La Razón , were simply closed
or expropriated in favor of the CGT or ALEA, the regime's new state
media company. Intimidation of the press increased: between 1943 and
1946, 110 publications were closed down; others such as
La Nación and
Roberto Noble 's Clarín became more cautious and self-censoring.
Perón appeared more threatened by dissident artists than by
opposition political figures (though UCR leader
Ricardo Balbín spent
most of 1950 in jail). Numerous prominent cultural and intellectual
figures were imprisoned (publisher and critic
Victoria Ocampo , for
one) or forced into exile, among them comedian
Niní Marshall , film
Luis Saslavsky , pianist
Osvaldo Pugliese and actress Libertad
Lamarque , victim of a rivalry with Eva Perón.
PERóN AND FASCISM
Perón was sent to many countries of Europe, to study them.
At his return, he would explain that he had a positive impression
about national syndicalism during the government of Benito Mussolini
Ioannis Metaxas in Greece and
Adolf Hitler in Germany. By
that year, he thought that those countries would become social
democracies . His exact words were as follows:
Italian Fascism led popular organizations to an effective
participation in national life, which had always been denied to the
people. Before Mussolini's rise to power, the nation was on one hand
and the worker on the other, and the latter had no involvement in the
former. In Germany happened exactly the same phenomenon, meaning, an
organized state for a perfectly ordered community, for a perfectly
ordered population as well: a community where the state was the tool
of the nation, whose representation was, under my view, effective. I
thought that this should be the future political form, meaning, the
true people's democracy, the true social democracy. — Juan Perón
After the end of World War II and the rise of
Perón to a popular
Peronist politicians and authors would point that Perón
once manifested support for Mussolini and Hitler, implying that such
support involved the whole of their governments or the paths actually
taken by Italy or Germany after 1938. One of the most famous examples
Spruille Braden did so during the 1946 election , leading to
the "Braden or Perón" slogan that was key of the
Felipe Pigna states that no researcher who has
Perón would consider him a fascist. Pigna identifies
Perón as a pragmatist who took useful elements from all modern
ideologies of the time, such as fascism, but also the "
New Deal "
policies of U.S. President
Franklin D. Roosevelt , "national defense"
principles, social views from religion, and even some socialist
principles. According to historian
Tulio Halperín Donghi , Perón
was driven by strong convictions but not by full support to any
mainstream ideology; although he did not try to hide his old
admiration of fascist Italy, it wasn't a strong influence on him.
Arturo Jauretche said that
Perón was neither fascist nor
anti-fascist, simply realist, and that the active intervention of the
working class in politics, as he saw in those countries, was a
PROTECTION OF NAZI WAR CRIMINALS
After World War II,
Argentina became a haven for Nazi war criminals,
with explicit protection from Perón. Author
Uki Goñi alleges that
Axis Power collaborators , including
Pierre Daye , met with
Casa Rosada (Pink House), the President's official residence. In this
meeting, a network would have been created with support by the
Argentine Immigration Service and the Foreign Office. The Swiss Chief
of Police Heinrich Rothmund and the Croatian Roman Catholic priest
Krunoslav Draganović also helped organize the ratline .
An investigation of 22,000 documents by the
DAIA in 1997 discovered
that the network was managed by
Rodolfo Freude who had an office in
Casa Rosada and was close to Eva Perón's brother, Juan Duarte.
According to Ronald Newton, Ludwig Freude, Rodolfo's father, was
probably the local representative of the Office Three secret service
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop , with probably more influence than
the German ambassador Edmund von Thermann. He had met
Perón in the
1930s, and had contacts with Generals
Juan Pistarini , Domingo
Martínez, and José Molina . Ludwig Freude's house became the
meetingplace for Nazis and
Argentine military officers supporting the
Axis . In 1943, he traveled with
Perón to Europe to attempt an arms
deal with Germany. Nazi exile network principal Rodolfo Freude
(2nd from left) and President
Perón (2nd from right), who appointed
Freude Director of the
Argentine Intelligence Secretariat
And after the war, Ludwig Freude was investigated over his connection
to possible looted Nazi art, cash and precious metals on deposit at
Argentine banks, Banco Germanico and Banco Tournquist. But on 6
September 1946, the Freude investigation was terminated by
Examples of Nazis and collaborators who relocated to Argentina
Emile Dewoitine , who arrived in May 1946 and worked on the
Erich Priebke , who arrived in 1947;
Josef Mengele in
Adolf Eichmann in 1950; former Commandant of Sobibor and
Treblinka death camps
Franz Stangl ; Austrian representative of Spitzy
in Spain Reinhard Spitzy;
Charles Lescat , editor of Je Suis Partout
Vichy France ; SS functionary Ludwig Lienhardt; German
industrialist Ludwig Freude; and SS-Hauptsturmführer
Klaus Barbie .
MI6 documents also state that contrary to his
alleged "death" in 1945, high-ranking Nazi
Martin Bormann appears to
have lived in
Argentina and may have been involved in the creation of
Fourth Reich with Perón's full knowledge.
