Argentine statesman and president (1946–55; 1973–74), who succeeded in winning the support of the working classes through his powers of oratory and programme of social reform.
Born in Lobos into a modest Creole family, Peron entered a military college in 1911 and in 1914 was commissioned as a lieutenant in an infantry regiment. He spent three years at the Argentine Staff College (1926–29) before being appointed professor of military history there in 1930. Six years later he became military attaché in Chile. During the late 1930s and early 1940s he visited Italy and Germany to familiarize himself with the practice of fascism.
Perón's rise to power began in 1943, when he took part in the coup organized by pro-fascist army officers. Appointed vice-president, minister of war, and secretary of labour in 1944, he was forced to resign all his posts and briefly imprisoned in 1945. The following year he was elected president. With the support and popularity of his second wife, Eva Perón, he secured re-election in 1951 but after her death in 1952, the faltering economy, military uprisings, (1953, 1955), and conflict with the Roman Catholic Church caused him to lose ground. In September 1955 a military coup forced him into exile. He finally settled in Spain (1960), where he remained until 1972, when he was allowed to return to Argentina. The Peróniste movement, which he created, provided support for him in exile, as well as in power, and enabled him to be re-elected president in 1973. However, he died in office the following year to be succeeded by his third wife, Isabel Perón (1930– ), who was deposed by the army in 1976.
As a pro-fascist president, Perón improved the lot of the working class by speeding up industrialization and introducing a programme of social reform, known as ‘justicialismo’. He also allowed his wife considerable influence in the departments of health and labour. Internationally, he antagonized Great Britain by nationalizing the British-owned railways and also made the unpopular decision of granting an American oil company a concession in Patagonia.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).