Juan Perón

Juan Perón

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Juan Domingo Perón
Juan Perón

In office
June 4, 1946 – September 21, 1955
Vice President Hortensio Quijano
Alberto Tessaire
Preceded by Edelmiro Farrell
Succeeded by Military junta (José Domingo Molina)

In office
October 12, 1973 – July 1, 1974
Preceded by Raúl Lastiri
Succeeded by Isabel Perón

Born October 8, 1895(1895-10-08)
Lobos, Buenos Aires
Died July 1, 1974 (aged 78)
Olivos, Buenos Aires
Nationality Argentine
Political party Justicialist
Spouse Aurelia Tizón (died 1938)
María Eva Duarte de Perón (died 1952)
María Estela “Isabel” Martínez de Perón (married 1961)
Profession Military

Juan Domingo Perón (October 8, 1895July 1, 1974) was an Argentine colonel and politician, elected three times as President of Argentina, serving from 1946 to 1955 and from 1973 to 1974.

Perón and his second wife, Eva, were immensely popular among some of the Argentine people and are still considered icons by the Peronist Party. Perón’s followers praised his efforts to eliminate poverty and to dignify labor, while his detractors considered him a demagogue and a dictator. Perón gave his name to the political movement known as Peronism, which is followed by the Justicialist Party.




[edit] Childhood and youth

Perón was born near Lobos, Province of Buenos Aires. He was the son of Mario Tomás Perón, a farmer whose family was partly Scottish and Italian, and Juana Sosa, of Spanish descent.

Perón married his first wife, Aurelia Tizón, on January 5, 1929, but she died of uterine cancer nine years later. He called her “Potota.”

Perón received a strict Catholic upbringing. He entered military school at 16, and after graduation he progressed through the ranks. In 1938 he was sent to Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Albania and Yugoslavia as a military observer, and became familiar with Benito Mussolini‘s government and other European governments of the time.

[edit] Military government of 1943-1946

In May 1943, as a colonel, he took a significant part in the military coup by the GOU (United Officers’ Group), a secret society, against the conservative civilian government of Ramón Castillo. At first an assistant to Secretary of War General Edelmiro Farrell, under the administration of General Pedro Ramírez, he later became the head of the then-insignificant Department of Labor.

Demonstration for Perón's release, on October 17th, 1945.

Demonstration for Perón’s release, on October 17th, 1945.

Perón’s work in the Labor Department led to an alliance with the socialist and syndicalist movements in the Argentine labor unions. This caused his power and influence to increase in the military government[1] . After the coup, socialists from the labor union CGT Nº1, made contact with Colonels Perón and Mercante through the mercantile labor leader Borlenghi and the railroad union lawyer Bramuglia. They established an alliance to promote labor laws that had long been demanded by the workers’ movement, strengthen the unions, and transform the Department of Labor into a more significant government office.

In February 1943, Peron became Vice President and Secretary of War under General Edelmiro Farrell. Forced to resign by opponents within the armed forces on October 9, 1945, Perón was arrested, but mass demonstrations organized by the CGT trade union federation forced his release on October 17. Four days later, he married his second wife, Eva Duarte, who became hugely popular. Known as Evita, she helped her husband gain support with labor and women’s groups.

[edit] Election as president and first term (1946-1952)

Perón leveraged his popular support to victory in the February 24, 1946 presidential elections.

Once in office, Perón pursued policies aimed at empowering the working class. He greatly expanded the number of unionized workers, and strengthened the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), created in 1930. He called these policies the “third position”, between capitalism and communism. Perón also pushed industrialization hard; in 1947 he announced the first five-year plan to boost newly nationalized industries. Peronism became a major force in Argentine politics, and Perón continued to exert a strong influence after the 1955 military uprising forced him into exile.

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 racist slurs like “black heads” (cabecitas negras, the name of a bird), “fats” (grasas), “un-shirted” (descamisados, since they “took off their jackets and/or shirts”). The radical deputy Ernesto Sammartino said that people who vote for Perón were a “zoological flood” (aluvión zoológico).[2] In the 1940s upper-class students were the first to oppose Peronist workers, with the slogan: “No to espadrille dictatorship” (No a la dictadura de las alpargatas). A graffito 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 dying of cancer.[3] She died of uterine cancer in 1952 at the age of thirty-three.[4]

Weiss (2005, p.45) 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 estudiante). [Perón] opposed the universities, which questioned his methods and his goals. A well-remembered slogan was, Alpargatas sí, libros no (‘peon footwear [=espadrilles] yes, books no’). Universities were [then] ‘intervened’. In some, a Peronista mediocrity was appointed rector. Others were closed for years.”