Many members of the notorious Croatian
Ustaše (including their
Ante Pavelić ) took refuge in Argentina, as did Milan
Stojadinović , the former collaborationist Prime Minister of
monarchist Yugoslavia. In 1946 Stojadinović went to Rio de Janeiro,
and then to Buenos Aires, where he was reunited with his family.
Stojadinović spent the rest of his life as presidential advisor on
economic and financial affairs to governments in
Argentina and founded
the financial newspaper El Economista.
A Croatian priest,
Krunoslav Draganović , organizer of the San
Girolamo ratline , was authorized by
Perón to assist Nazi operatives
to come to
Argentina and evade prosecution in Europe after World War
II, in particular the Ustaše.
Ante Pavelić became a security
advisor of Perón, before leaving for
Francoist Spain in 1957.
As in the United States (
Operation Paperclip ),
welcomed displaced German scientists such as
Kurt Tank and Ronald
Richter. Some of these refugees took important roles in Perón's
Argentina, such as French collaborationist
Jacques de Mahieu , who
became an ideologue of the
Peronist movement, before becoming mentor
to a Roman Catholic nationalist youth group in the 1960s. Belgian
Pierre Daye became editor of a
Rodolfo Freude , Ludwig's son, became Perón's chief of presidential
intelligence in his first term.
Milan Stojadinović founded El
Economista (The Economist magazine) in 1951, which still carries his
name on its masthead.
Recently, Goñi's research, drawing on investigations in Argentine,
Swiss, American, British and Belgian government archives, as well as
numerous interviews and other sources, was detailed in The Real ODESSA
: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón's
Argentina (2002), showing how escape
routes known as ratlines were used by former NSDAP members and
like-minded people to escape trial and judgment. Goñi places
particular emphasis on the part played by Perón's government in
organizing the ratlines, as well as documenting the aid of Swiss and
Vatican authorities in their flight. The
Argentine consulate in
Barcelona gave false passports to fleeing Nazi war criminals and
collaborationists. Recently declassified files from Brazil and Chile
reveal that during WWII Péron sold 10,000 blank
ODESSA – the organisation set up to protect former SS men in the
event of defeat.
Tomás Eloy Martínez , writer and professor of Latin American
Rutgers University , wrote that Juan
Perón allowed Nazis
into the country in hopes of acquiring advanced German technology
developed during the war. Martínez also noted that
Eva Perón played
no part in allowing Nazis into the country. However, one of Eva's
bodyguards was in fact an ex-Nazi commando named
Otto Skorzeny , who
had met Juan on occasion.
PERóN AND THE JEWISH AND GERMAN COMMUNITIES OF ARGENTINA
Further information: History of the Jews in
Argentina and German
When I realized that Perón, contrary to previous governments, gave
Jewish citizens access to public office, I began to change my way of
Argentine politics... — Ezequiel Zabotinsky,
president of the Jewish-
Peronist Organizacion Israelita Argentina,
José Ber Gelbard
Fraser and Navarro write that Juan
Perón was a complicated man who
over the years stood for many different, often contradictory, things.
In the book Inside
Perón to Menem author Laurence
Levine, former president of the US-
Chamber of Commerce
Chamber of Commerce ,
writes, "although anti-Semitism existed in Argentina, Perón's own
views and his political associations were not anti-Semitic...."
Laurence also writes that one of Perón's advisors was a Jewish man
from Poland named
José Ber Gelbard . U.S. Ambassador George S.
Argentina in 1947 during the first term of Juan
Perón. Messersmith noted, "There is not as much social discrimination
against Jews here as there is right in New York or in most places at
Golda Meir talks with Evita
Perón on Meir's visit to
Perón sought out other Jewish Argentines as government advisers,
besides Ber Gelbard. The powerful Secretary of Media,
Raúl Apold ,
also Jewish, was called "Perón's
Goebbels ." He favoured the creation
of institutions such as New Zion (Nueva Sión), the Argentine-Jewish
Institute of Culture and Information, led by Simón Mirelman, and the
Argentine-Israeli Chamber of Commerce. Also, he named Rabbi Amran Blum
as the first Jewish professor of philosophy in the National University
Buenos Aires . After
Argentina became the first Latin American
government to acknowledge the State of Israel,
Perón appointed Pablo
Mangel, a Jewish man, as ambassador to that country. Education and
Diplomacy were the two strongholds of Catholic nationalism, and both
appointments were highly symbolic. The same goes for the 1946 decision
of allowing Jewish army privates to celebrate their holidays, which
was intended to foster Jewish integration in another traditionally
Catholic institution, the army.
Argentina signed a generous commercial agreement with Israel that
granted favourable terms for Israeli acquisitions of Argentine
commodities, and the
Eva Perón Foundation sent significant
humanitarian aid. In 1951 during their visit to
Buenos Aires , Chaim
Golda Meir expressed their gratitude for this aid.
Evita and Juan
Perón at the Plaza de Mayo, 1951.
Raúl Apold is
visible behind Perón.
