Juan Peron


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Juan Domingo Peron (1895-1974) was an Argentine General and diplomat who was elected to serve as President of Argentina on three occasions (1946, 1951 and 1973). An extraordinarily skilled politician, he had millions of supporters even during his years of exile (1955-1973). His policies were mostly populist and tended to favor the working classes, who embraced him and made him without question the most influential Argentine politician of the 20th Century. Eva "Evita" Duarte de Peron, his second wife, was an important factor in his success and influence. Although he was born near Buenos Aires, Juan spent much of his youth in the harsh region of Patagonia with his family as his father tried his hand at various activities including ranching. At the age of 16 he entered the military academy and joined the army afterwards, deciding on the path of a career soldier. He served in the infantry branch of the services, as opposed to the cavalry, which was for children of wealthy families. He married his first wife, Aurelia Tizón, in 1929, but she died in 1937 of uterine cancer. By the late 1930's, Lieutenant Colonel Perón was an influential officer in the Argentine Army. Argentina did not go to war during Perón's lifetime: all of his promotions were during times of peace, and he owed his rise to his political skills as much as his military abilities. They married in October, 1945, after Evita led protests among Argentina’s working classes to free Perón from prison. During his time in office, Evita became an invaluable asset. Her empathy for and connection with Argentina’s poor and down trodden was unprecedented: on her death in 1952 the Pope received thousands of letters demanding her elevation to saint. She started important social programs for the poorest Argentines, promoted women's suffrage and personally handed out cash in the streets to the needy. Perón proved to be an able administrator during his first term. His goals were increased employment and economic growth, international sovereignty and social justice. He nationalized banks and railways, centralized the grain industry and raised worker wages. He put a time limit on daily hours worked and instituted a mandatory Sundays-off policy for most jobs. He paid off foreign debts and built many public works such as schools and hospitals. Internationally, he declared a “third way” between the Cold War powers and managed to have good diplomatic relations with both the United States and the Soviet Union. Perón proved to be an able administrator during his first term. His goals were increased employment and economic growth, international sovereignty and social justice. He nationalized banks and railways, centralized the grain industry and raised worker wages. He put a time limit on daily hours worked and instituted a mandatory Sundays-off policy for most jobs. He paid off foreign debts and built many public works such as schools and hospitals. Internationally, he declared a “third way” between the Cold War powers and managed to have good diplomatic relations with both the United States and the Soviet Union. Peron spent the next 18 years in exile, mainly in Venezuela and Spain. Despite the fact that the new government made any support of Perón illegal Perón maintained great influence over Argentine politics from exile, and candidates he supported frequently won elections. Many politicians came to see him, and he welcomed them all. Despite the fact that the new government made any support of Perón illegal Perón maintained great influence over Argentine politics from exile, and candidates he supported frequently won elections. Many politicians came to see him, and he welcomed them all. A skillful politician, he managed to convince both liberals and conservatives that he was their best choice and by 1973 millions were clamoring for him to return. It's impossible to overstate Perón's legacy in Argentina: in terms of impact, he's right up there with names like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. His brand of politics even has its own name: Peronism. Peronism survives today in Argentina as a legitimate political philosophy which incorporates nationalism, international political independence and a strong government. Cristina Kirchner, current President of Argentina, is a member of the Justicialist party, which is an offshoot of Peronism. Like every political leader, Perón had his ups and downs and left a mixed legacy. On the plus side, some of his accomplishments were impressive: he increased basic rights for workers, vastly improved the infrastructure and modernized the economy. He was a skillful politician who was on good terms with both the east and the west during the cold war. He was highly thought of by Jews, as he appointed several to important positions in his administration and had good relations with the nation's sizable Jewish community. Nevertheless, he allowed Nazi war criminals to find safe haven in Argentina after World War Two, making him surely one of the only people in the world who managed to stay on good terms with Jews and Nazis at the same time.



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