Isabel Perón is a former Argentine politician and the first woman to serve as President of Argentina from July 1, 1974 to March 24, 1976, and Vice President from October 12, 1973 to July 1, 1974. On January 12, 2007, she was arrested and sent to exile.
Now 91, Argentina’s former president Isabel Perón holds the record for being the second woman to serve as president of a country.
The local press in Madrid, where Perón has lived for four decades, writes about her as having withdrawn from public life, living almost like a nun, avoiding contact with the world and, above all, living away from everything that represents politics. Isabel Perón was married between 1961 and 1974 to former Argentine President Juan Perón (b. 1895 – d. 1974).
Maria Estela Martinez Cartas – this is the name before marriage – was born in 1931, in La Rioja (a province located in the north of Spain), being the youngest of the family’s six children.
From a young age, she was very attracted to dance, and at the age of 20 she joined a dance troupe led by a Cuban artist, touring the nightclubs of Latin America and performing under the stage name Isabelita Gomez.
The secretary and then the president’s wife
Although the information is not confirmed, it is speculated that the one who would become her husband later, Juan Perón, the Argentine statesman, would have met in a famous cabaret in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1955, shortly after some time after Perón had been dismissed from his first term as president of Argentina. But other sources confirm that they met in Panama. What is certain is that after meeting the politician Perón, the young dancer gave up her career and nightclub tours, becoming Juan Perón’s personal secretary, accompanying him into exile in Madrid, where, in 1961, she -they got married.
Isabel was the third wife of the president, the predecessors, Aurelia “Potota” Tizon and Evita (considered the spiritual leader of the nation) being known for their involvement in the socio-political life of Argentina, promoting women’s suffrage and supporting the cause of the named Descamisados (the shirtless), the poorest of the poor.
Evita, who had died of cancer aged just 33, had been a figure respected and adored by Argentines. Very active in political life, Evita, through her popularity and support for her husband, helped Juan Perón become the president of Argentina. Even though he was democratically elected, Perón ruled as a dictator.
Isbael Perón realized that people would inevitably compare her to her predecessor, Evita, so shortly after becoming the president’s wife, she broadcast a televised message to her fellow citizens saying that all she wanted was to “keep doing in a humble manner” those “good deeds” “that Evita, unfortunately, could no longer do for the country”.
Although they lived in exile, Juan Perón being forbidden to come to Argentina, Isabel did the necessary offices, participating in various political meetings.
The luck or the bad luck of becoming a woman president
In 1973, the couple moved again to Argentina, Juan Perón submitting his candidacy for the position of president of the country for the second time, and Isabel for that of vice president. In the same year, the two win the elections taking over the mandate from October, but not long after, due to health problems reported by Perón, Isabel takes his place at the head of the country as interim president, until his death, on 1 July 1974, when she officially became the first woman in Latin America and the second in the world to hold the title of president.
Although she held the highest position in the state, Isabel Perón was completely inexperienced in political life, so she had become an easy pawn to be manipulated and manipulated by politicians in their quest for and seizure of power. He accepted as an adviser Lopez Rega, the Minister of Social Affairs, who pursued a policy of persecution of his opponents, the paramilitary group he led, the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance, becoming synonymous with terror when he was implicated in the killing and torture of thousands of people, following the repression against all left-wing sympathizers.
Arrested and exiled
Argentina had at that time entered a severe economic crisis, with several general strikes repeatedly paralyzing the country. In the midst of the chaos created, 632 days after Isabel became the country’s president, the Argentine army staged a coup d’état, sending her the message:
“Ma’am, the armed forces have taken political control of the country, you are under arrest.” On March 24, 1976, Isabel Perón was taken by helicopter from the terrace of the house where the official residence of the head of state was and transported to a luxury prison, a government castle in Patagonia, where she remained under house arrest for five years. In 1981 she was allowed to go to Spain, Isabel settling in Juan Perón’s former home in the heart of Madrid.
In 2007, an Argentine judge issued an arrest warrant for Isabela Perón on charges of human rights abuses committed by the armed forces during her presidency. Perón, who by then was a Spanish citizen, was briefly arrested. In 2008, however, Spain’s National Court refused the extradition request on the grounds that the charges did not constitute crimes against humanity and that the statute of limitations had long expired.