German Argentine community in
Argentina is the fourth-largest
immigrant group in the country, after the ethnic Spanish and the
Italians . The
German Argentine community predates Juan Perón's
presidency, and began during the political unrest related to the
19th-century unification of Germany . Laurence Levine writes that
Perón found 20th-century German civilization too "rigid" and had a
"distaste" for it. Crassweller writes that while Juan Perón
Argentine culture, with which he felt a spiritual affinity,
he was "pragmatic " in dealing with the diverse populace of Argentina.
While Juan Perón's
Argentina allowed many Nazi criminals to take
refuge in the country following World War II, the society also
accepted more Jewish immigrants than any other country in Latin
Argentina has a population of more than 200,000 Jewish
citizens, the largest in Latin America, the third-largest in the
Americas, and the sixth-largest in the world. The Jewish Virtual
Library writes that while Juan
Perón had sympathized with the Axis
Perón also expressed sympathy for Jewish rights and
established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949. Since then, more
than 45,000 Jews have immigrated to Israel from Argentina."
PERóN\'S SECOND TERM
Perón and the ailing Evita during his second inaugural parade,
June 1952. Eva died the following month.
Facing only token UCR and Socialist Party opposition and despite
being unable to field his popular wife, Eva, as a running mate, Perón
was re-elected in 1951 by a margin of over 30%. This election was the
first to have extended suffrage to
Argentine women and the first in
Argentina to be televised:
Perón was inaugurated on Channel 7 public
television that October. He began his second term in June 1952 with
serious economic problems, however, compounded by a severe drought
that helped lead to a US$500 million trade deficit (depleting
Perón called employers and unions to a Productivity Congress to
regulate social conflict through dialogue, but the conference failed
without reaching an agreement. Divisions among Peronists intensified,
and the President's worsening mistrust led to the forced resignation
of numerous valuable allies, notably
Buenos Aires Province Governor
Domingo Mercante . Again on the defensive,
generals' promotions and extended them pay hikes and other benefits.
He also accelerated landmark construction projects slated for the CGT
or government agencies; among these was the 41-story and 141 m (463
Alas Building (transferred to the Air Force by a later
Perón grew bolder following the first lady's 26 July
1952, passing. On 15 April 1953, a terrorist group (never identified)
detonated two bombs in a public rally at
Plaza de Mayo , killing 7 and
injuring 95. Amid the chaos,
Perón exhorted the crowd to take
reprisals; they made their way to their adversaries' gathering places,
the Socialist Party headquarters and the aristocratic Jockey Club
(both housed in magnificent turn-of-the-century Beaux-Arts buildings),
and burned them to the ground. Designed and manufactured in
Argentina, the Justicialist was part of Perón's effort to develop a
local auto industry.
A stalemate of sorts ensued between
Perón and his opposition and,
despite austerity measures taken late in 1952 to remedy the country's
unsustainable trade deficit, the president remained generally popular.
In March 1954,
Perón called Vice-Presidential elections to replace
Hortensio Quijano , which his candidate won by a nearly
two-to-one margin. Given what he felt was as solid a mandate as ever
and with inflation in single digits and the economy on a more secure
Perón ventured into a new policy: the creation of incentives
designed to attract foreign investment. The
Alas Building under
Drawn to an economy with the highest standard of living in Latin
America and a new steel mill in
San Nicolás de los Arroyos ,
Kaiser Motors responded to the initiave by
breaking ground on new facilities in the city of Córdoba , as did the
freight truck division of
Daimler-Benz , the first such investments
General Motors '
Argentine assembly line opened in 1926. Perón
also signed an important exploration contract with Standard Oil of
California , in May 1955, consolidating his new policy of substituting
the two largest sources of that era's chronic trade deficits (imported
petroleum and motor vehicles) with local production brought in through
foreign investment. The centrist
Radical Civic Union
Radical Civic Union 's 1951
Arturo Frondizi , publicly condemned what
he considered to be an anti-patriotic decision; as president three
years later, however, he himself signed exploration contracts with
foreign oil companies.
As 1954 drew to a close,
Perón unveiled reforms far more
controversial to the normally conservative
Argentine public, the
legalization of divorce and of prostitution. The Roman Catholic
Argentine leaders, whose support of Perón's government had
been steadily waning since the advent of the
Eva Perón Foundation ,
were now open antagonists of the man they called "the tyrant." Though
much of Argentina's media had, since 1950, been either controlled or
monitored by the administration, lurid pieces on his ongoing
relationship with an underage girl named Nélida "Nelly" Rivas,
Perón never denied, filled the gossip pages. Pressed by
reporters on whether his supposed new paramour was, as the magazines
claimed, thirteen years of age, the fifty-nine-year-old Perón
responded that he was "not superstitious."