Between 1947 and 1950, Argentina manufactured two advanced jet aircraft called Pulqui I (designed by the Argentine engineers Cardehilac, Morchio and Ricciardi with the French Emile Dewoitine, condemned in France in absentia for Collaborationism), and Pulqui II designed by Kurt Tank. In the test flights, the planes were flown by Lieutenant Edmundo Osvaldo Weiss and Kurt Tank himself, reaching 1000 km/h with the Pulqui II. Argentina continued testing the Pulqui II until 1959; in the tests, two pilots lost their lives.[5] The Pulqui project opened the door to two successful Argentinian planes: I.A.58″Pucara and the I.A.63’Pampa manufactured at the Aircraft Factory of Córdoba.[6]

In 1951, Perón announced that the Huemul Project would produce nuclear fusion before any other country. The project was led by an Austrian, 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 Argentine National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) and to the physics institute of the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, later named Instituto Balseiro (IB).

[edit] Protection of Nazi war criminals

Further information: Ratlines (history)

After World War II, Argentina became a leading haven for Nazi war criminals, with explicit protection from Perón. Uki Goñi showed in his 1998 book that Nazis and French and Belgian collaborationists, including Pierre Daye, organized a meeting in the Casa Rosada with Perón. In this meeting, a network was created with support by the Immigration Service and foreign office. The Swiss Chief of Police Heinrich Rothmund [1] and the Croatian Roman Catholic priest Krunoslav Draganović also helped organize the ratline [7]. According to Goñi, 1948 was the most active year, during which Carlos Fuldner was in Switzerland with a special passport describing him as “special envoy of the President of Argentina.” In 1946, Cardinal Antonio Caggiano went to the Vatican, in the name of the Argentine government, offered refuge for French collaborationists who had fled to Rome [7].

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 the Casa Rosada and was close to Eva Perón’s brother, Juan Duarte. According to Ronald Newton, Ludwig Freude, Rudolfo’s father, was probably the local representative of the Office Three secret service headed by 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 Molina. Ludwig Freude’s house became the meetingplace for Nazis and Argentine military officers supporting the Axis. In 1943, he went with Perón to Europe to attempt an arms deal with Germany. [8]

Examples of Nazis and collaborators who went to Argentina include Emile Dewoitine, who arrived in May 1946 and worked on the Pulqui jet, Erich Priebke, who arrived in 1947, Josef Mengele in 1949, Adolf Eichmann in 1950, his adjutant Franz Stangl, Austrian representative of Spitzy in Spain, Reinhard Spitzy, Charles Lescat, editor of Je Suis Partout in Vichy France, SS functionary Ludwig Lienhardt, German industrialist Ludwig Freude, SS-HauptsturmführerKlaus Barbie. As well, many members of the notorious Croatian Ustaše took refuge in Argentina, as did Milan Stojadinovich, Prime minister of occupied Yugoslavia [9]. As in the United States (Operation Paperclip), Argentina also welcomed displaced German technicians 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 collaborationist Pierre Daye became editor of a Peronist magazine. Rodolfo Freude, Ludwig’s son, became Perón’s chief of presidential intelligence in his first term. Stojadinovitch founded El Economista in 1951, which still carries his name on its masthead. The Croatian priest Krunoslav Draganović, organizer of the San Girolamo ratline, was authorized by Perón to help Nazis come to Argentina, including Ante Pavelic [9].

Recently, Uki 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. [10] Uki 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.

[edit] The second term (1952-1955)

Perón was re-elected in 1951. During his second term, Perón’s administration faced serious economic problems. Perón called employers and unions to a Productivity Congress to regulate social conflict through dialogue, but the congress failed and a deal was not made.

Perón signed a contract with an American oil company, Standard Oil of California, in May 1955, starting a policy of economic development with the help of foreign investment. The radical party leader, Arturo Frondizi, considered it to be an anti-patriotic decision, but three years later he himself signed contracts with foreign oil companies.

During the second term, several terrorist acts were committed against civilian targets. On April 15, 1953, a terrorist group detonated two bombs in a public rally at Plaza de Mayo, killing 7 and injuring 95. On June 15, 1955, a failed coup d’état by anti-Peronists used navy aircraft to bomb Peronists at Plaza de Mayo, killing 364. This is considered a prelude to the dirty war in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.

In 1954, the Roman Catholic Church, which had supported Perón’s government, confronted Perón’s enactment of the divorce law, among other reasons. Following the expulsion of two Catholic priests, Perón was excommunicated by the Pope Pius XII in 1955. On September 16, 1955, a nationalist Catholic group from both the Army and Navy, led by General Eduardo Lonardi, General Pedro E. Aramburu and Admiral Isaac Rojas, took power in a coup which they named Revolución Libertadora (the “Liberating Revolution”). The military regime accused Peronist leaders of corruption, but no one was prosecuted.

