Juan Peron

Demagogue , Do-gooder, or Dictator?


Peron was born into a middle class family in 1895, and built his career in the military. During WWII, he was leader of a group of colonels who seized power of the Argentine government in 1943. Peron requested that he be put as the secretary of labor and social welfare into the new cabinet. A few years later he also took on the job as vice president and minister of war. When social freedoms were returned in 1945, his enemies took this opportunity to imprison him. Eva Duarte, his future wife and a woman who was beloved by the people, rallied the public to protest against his imprisonment. When he was released, he gave a speech promising that he would bring them to victory if he became the next president. The subsequent election, his party won by narrow victory. Peron removed and sometimes jailed political opponents from their positions in government, courts, and schools. He also restricted constitutional liberties such as free speech, controlled the press, and closed liberal newspapers. But Peron's reign was not all bad. He gave the working class more rights (such as paid vacations, better working conditions, higher wages), made social security more available, healthcare for everyone, giving women the right to vote. In Peron's second term he tried to separate the church and state, and was met with controversy, then followed by excommunication by the church. This, combined with the death of the beloved Eva, Peron lost the faith and popularity of the people and was overthrown by a military coup. Following in the years of his absence, the problems with Argentina's economy were not fixed. As time went on, the Peronist party became the most powerful political force, and Peron returned in June of 1973 and elected president in October. Economic troubles continued in his second term, and the Arab oil embargo and a breakout of foot-and-mouth disease made things worse. Peron died in July 1974. His third wife, Isabel, was left as president. She was also overthrown by a military coup, leaving Argentina vulnerable were a right-wing military junta brutally ruled until 1982.

Eva's influence

Eva Duarte was born in May 1919, and at the age of fifteen she moved to he capital to pursue a career as a stage, radio, and film actress. She continued as a popular radio actress until she met Juan in 1944, and became his second wife in 1945. She helped Peron gain popularity. The public referred to her as Evita, which is her affectionate Spanish diminutive name. She appealed to the large blue-collar populace by making promises and taking interest in this mistreated class. The soon became one of Peron's main power bases. When Peron ran for president in his first term, she stood beside him as his active campaigner. When he ran for his second term, she stepped in as vice president. She died during Peron's second term in 1952 from cancer.

Peron Poem

1946 to 1952

Peron came into office with many things to do

With Evita as his bride,

And her by his side

They tackled Argentina's problems with great strides

The presidency has been won

But the changes have just begun.

To reform and refine

With the blue-collars in mind

They left their old ways behind

A few improvements that were sure to ensue:

Education, medical care, worker's rights make their debut

Woman suffrage comes to light

The debt with Britain is fixed and right

Modernization reaches new heights

Good things follow, as was promised

But not all things in life are flawless

The good changes did not stay

And to the public's dismay

Poor Evita, the cancer did slay..

Essential Question

Does Peron have a positive or negative impact on Argentina? Why or why not?