Before long, however, the president's humor on the subject ran out
and, following the expulsion of two Catholic priests he believed to be
behind his recent image problems, a 15 June 1955 declaration of the
Sacred Consistorial Congregation (not of
Pope Pius XII himself, who
alone had authority to excommunicate a head of state) was interpreted
Perón excommunicated . The following day, Péron called
for a rally of support on the Plaza de Mayo, a time-honored custom
Argentine presidents during a challenge. However, as he spoke
before a crowd of thousands, Navy fighter jets flew overhead and
dropped bombs into the crowded square below before seeking refuge in
Uruguay. Scene in the
Plaza de Mayo following a failed coup
attempt against Perón, 16 June 1955. He was deposed three months
The incident , part of a coup attempt against Perón, killed 364
people and was, from a historical perspective, the only air assault
Argentine soil, as well as a portent of the mayhem that
Argentine society would suffer in the 1970s. It moreover touched off
a wave of reprisals on the part of Peronists. Reminiscent of the
incidents in 1953,
Peronist crowds ransacked eleven Buenos Aires
churches, including the Metropolitan Cathedral . On 16 September 1955,
a nationalist Catholic group from both the Army and Navy, led by
Eduardo Lonardi ,
General Pedro E. Aramburu , and Admiral
Isaac Rojas , led a revolt from Córdoba . Taking power in a coup
three days later, which they named
Revolución Libertadora (the
Perón barely escaped with his life, leaving
Nelly Rivas behind, and fleeing on the gunboat ARP Paraguay provided
by Paraguayan leader
Alfredo Stroessner , up the
Paraná River .
At that point
Argentina was more politically polarized than it had
been since 1880. The landowning elites and other conservatives pointed
to an exchange rate that had rocketed from 4 to 30 pesos per dollar
and consumer prices that had risen nearly fivefold. Employers and
moderates generally agreed, qualifying that with the fact the economy
had grown by over 40% (the best showing since the 1920s). The
underprivileged and humanitarians looked back upon the era as one in
which real wages grew by over a third and better working conditions
arrived alongside benefits like pensions, health care, paid vacations
and the construction of record numbers of needed schools, hospitals,
works of infrastructure and housing.
The new leader,
Eduardo Lonardi , waves in a 1955
newsmagazine cover. His gradualist approach to "de-Perónization" led
to his prompt ousting. First meeting of the Junta's Civilian
Advisory Board, 1955. Despite great pressure to the contrary, the
board recommended that most of Perón's social reforms be kept in
The new military regime went to great lengths to destroy both the
President's and Eva Perón's reputation, putting up public exhibits of
what they maintained was the Peróns' scandalously sumptuous taste for
antiques, jewelry, roadsters, yachts and other luxuries. They also
Peronist leaders of corruption; but, ultimately, though
many were prosecuted, none were convicted. The junta's first leader,
Eduardo Lonardi , appointed a Civilian Advisory Board . However, its
preference for a gradual approach to de-Perónization helped lead to
Lonardi's ousting, though most of the board's recommendations stood
the new president's scrutiny.
Lonardi's replacement, Lieutenant-
Pedro Aramburu , outlawed
the mere mention of Juan or Eva Perón's names under Decree Law
4161/56 . Throughout Argentina,
Peronism and the very display of
Peronist mementos was banned. Partly in response to these and other
excesses, Peronists and moderates in the army organized a counter-coup
against Aramburu, in June 1956. Possessing an efficient intelligence
network, however, Aramburu foiled the plan, having the plot's leader,
Juan José Valle , and 26 others executed. Aramburu turned to
similarly drastic means in trying to rid the country of the spectre of
the Peróns, themselves. Eva Perón's cadaver was removed from its
display at CGT headquarters and ordered hidden under another name in a
modest grave in
Milan , Italy.
Perón himself, for the time residing
Caracas , Venezuela at the kindness of ill-fated President Marcos
Pérez Jiménez , suffered a number of attempted kidnappings and
assassinations ordered by Aramburu.
Continuing to exert considerable direct influence over Argentine
politics despite the ongoing ban of
Peronism or the Justicialist Party
Argentina geared for the 1958 elections ,
Perón instructed his
supporters to cast their ballots for the moderate
Arturo Frondizi , a
splinter candidate within the Peronists' largest opposition party, the
Radical Civic Union
Radical Civic Union (UCR). Frondizi went on to defeat the better-known
(but, more anti-Peronist) UCR leader,
Ricardo Balbín .
a "Popular Union " (UP) in 1962 , and when its candidate for governor
Buenos Aires Province (
Andrés Framini ) was elected, Frondizi was
forced to resign by the military. Unable to secure a new alliance,
Perón advised his followers to cast blank ballots in the 1963
elections , demonstrating direct control over one fifth of the
Perón's stay in Venezuela had been cut short by the 1958 ousting of
General Pérez Jiménez. In Panama, he met the nightclub singer María
Estela Martínez (known as "Isabel"). Eventually settling in
Spain under the protection of
Francisco Franco , he married Isabel in
1961 and was admitted back into the Catholic Church in 1963. Following
a failed December 1964 attempt to return to Buenos Aires, he sent his
Argentina in 1965, to meet political dissidents and advance
Perón's policy of confrontation and electoral boycotts. She organized
a meeting in the house of Bernardo Alberte, Perón's delegate and
sponsor of various left-wing
Peronist movements such as the CGT de los
Argentinos (CGTA), an offshoot of the umbrella CGT union. During
Isabel's visit, adviser
Raúl Lastiri introduced her to his
José López Rega
José López Rega . A policeman with an interest in the
occult, he won Isabel's trust through their common dislike of Jorge
Antonio , a prominent
Argentine industrialist and the Peronist
movement's main financial backer during their perilous 1960s.