[edit] Exile (1955-1973)

Presidents Stroessner and Perón. The stamp is Scott Paraguay no. 871

Presidents Stroessner and Perón. The stamp is Scott Paraguay no. 871

After the coup, Perón escaped to Paraguay with the help of his friend President Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, who sent a gunboat to anchor in the Río de la Plata (river). Later, he lived in Panama, where he met the nightclub singer María Estela Martínez. Eventually settling in Madrid, Spain under the protection of Francisco Franco, he married Isabel in 1961. In Argentina, Peronism was banned and Peronists were persecuted. In 1963, the Aramburu decree made the simple naming of Juan Perón illegal.

In Argentina, the 1950s and 1960s were marked by frequent coups d’état, low economic growth in the 1950s and high growth rates in the 1960s (Gerchunoff et al, 309-321). Argentina faced problems of continued social and labor demands. During those years poverty decreased, with rates between 2% and 5%[citation needed] in the first years of the 1960s (INDEC). Argentine painter Antonio Berni‘s works reflected the social tragedies of these times. In particular, Berni dealt with hardship in the villas miseria (shanty towns) through his series Juanito Laguna, a slum child, and Ramona Montiel, a prostitute.

Perón was admitted back into the church in 1963. Perón sent his wife, Isabel, to Argentina in 1965, to meet political dissidents there. She organized a meeting in the house of mayor Bernardo Alberte, Perón’s delegate and sponsor of various left-wing Peronist movements such as the CGT de los Argentinos. Between 1968 and 1972, the CGT organized opponents to Juan Carlos Onganía‘s dictatorship, and would have an important role in the 1969 Cordobazo insurrection. During Isabel’s visit, José López Rega, future founder of the Triple A death squad, won Isabel’s trust, and then went to Spain see Perón. There, he worked for Perón’s security before becoming the couple’s personal secretary.

Perón supported the more active unions and maintained close links with the Montoneros, a left-wing Catholic Peronist group. On June 1, 1970, the Montoneros kidnapped and assassinated former anti-Peronist president Pedro Eugenio Aramburu in retaliation for the June 1956 Leon Suarez massacre and the execution of Juan José Valle, who had headed a Peronist uprising against the junta.

General Alejandro Lanusse took power in March 1971 and, faced with strong opposition and social conflicts, declared his intention to restore constitutional democracy by 1973. From exile, Perón supported both left-wing Peronists and right-wing Peronists. He supported conservative radicals such as Ricardo Balbín, member of the Radical Civic Union and an old opponent of Perón’s. He also supported the left-wing Peronist Héctor José Cámpora, who also became his “personal secretary.” 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 doctrinaria [11].

Finally, members of the right-wing Tacuara Nationalist Movement, considered the first Argentine guerrilla group, 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, who first strongly opposed Peronism. However, they split after the 1959 Cuban Revolution into three groups. Opposed to the Peronist alliance, the Catholic priest Meinvielle retained the original hard-line stance. Dardo Cabo founded the Movimiento Nueva Argentina (MNA, New Argentina Movement), officially launched on June 9, 1961, to commemorate General Juan José Valle’s Peronist uprising in 1956. The MNA became the ancestor of all modern Catholic nationalist groups in Argentina. Finally, Joe Baxter and José Luis Nell joined the Peronists, believing in its revolutionary capacities. They created the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario Tacuara (MNRT, Revolutionary Nationalist Tacuara Movement) which, without forsaking nationalism, broke from the Church, and abandoned anti-Semitism. Baxter’s MNRT became progressively Marxist. Many of the Montoneros and of the ERP’s leaders came from this group.

[edit] The third term (1973-1974)

General elections were held on March 11, 1973. Perón was banned from running, but a stand-in, Héctor Cámpora, a left-wing Peronist and his personal secretary, was elected and took office on May 25. On June 20, 1973, Perón returned from Spain to end his 18-year exile. According to Pagina 12 newspaper, Licio Gelli, headmaster of Propaganda Due, had provided an Alitalia plane to return to his native country [12]. Gelli was part of a committee supporting Perón, along with Carlos Saúl Menem (future President of Argentina in the 1980s-90s) [12]. The former Italian Premier Giulio Andreotti recalled an encounter between Perón, his wife Isabel Martínez and Gelli, saying that Perón knelt before Licio Gelli to salute him [12].

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 reestablish relations with Cuba, helping Castro break the US embargo. This, along with his social policies, had earned him the opposition of right-wing Peronists, including the trade-unionist bureaucracy.

