- kewal sethi
in 1945, juan peron, vice president in the army ruled argentina, attempted to usurp absolute power for himself. he was placed under arrest by his fellow army officers.
eva duarte, his sweathart, an actress and radio announcer, called upon the workers, known as descamisdos (the shirtless ones) to rally in his support. on october 17, 1945, hundreds of thousands responded. they jammed the streets of buenos aires. worried army officers freed him and promised new elections. five days later, juan peron married eva duarte.
shortly afterwards, argentina had something new under the sun - a husband wife duo dictatorship.
eva duarte was born to juana ibaguven in 1919, one of her four children. her father was juan duarte (whom juana never married as he had a wife). juan duarte died in an accident in 1926 and his wife disowned juana and her children. shifting to a small town junin. her mother worked as seamstress, and took in boarders. a sister became a teacher. at age 15, eva moved to buenos aires and became a small time actress. working with theatre companies, she landed her first film in 1937. she also got a job as radio announcer. in 1939, she started her own company.
argentina was controlled by landed pampas ranchers. in 1930, the military coup removed elected but unpopular president. juan peron was an officer in the army but backed wrong side. he was first posted in a teaching assignment and later posted to italy where he grew to admire mussolini and his nationalism. meanwhile the military ran the country under a puppet president. in 1943, another coup removed him whereupon juan peron became secretary, labour and social welfare. this period 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. following a 1944 earthquake, he was in charge of relief work and became a success in fund raising for relief. he was promoted as vice president but alarmed by his bid to assume total power, he was imprisoned.
following his release, he made his bid for preidentship. braden, united states ambassador published a paper calling juan a fascist and urging people to vote against him. the elections quickly turned into braden vs. juan contest. alarmed by yankee peril, he was voted in. his two stated goals were social justice and economic independence. eva perón used her position as first lady to fight for causes she believed in, including women's suffrage and improving the lives of the poor. she also unofficially ran the ministries of health and labor in her husband's government.
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, arranged 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 the "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.
she declined to run as vice president in 1951 probably because of her health problems and died in 1952. eva became a legendary figure in argentine politics. a skilled speaker, she was adored by the poor citizens she worked hard to help.
(juan peron served as president till 1955 wherein he introduced numerous labour reforms. he nationalized the central bank and the railways , merchant marine, universities, public utilities, public transport 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. the institute wrested control of argentina's famed grain export sector from entrenched conglomerates, its profits 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 (subsequently incorporated into the 1949 constitution) while social security was extended to virtually all members of the argentine working class.
nevertheless the disgruntled elements continued to plot against peron which led to fierce represals by the peron supporters. legalisation of divorce and prostitution led to catholic opposition and a papal council (but not the pope) condemned the action. at a rally against the edict, a navy aeroplane bombed the rally killing 364 persons. a coup shortly afterwards removed peron who barely escaped with his life. he lived in exile from 1955 to 1973.
though exiled, peron continued to engage with politicians in agrentina. combining the support from the far right and far left, he returned to argentina after his supporter won the election and in 1973 was elected president with his wife isabel as vice president. the period was turbulent with reconciliation between opposing factions proving difficult. juan peron died in 1974 and his wife isabel succeeded him before she was removed in a military coup in 1976.)