Accompanying her to Spain, López Rega worked for Perón's security
before becoming the couple's personal secretary. A return of the
Popular Union (UP) in 1965 and their victories in congressional
elections that year helped lead to the overthrow of the moderate
Arturo Illia , and to the return of dictatorship .
Perón became increasingly unable to control the CGT, itself. Though
he had the support of its Secretary General, José Alonso , others in
the union favored distancing the CGT from the exiled leader. Chief
among them was Steel and Metalworkers Union head
Augusto Vandor .
Perón from 1965 to 1968 by defying Perón's call
for an electoral boycott (leading the UP to victories in the 1965
elections), and with mottos such as "
Peronism without Perón" and "to
save Perón, one has to be against Perón." Dictator Juan Carlos
Onganía 's continued repression of labor demands, however, helped
lead to Vandor's rapproachment with Perón—a development cut short
by Vandor's as-yet unsolved 1969 murder. Labor agitation increased;
the CGTA, in particular, organized opposition to the dictatorship
between 1968 and 1972, and it would have an important role in the
Cordobazo insurrection. Student unrest in
Rosario , 1969 (the
Rosariazo ). Unable to return on his volition,
Perón began rallying besieged leftist students (the very people he
had repressed in office). UCR leader Ricardo Balbín,
Conservative Horacio Thedy and Perón's delegate, Daniel Paladino
(middle three) find rare common cause after
General Levingston's 1970
power grab. Their joint Hour of the People statement helped lead to
elections in 1973 (and to Perón's return).
Perón began courting the far left during Onganía's dictatorship. In
his book La Hora de los Pueblos (1968),
Perón enunciated the main
principles of his purported new
Tricontinental political vision:
Mao is at the head of Asia, Nasser of Africa, De Gaulle of the old
Europe and Castro of Latin America. — Juan Perón, La Hora de los
He supported the more militant unions and maintained close links with
Montoneros , a far-left Catholic
Peronist group. On 1 June 1970,
Montoneros kidnapped and assassinated former anti-Peronist
Pedro Aramburu in retaliation for the June 1956 mass
execution of a
Peronist uprising against the junta. In 1971, he sent
two letters to the film director
Octavio Getino , one congratulating
him for his work with
Fernando Solanas and Gerardo Vallejo , in the
Grupo Cine Liberación , and another concerning two film documentaries
, La Revolución Justicialista and Actualización política y
He also cultivated ties with conservatives and the far right. He
supported the leader of the conservative wing of the UCR, his
Ricardo Balbín , against competition from within
the UCR itself. Members of the right-wing Tacuara Nationalist Movement
, considered the first
Argentine guerrilla group, also turned towards
him. Founded in the early 1960s, the Tacuaras were a fascist,
anti-Semitic and anti-conformist group founded on the model of Primo
de Rivera 's
Falange , and at first strongly opposed Peronism.
However, they split after the 1959
Cuban Revolution into three groups:
the one most opposed to the
Peronist alliance, led by Catholic priest
Julio Meinvielle , retained the original hard-line stance; the New
Argentina Movement (MNA), headed by
Dardo Cabo , was founded on 9 June
1961, to commemorate
Peronist uprising on the same
date in 1956, and became the precursor to all modern Catholic
nationalist groups in Argentina; and the Revolutionary Nationalist
Tacuara Movement (MNRT), formed by Joe Baxter and José Luis Nell ,
Peronism believing in its capacity for revolution, and
without forsaking nationalism, broke from the Church and abandoned
anti-Semitism. Baxter's MNRT became progressively Marxist, and many of
Montoneros and of the ERP 's leaders came from this group.
Following Onganía's replacement in June 1970,
General Roberto M.
Levingston proposed the replacement of Argentina's myriad political
parties with "four or five" (vetted by the Revolución Argentina
regime). This attempt to govern indefinitely against the will of the
different political parties united Peronists and their opposition in a
joint declaration of 11 November 1970, billed as la Hora del Pueblo
(The Hour of the People), which called for free and immediate
democratic elections to put an end to the political crisis. The
declaration was signed by the
Radical Civic Union
Radical Civic Union (UCRP), the
Justicialist Party (
Peronist Party), the
Argentine Socialist Party
(PSA), the Democratic Progressive Party (PCP) and the Partido
The opposition's call for elections led to Levingston's replacement
Alejandro Lanusse , in March 1971. Faced with strong
opposition and social conflicts,
General Lanusse declared his
intention to restore constitutional democracy by 1973, though without
Peronist participation. Lanusse proposed the Gran Acuerdo Nacional
(Great National Agreement) in July 1971, which was to find an
honorable exit for the military junta without allowing
participate in the election. The proposal was rejected by Perón, who
formed the FRECILINA alliance (Frente Cívico de Liberación Nacional,
Civic Front of National Liberation), headed by his new delegate
Héctor José Cámpora (a member of the
Peronist Left). The alliance
Justicialist Party and the Integration and Development
Movement (MID), headed by
Arturo Frondizi . FRECILINA pressed for free
and unrestricted elections, which ultimately took place in March 1973.
