Juan Domingo Peron was an Argentine colonel and politician, elected three times as President of Argentina, serving from 1946 to 1955 and from 1973 to 1974.
Peron and his second wife, Eva, were immensely popular among some of the Argentine people and are still considered icons by the Peronist Party. Peron's followers praised his efforts to eliminate poverty and to dignify labor, while his detractors considered him a demagogue and a dictator. Peron gave his name to the political movement known as Peronism, which is followed by the Justicialist Party.
Childhood and youth
Peron was born near Lobos, Province of Buenos Aires. He was the son of Mario Tomas Peron, a farmer whose family was partly Scottish and Italian, and Juana Sosa, of Spanish descent.
Peron married his first wife, Aurelia Tizon, on January 5, 1929, but she died of uterine cancer nine years later. He called her "Potota."
Peron 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.
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 Ramon Castillo. At first an assistant to Secretary of War General Edelmiro Farrell, under the administration of General Pedro Ramirez, he later became the head of the then-insignificant Department of Labor.
Peron'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
. After the coup, socialists from the labor union CGT N1, made contact with Colonels Peron 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, Peron 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.
Election as president and first term (1946-1952)
Peron leveraged his popular support to victory in the February 24, 1946 presidential elections.
Once in office, Peron 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. Peron 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 Peron 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" , "fats" (grasas), "un-shirted" . The radical deputy Ernesto Sammartino said that people who vote for Peron were a "zoological flood" (aluvion zoologico). Quoted by Hugo Gambini in his book "Historia del peronismo" He said, in Spanish: "El aluvion zoologico del 24 de febrero parece haber arrojado a algun diputado a su banca, para que desde ella maulle a los astros por una dieta de 2.500 pesos. Que siga maullando, que a mi no me molesta..." 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 cancer!), when Eva Peron was dying of cancer. She died of uterine cancer in 1952 at the age of thirty-three.
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" . [Peron] opposed the universities, which questioned his methods and his goals. A well-remembered slogan was, Alpargatas si, libros 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 , 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. 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 Cordoba.
In 1951, Peron 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. Peron 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, Peron appointed a scientific team to investigate Richter's activities. Reports by Jose Antonio Balseiro and Mario Bancora revealed that the project was a fraud. After that, the Huemul Project was transferred to the Centro Atomico 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).
Protection of Nazi war criminals
After World War II, Argentina became a leading haven for Nazi war criminals, with explicit protection from Peron. Uki Goni showed in his 1998 book that Nazis and French and Belgian collaborationists, including Pierre Daye, organized a meeting in the Casa Rosada with Peron. In this meeting, a network was created with support by the Immigration Service and foreign office. The Swiss Chief of Police Heinrich Rothmund [*] and the Croatian Roman Catholic priest Krunoslav Draganovic also helped organize the ratline La Odessa que creo Peron, Pagina/12, 15 December 2002 . According to Goni, 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 .
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 Peron'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 Peron in the 1930s, and had contacts with Generals Juan Pistarini, Domingo Martinez and Molina. Ludwig Freude's house became the meetingplace for Nazis and Argentine military officers supporting the Axis. In 1943, he went with Peron to Europe to attempt an arms deal with Germany. La rama nazi de Peron, La Nacion, 16 February 1997
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-HauptsturmfuhrerKlaus Barbie. As well, many members of the notorious Croatian Ustase took refuge in Argentina, as did Milan Stojadinovich, Prime minister of occupied Yugoslavia Mark Falcoff, Peron's Nazi Ties, Time, November 9, 1998, vol 152, n19 . 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 Peron'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 Peron'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 Draganovic, organizer of the San Girolamo ratline, was authorized by Peron to help Nazis come to Argentina, including Ante Pavelic .
Recently, Uki Goni'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 Peron'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. Uki Goni, The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Peron's Argentina'' (2002) Uki Goni places particular emphasis on the part played by Peron'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.
The second term (1952-1955)
Peron was re-elected in 1951. During his second term, Peron's administration faced serious economic problems. Peron called employers and unions to a Productivity Congress to regulate social conflict through dialogue, but the congress failed and a deal was not made.
Peron 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'etat 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 Peron's government, confronted Peron's enactment of the divorce law, among other reasons. Following the expulsion of two Catholic priests, Peron 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 Revolucion Libertadora (the "Liberating Revolution"). The military regime accused Peronist leaders of corruption, but no one was prosecuted.
After the coup, Peron escaped to Paraguay with the help of his friend President Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, who sent a gunboat to anchor in the Rio de la Plata (river). Later, he lived in Panama, where he met the nightclub singer Maria Estela Martinez. 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 Peron illegal.
In Argentina, the 1950s and 1960s were marked by frequent coups d'etat, low economic growth in the 1950s and high growth rates in the 1960s . Argentina faced problems of continued social and labor demands. During those years poverty decreased, with rates between 2% and 5% 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.
Peron was admitted back into the church in 1963. Peron sent his wife, Isabel, to Argentina in 1965, to meet political dissidents there. She organized a meeting in the house of mayor Bernardo Alberte, Peron'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 Ongania's dictatorship, and would have an important role in the 1969 Cordobazo insurrection. During Isabel's visit, Jose Lopez Rega, future founder of the Triple A death squad, won Isabel's trust, and then went to Spain see Peron. There, he worked for Peron's security before becoming the couple's personal secretary.