Camouflaged snipers, including members of the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance (aka Triple A), opened fire on the crowd at the airport. The left-wing 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.[13]

Cámpora resigned in July 1973, paving the way for new elections, this time with Perón’s participation. Argentina had reached a peak of instability, and Perón was viewed by many as the country’s only hope for prosperity and safety.

UCR leader Ricardo Balbín and Perón contemplated a Peronist-Radical joint government, but opposition in both parties made this impossible. Perón’s received 62% of the vote, returning him to the presidency. In October 1973 he began his third term, with Isabel, his wife, as Vice President.

Perón’s third term was marked by an escalating conflict between the Peronist left- and right-wing factions. This turmoil was fueled primarily by Perón’s growing ties to conservative Radical Party leader Ricardo Balbín, who the opposition, led by Raúl Alfonsín, considered a right-wing radical. The Montoneros became marginalized in the 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 political maturity. Shortly after Perón’s attack on left-wing Peronism, the Montoneros went underground. Another guerrilla group, the Guevarists ERP, also opposed the right-wing Peronists, and started engaging in armed struggle, attempting to create a foco in Tucuman, the smallest province of Argentina located in the Northwest. Meanwhile, José Lopez Rega, personal secretary of Juan Perón and then of Isabel Perón, began targeting left-wing opponents.

Perón died of a heart attack on July 1, 1974 recommending that his wife, Isabel, rely on Balbín for support. At the president’s burial Balbín uttered a historic phrase, “This 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 March 24, 1976 by a military coup d’état. A military junta, headed by Jorge Rafael Videla took control of the country, starting the self-styled National Reorganization Process. The junta combined 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.

[edit] Perón’s corpse

Perón was buried in La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires. In 1987, his tomb was desecrated, and his hands and some personal effects, such as his sword, were stolen.

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 riots, as Peronist trade unions fought over access to the ceremony. The police contained the violence enough for the procession to move to the mausoleum. This move of Perón’s body offered his self-proclaimed illegitimate daughter the opportunity to obtain a DNA sample from his corpse. The woman, Martha Holgado, 72, had been trying for 15 years to do this DNA analysis, which, in November 2006, proved she was not his daughter.[14][15]

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ (Spanish) Colonel J. D. Perón Vice president Minister or War and Secretary of Work and Welfare speaks September 18 1945 from the his offices for union leaders, “From work to home and from home to work” speech
  2. ^ Quoted by Hugo Gambini in his book “Historia del peronismo” He said, in Spanish: “El aluvión zoológico del 24 de febrero parece haber arrojado a algún diputado a su banca, para que desde ella maúlle a los astros por una dieta de 2.500 pesos. Que siga maullando, que a mí no me molesta…”
  3. ^ Eduardo Galeano , Memorias del Fuego , México, Siglo XXI, 1990
  4. ^ Lerner, BH (2000). The illness and death of Eva Perón: cancer, politics, and secrecy. Lancet 355:1988-1991
  5. ^ El proyecto Pulqui: propaganda peronista de la época
  6. ^ http://www.reconstruccion2005.com.ar/0412/aviacion.htm La aviación militar apunta a Cordoba como vector comercial del poder aéreo
  7. ^ a b La Odessa que creó Perón, Pagina/12, 15 December 2002 (Spanish)
  8. ^ La rama nazi de Perón, La Nacion, 16 February 1997 (Spanish)
  9. ^ a b Mark Falcoff, Perón’s Nazi Ties, Time, November 9, 1998, vol 152, n°19
  10. ^ Uki Goñi, The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón’s Argentina (2002) (Granta Books, 2002, ISBN 1862075816)
  11. ^ Oscar Ranzani, La revolución es un sueño eterno, Pagina 12, 20 October 2004 (Spanish)
  12. ^ a b c Susana Viau and Eduardo Tagliaferro, Carlos Bartffeld, Mason y Amigo de Massera, Fue Embajador en Yugoslavia Cuando Se Vendieron Armas a Croacia – En el mismo barco, Pagina 12, December 14, 1998 (Spanish)
  13. ^ (Spanish) Horacio Verbitsky, Ezeiza, Contrapunto, Buenos Aires, 1985. Available at ElOrtiba.
  14. ^ CNN. 17 October 2006. Body of Argentina’s Perón to move to $1.1 million crypt
  15. ^ BBC News. 17 October 2006. Violence mars reburial of Perón

[edit] Further reading

  • David Cox and Damian Nabot, La Segunda Muerte (Planeta 2007)

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Edelmiro Farrell
Vice-President of Argentina
Succeeded by
Juan Pistarini
Preceded by
Edelmiro Farrell
President of Argentina
First and Second Terms

1946–1952, 1952–1955
Succeeded by
Eduardo Lonardi
Preceded by
Raúl Lastiri
President of Argentina
Third Term

Succeeded by
Isabel Perón


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