CHE GUEVARA AND PERóN
Che Guevara and
Perón were sympathetic to each other. Pacho
O'Donnell states that
Che Guevara as Cuban minister attempted to
arrange for the return of
Argentina in the 1960s and sent
financial support for that end.
Perón however disapproved of
Guevara's advocacy of guerrilla warfare as antiquated. In Madrid,
Perón and Guevara met twice. These meetings, as the meetings Perón
held with other leftists in
Madrid (such as
Salvador Allende ), were
arranged with great secrecy to avoid complaints or expulsion from
Francoist Spain . According to
Enrique Pavón Pereyra who was present
at the second meeting between Guevara and
Madrid , Perón
would have discouraged and warned Guevara of his guerrilla plans in
...you will not survive in Bolivia. Suspend that plan. Search for
alternatives. Do not suicide. — Juan
Enrique Pavón Pereyra was only present in the first part of the
meeting then he served mate so that
Perón and Guevara could drink
together and left the meeting room to provide them with privacy.
Pavón Pereyra speculate about the conversation that followed in his
Perón would have then explained to Guevara that he could not
compromise support for his planned operations, but that "when" Guevara
"moved activities" to
Argentina he would provide
After the encounter
Perón commented a friend in a letter about the
visit of Guevara:
...an immature utopian –but one of us– I am happy for it to be so
because he is giving the yankees a real headache. — Juan
PERóN\'S THIRD TERM (1973–1974)
Perón hosts the head of the opposition UCR ,
Ricardo Balbín ,
at his home in preparations for the 1973 campaign.
General elections were held on 11 March 1973.
Perón was banned from
running, but a stand-in, Dr.
Héctor Cámpora , a left-wing Peronist
and his personal representative, won the election and took office on
25 May. On 20 June 1973,
Perón returned from Spain to end his 18-year
exile. According to
Página 12 newspaper,
Licio Gelli , headmaster of
Propaganda Due , had provided an
Alitalia plane to return
his native country. Gelli was part of a committee supporting Perón,
Carlos Saúl Menem (future President of Argentina,
1989–1999). The former Italian Premier
Giulio Andreotti recalled an
encounter between Perón, his wife Isabel Martínez and Gelli, saying
Perón knelt before
Licio Gelli to salute him.
On the day of Perón's return, a crowd of left-wing Peronists
(estimated at 3.5 million) gathered at the
Ezeiza Airport in Buenos
Aires to welcome him.
Perón was accompanied by Cámpora, whose first
measures were to grant amnesty to all political prisoners and
re-establish relations with Cuba, helping
Fidel Castro break the
United States embargo against Cuba
United States embargo against Cuba . This, along with his social
policies, had earned him the opposition of right-wing Peronists,
including the trade-unionist bureaucracy. Perón's stand-in,
Héctor Cámpora, votes in the 1973 elections.
Cámpora to placate the Left, but their support for
Perón waned after
the leader made them guilty by association for the growing wave of
Camouflaged snipers opened fire on the crowd at the airport. The
Peronist Youth Organization and the
Montoneros had been
trapped. At least 13 people were killed and 365 injured in this
episode, which became known as the
Ezeiza massacre .
Cámpora and Vice President
Vicente Solano Lima resigned in July
1973, paving the way for new elections , this time with Perón's
participation as the
Justicialist Party nominee.
mounting political instability, and
Perón was viewed by many as the
country's only hope for prosperity and safety. UCR leader Ricardo
Perón contemplated a Peronist-Radical joint government,
but opposition in both parties made this impossible. Besides
opposition among Peronists,
Ricardo Balbín had to consider opposition
within the UCR itself, led by
Raúl Alfonsín , a leader among the
Perón received 62% of the vote, returning him to
the presidency. He began his third term on 12 October 1973, with
Isabel, his wife, as Vice President.
Upon Cámpora's inaugural,
Perón had him appoint a trusted policy
adviser to the critical Economy Ministry,
José Ber Gelbard .
Inheriting an economy that had doubled in output since 1955 with
little indebtedness and only modest new foreign investment, inflation
had become a fixture in daily life and was worsening: consumer prices
rose by 80% in the year to May 1973 (triple the long-term average, up
to then). Making this a policy priority, Ber Gelbard crafted a "social
pact" in hopes of finding a happy median between the needs of
management and labor. Providing a framework for negotiating price
controls, guidelines for collective bargaining and a package of
subsidies and credits, the pact was promptly signed by the CGT (then
the largest labor union in South America) and management (represented
by Julio Broner and the CGE). The measure was largely successful,
initially: inflation slowed to 12% and real wages rose by over 20%
during the first year. GDP growth accelerated from 3% in 1972 to over
6% in 1974. The plan also envisaged the paydown of Argentina's growing
public external debt, then around US$8 billion, within four years.