Peron 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 Jose 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, Peron supported both left-wing Peronists and right-wing Peronists. He supported conservative radicals such as Ricardo Balbin, member of the Radical Civic Union and an old opponent of Peron's. He also supported the left-wing Peronist Hector Jose Campora, 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 Liberacion, and another concerning two film documentaries, La Revolucion Justicialista and Actualizacion politica y doctrinaria Oscar Ranzani, La revolucion es un sueno eterno, Pagina 12, 20 October 2004 .
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 , officially launched on June 9, 1961, to commemorate General Juan Jose Valles Peronist uprising in 1956. The MNA became the ancestor of all modern Catholic nationalist groups in Argentina. Finally, Joe Baxter and Jose Luis Nell joined the Peronists, believing in its revolutionary capacities. They created the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario Tacuara which, without forsaking nationalism, broke from the Church, and abandoned anti-Semitism. Baxters MNRT became progressively Marxist. Many of the Montoneros and of the ERPs leaders came from this group.
The third term (1973-1974)
General elections were held on March 11, 1973. Peron was banned from running, but a stand-in, Hector Campora, a left-wing Peronist and his personal secretary, was elected and took office on May 25. On June 20, 1973, Peron 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 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 . Gelli was part of a committee supporting Peron, along with Carlos Saul Menem (future President of Argentina in the 1980s-90s) . The former Italian Premier Giulio Andreotti recalled an encounter between Peron, his wife Isabel Martinez and Gelli, saying that Peron knelt before Licio Gelli to salute him .
On the day of Peron's return, a crowd of left-wing Peronists (estimated at 3.5 million) gathered at the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires to welcome him. Peron was accompanied by Campora, 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. Horacio Verbitsky, Ezeiza, Contrapunto, Buenos Aires, 1985. Available at ElOrtiba.
Campora resigned in July 1973, paving the way for new elections, this time with Peron's participation. Argentina had reached a peak of instability, and Peron was viewed by many as the country's only hope for prosperity and safety.
UCR leader Ricardo Balbin and Peron contemplated a Peronist-Radical joint government, but opposition in both parties made this impossible. Peron'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.
Peron's third term was marked by an escalating conflict between the Peronist left- and right-wing factions. This turmoil was fueled primarily by Peron's growing ties to conservative Radical Party leader Ricardo Balbin, who the opposition, led by Raul Alfonsin, considered a right-wing radical. The Montoneros became marginalized in the Peronist movement and were mocked by Peron himself after the Ezeiza massacre. In his speech to the governors on 2 August 1973, Peron openly criticized radical Argentine youth for a lack of political maturity. Shortly after Peron'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, Jose Lopez Rega, personal secretary of Juan Peron and then of Isabel Peron, began targeting left-wing opponents.
Peron died of a heart attack on July 1, 1974 recommending that his wife, Isabel, rely on Balbin for support. At the president's burial Balbin uttered a historic phrase, "This old adversary bids farewell to a friend".
Isabel Peron 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 Balbin no role in her new government, instead granting broad powers to Lopez Rega, who started a "dirty war" against political opponents.
Isabel Peron's term ended abruptly on March 24, 1976 by a military coup d'etat. 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 . Many of these were "the disappeared" (desaparecidos), people kidnapped and executed without trial or record.
Peron 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 Peron'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.
David Cox and Damian Nabot, La Segunda Muerte (Planeta 2007)
History of Argentina
Article on Peron's reburial
Guareschi, Roberto . "Not quite the Evita of Argentine legend". New Straits Times, p. 21.
Historia del Peronismo (seccion historia)
Benitez, Marcelo Manuel
Casahistoria pages on Peron Les Fearns site, also links to Eva Peron pages
Extracts (in English) from Juan Domingo Peron, Peronist Doctrine Edited by the Peronist Party. . Modern History Sourcebook
The Twenty Truths of the Peronist Movement (1940s) The Justicialist movements core tenets.
Juan Domingo Peron Argentine Presidential Messages Well indexed dating from 1946 onwards. The actual documents are shown as photocopied images. Note: Downloading can be slow! University of Texas.
Peron y el peronismo: un ensayo bibliografico by Mariano Ben Plotkin.
Hugo Gambini (1999). Historia del peronismo, Editorial Planeta. F2849 .G325 1999
Photo (1948) of Juana Sosa de Peron, Gral. Peron's mother, with his daughter, as Mrs. Sosa de Peron referred to the child. This paternity is currently disputed. Image is included in an article on Minister Carrillo.
Gabriele Casula (2004) "Dove nacio Peron? un enigma sardo nella storia dell'Argentina" http://www.editorisardi.it/catalogo/shopping/book_enlarge.php?id=2470 - http://www.condaghes.com/scheda.asp?id=88-7356-028-8
Gerchunoff, Pablo; Llach, Lucas (1998) "El ciclo de la ilusion y el desencanto: un siglo de politicas economicas argentinas", Buenos Aires, Ariel Sociedad Economica.
Weiss, Herold (2005). ''Paul's journey to the River Plate.In Cosgrove et al. (2005).
Cosgrove, Charles H. , Herold Weiss, & K.K. (Khiok-khing) Yeo (2005). Cross-cultural Paul: journeys to others, journeys to ourselves.'' Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 293 p. BS2506.3 .C67 2005, ISBN 0802828434
Tomas Eloy Martinez, 'La novela de Peron' (The Peron Novel), 'Memorias del General', (Memoirs of the General)'
Webpage of author Uki Goni with extensive documentation on Peron's involvement in harboring Nazi fugitives
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Juan Peron