Who Was Juan Perón?
Trained as a military officer, Juan Perón rose to political power following a coup. His three-term presidency led to the reshaping of the Argentine economy along with restrictions on civil liberties. Perón died in Buenos Aires on July 1, 1974.
Juan Domingo Perón was born on October 8, 1895, in Lobos, Argentina. His family was of modest means. At the age of 16, the tall and athletic Perón entered military school. He trained as an officer, excelling in sports including fencing, skiing and boxing. His initial assignments were diplomatic. Perón served as an attaché to Chile and traveled to Italy to observe the development of the Fascist state in 1938-1940.
Rise to Power
Perón returned to Argentina in 1941, joining a secret group of military officers called the Grupo de Oficiales Unidos. In 1943, he participated in a GOU coup to overthrow the civilian government, taking on the post of secretary of labor and social welfare in the new regime.
Over the course of the next few years, Perón 's influence grew. He became a favorite of President Edelmiro J. Farrell, rising to the rank of minister of war and then vice president between the years of 1944 and 1945. Perón was popular among the military rank-and-file as well as the country's laborers, known as descamisados or "shirtless ones." A 1945 effort from within the military to quash Perón 's influence proved unsuccessful. Addressing tens of thousands of Argentines via radio broadcast, Perón consolidated and reinforced his power as a national leader. In 1946, he was elected president of Argentina.
Perón's administration charted a bold new economic path for the country. Preaching industrialization and government intervention, Perón promoted a "Third Way" that was neither capitalism nor communist. He also severely restricted existing constitutional liberties and rewrote the law to allow his reelection in 1951.
Perón's wife, Eva Duarte Perón, was a political partner as well as a spouse. The two married in 1945, just as Juan was preparing to run for the presidency. Eva Duarte, an actress before her marriage, was intelligent and glamorous. Known as "Evita," she made frequent public appearances in support of her husband's administration and the policies of his government. She died of cancer in Buenos Aires in 1952.
Exile and Death
In September 1955, Juan Perón was driven from office and into exile by a confederation of military leaders. He fled to Paraguay before settling in Madrid. He continued to exert enough political influence from abroad to help shape the Peronist movement that reclaimed the presidency in 1973. Perón returned to Argentina just after the March elections. In October, he won a special presidential election and installed his new wife as vice president.
Regaining power through alliances with labor groups, Perón tacked to the right once in office. He died on July 1, 1974, in Buenos Aires. His wife, Isabel, held onto the presidency until a military coup removed her from power on March 24, 1976.
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