José López Rega, Perón's personal secretary, proved a detrimental
influence over the aging leader, leveraging this for corruption and
The improving economic situation encouraged
Perón to pursue
interventionist social and economic policies similar to those he
carried out in the Forties: nationalizing banks and various
industries, subsidizing native businesses and consumers, regulating
and taxing the agricultural sector, reviving the IAPI, placing
restrictions on foreign investment, and funding a number of social
welfare programs. In addition, new rights for workers were
1973 oil shock , however, forced Ber Gelbard to rethink the
Central Bank 's projected reserves and, accordingly, undid planned
reductions in stubborn budget deficits , then around US$2 billion a
year (4% of GDP). Increasingly frequent collective bargaining
agreements in excess of Social Pact wage guidelines and a resurgence
in inflation led to growing strain on the viability of the plan by
Perón's third term was also marked by an escalating conflict between
Peronist left- and right-wing factions. This turmoil was fueled
primarily by calls for repression against the left on the part of
leading CGT figures, a growing segment of the armed forces
(particularly the navy ) and right-wing radicals within his own party,
notably Perón's most fascist adviser,
José López Rega
José López Rega . López
Rega, appointed Minister of Social Welfare, was in practice given
power far beyond his purview, soon controlling up to 30 percent of the
federal budget. Diverting increasing funds, he formed the Triple A ,
a death squad that soon began targeting not only the violent left; but
moderate opposition, as well. The
Montoneros became marginalized in
Peronist movement and were mocked by
Perón himself after the
Ezeiza massacre. In his speech to the governors on 2 August 1973,
Perón openly criticized radical
Argentine youth for a lack of
Perón greets supporters during a 12 June
1974 rally, his last. Perón's funeral cortège along the
Avenida de Mayo .
The rift between
Perón and the far left became irreconcilable
following 25 September 1973, murder of
José Ignacio Rucci , the
moderately conservative Secretary
General of CGT. Rucci was killed in
a commando ambush in front of his residence. His murder was long
attributed to the
Montoneros (whose record of violence was
well-established by then), but it is arguably Argentina's most
prominent unsolved mystery.
Perón enlisted López Rega to target left-wing opponents.
Shortly after Perón's attack on left-wing Peronism, the Montoneros
Another guerrilla group, the Guevarist ERP , also opposed the
Peronist right-wing. They started engaging in armed struggle ,
assaulting an important Army barracks in Azul,
Buenos Aires Province
on 19 January, and creating a foco (insurrection) in Tucumán , a
historically underdeveloped province in Argentina's largely rural
northwest . In May 1973 the ERP claimed to have extorted $1 million
in goods from the Ford Motor Company, after murdering one executive
and wounding another. Five months after the payment, the guerrillas
killed another Ford executive and his three bodyguards. Only after
Ford threatened to close down their operation in
Perón agree to have his army protect the plant.
Perón's failing health complicated matters. He suffered from an
enlarged prostate and heart disease , and by at least one account, he
may have been senile by the time he was sworn in for his third term.
His wife frequently had to take over as Acting President over the
course of the next year.
Perón maintained a full schedule of policy meetings with both
government officials and chief base of support, the CGT. He also
presided over the inaugural of the
Atucha I Nuclear Power Plant (Latin
America's first) in April; the reactor, begun while he was in exile,
was the fruition of work started in the 1950s by the National Atomic
Energy Commission , his landmark bureau. His diminishing support from
the far left (which believed
Perón had come under the control of the
right-wing entorno (entourage) led by López Rega, UOM head Lorenzo
Miguel , and Perón's own wife) turned to open enmity following
rallies on the
Plaza de Mayo on 1 May and 12 June in which the
president condemned their demands and increasingly violent activities.
Perón was reunited with another friend from the 1950s – Paraguayan
Alfredo Stroessner – on 16 June to sign the bilateral
treaty that broke ground on
Yacyretá Hydroelectric Dam (the world's
Perón returned to
Buenos Aires with clear signs of
pneumonia and, on 28 June, he suffered a series of heart attacks . The
vice-president, on a trade mission in Europe, returned urgently,
secretly sworn in on an interim basis on 29 June. Following a
promising day the official presidential residence of Quinta de Olivos
Buenos Aires suburb of Olivos , Juan
Perón suffered a final
attack on Monday, 1 July 1974 and died at 13:15. He was 78 years old.
Perón's corpse was first transported by hearse to Buenos Aires
Metropolitan Cathedral for a funeral mass the next day. Afterwards the
body, dressed in full military uniform, was taken to the Palace of the
National Congress , where it lay in state over the next 46 hours,
during which more than 130,000 people filed past the coffin. Finally,
at 09:30 on a rainy Thursday, 4 July the funeral procession commenced.
Argentine flag-covered casket was placed on a limber towed by
a small army truck (escorted by cavalry and a large motorcade of
motorcycles and a few armored vehicles) through the capital's streets
back to Olivos. At least one million people turned out for Perón's
funeral, some of whom threw flowers at the casket and chanted,
"¡Perón! ¡Perón! ¡Perón!" as it passed by. Along the 10-mile
route from the Palace to Olivos, hundreds of armed soldiers lining it
were assigned to restrain the crowd. As many as 2,000 foreign
journalists covered the ceremony. The funeral cortege reached its
final destination two and a half hours later. There, the coffin was
greeted by a
21-gun salute . Many international heads of state offered
Argentina following the demise of President Perón.
Three days of official mourning were declared thereafter.
recommended that his wife, Isabel, rely on Balbín for support, and at
the president's burial Balbín uttered an historic phrase: "The old
adversary bids farewell to a friend."
Isabel Perón succeeded her husband to the presidency, but proved
incapable of managing the country's political and economic problems,
including the left-wing insurgency and the reactions of the extreme
right. Ignoring her late husband's advice, Isabel gave Balbín no
role in her new government, instead granting broad powers to López
Rega, who started a "dirty war " against political opponents.
Isabel Perón's term ended abruptly on 24 March 1976, during a
military coup d\'état . A military junta , headed by
Videla , took control of the country, establishing the self-styled
National Reorganization Process
National Reorganization Process . The junta ramped up the "dirty war",
combining widespread persecution of political dissidents with state
terrorism . The death toll rose to thousands (at least 9,000, with
human rights organizations claiming it was closer to 30,000). Many of
these were "the disappeared " (desaparecidos), people kidnapped and
executed without trial or record.
RELATIONSHIP WITH ALLENDE AND PINOCHET
Salvador Allende , as member of parliament, had actively rejected
Perón's attempts of establishing cooperation between Chile and
Argentina during the 1940s and 1950s. Allende received the election
Héctor Cámpora , who had previously lived in exile in Chile, as
good news. Allende sent in Aniceto Rodríguez to
Buenos Aires to work
on an alliance between the
Socialist Party of Chile
Socialist Party of Chile and the
Justicialism. Later Allende assisted to the presidential inauguration
of Campora. All of this was seen with good eyes by
Perón who came to
refer to Allende as "compañero". However
Perón also used Allende as
a warning example for the most radical of his followers. In September
just a few days before the 1973 Chilean coup d\'etat he addressed the
If you want to do as Allende , then look how it goes for Allende. One
has to be calm. — Juan
Perón condemned the coup as a "fatality for the continent" stating
that the coup leader
Augusto Pinochet represented interests "well
known" to him. He praised Allende for his "valiant attitude" of
committing suicide . He took note of the role of the United States in
instigating the coup by recalling his familiarity with coup-making
On 14 May 1974
Augusto Pinochet at the Morón Airbase
. Pinochet was heading to meet
Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay so the
Argentina was technically a stop over. Pinochet and
Perón are both reported to have felt uncomfortable during the
Perón expressed his wishes to settle the
Beagle conflict and
Pinochet his concerns about Chilean exiles in
Argentina near the
frontier with Chile.
Perón would have conceded on moving these exiles
from the frontiers to eastern Argentina, but he warned "
his time, but accomplishes" (
Perón tarda, pero cumple). Perón
justified his meeting with Pinochet stating that it was important to
keep good relations with Chile under all circumstances and with
whoever might be in government.
MAUSOLEUM AND LEGACY
Hands of Perón
Perón Street in midtown Buenos
Aires, one of numerous streets and avenues named in his honor when
democracy returned to
Argentina in 1983.
Perón was buried in
La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires. On 10
June 1987, his tomb was desecrated, and his hands and some personal
effects, including his sword, were stolen. Perón's hands were cut
off with a chainsaw. A ransom letter asking for US$8 million was sent
Peronist members of Congress. This profanation was a
ritualistic act to condemn Perón's spirit to eternal unrest,
according to journalists David Cox and
Damian Nabot in their book
Second Death, who connected it to
Licio Gelli and military officers
involved during Argentina's Dirty War. The bizarre incident remains
On 17 October 2006, his body was moved to a mausoleum at his former
summer residence, rebuilt as a museum, in the
Buenos Aires suburb of
San Vicente . A few people were injured in incidents as
unions fought over access to the ceremony, although police were able
to contain the violence enough for the procession to complete its
route to the mausoleum. The relocation of Perón's body offered his
self-proclaimed illegitimate daughter, Martha Holgado, the opportunity
to obtain a DNA sample from his corpse. She had attempted to have this
DNA analysis performed for 15 years, and the test in November 2006
ultimately proved she was not his daughter. Holgado died of liver
cancer on 7 June 2007. Before her death, she vowed to continue the
legal battle to prove she was Peron's biological child.
Peronist movement, to the present day a struggle of
ideologically diverse and competing interests, remains the central
political development of
Argentina since 1945.
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