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The 1940s in Argentina


Fitz roy hill in Argentina
Fitz roy hill in Argentina

During this period, army colonel Juan D. Perón emerged as the leading figure in Argentine politics. Perón achieved prominence as an instigator of the 1943 coup. He increased his influence by serving as secretary for labor and social welfare under Ramírez and by enlisting the support of organized labor. Perón found his main support among poor urban industrial and agricultural workers, popularly known as descamisados (Spanish for “shirtless ones”). He founded a new political movement later named the Justicialist Party, also known as the Peronist Party. Perón promised his supporters, known as Peronistas, that the Peronist Party could achieve social justice by rapidly improving living conditions. In 1944 and 1945 Peronism emerged as a powerful mass movement.

In October 1945 Perón married the former actress Eva Duarte. As first lady of Argentina, Eva Perón, known as Evita, managed labor relations and social services for her husband’s government until her death in 1952. Adored by the masses, which she manipulated with great skill, she became, as much as anyone, responsible for the enduring popular following of the Perón regime. Following his election as president in 1946, Perón put forth an ambitious five-year plan to expand the economy through industrial production and to increase government control over the national economy. His government built steel mills, textile mills, and other factories. It also nationalized the banking system and private companies such as the British-owned railroads and the U.S.-owned telephone company.

During its first two years, the plan appeared brilliantly successful as industrial output increased and wages climbed.

Problems emerged in 1948 when European countries began importing fewer Argentine products, and both industrial production and living standards stagnated. The Perón regime lost much of its initial popularity and resorted to force and threats to uphold its position. In 1949 Perón put through a new constitution permitting the president to succeed himself in office. When the Peronistas renominated Perón as the presidential candidate for 1952, the opposition parties and press grew increasingly critical of the government. The Perón government responded with legislation authorizing prison terms for people who showed “disrespect” for government leaders, as well as measures curbing the freedom of the press. Many opponents of the regime were jailed. In 1951 the government took over the newspaper La Prensa, a leading critic of the Perón government. The political parties that opposed Perón in the presidential elections faced growing restrictions. Unsurprisingly, Perón easily won reelection, and the Peronistas gained an overwhelming majority in the Chamber of Deputies. In 1953 the government inaugurated a second five-year economic plan emphasizing agricultural output as opposed to all-out industrialization. That year produced increased agricultural exports and the first favorable trade balance since 1950, but the economy suffered from severe inflation.

As political tensions grew, in 1954 Perón accused a group of Catholic priests of plotting against the government. In retaliation the government enacted several anticlerical measures, which included legalizing divorce and prostitution. The schism between the church and the Perón government steadily widened.

On June 16, 1955, opponents of the Perón government in the Argentine navy and air force launched a revolt in Buenos Aires that led to the bombing of the downtown area and killed many people. The army remained loyal, however, and the uprising collapsed. Tension continued to increase, and on September 16 insurgents in all three branches of the armed forces staged a rebellion. After several days of civil war and more casualties, Perón resigned. On September 20 the insurgent leader Major General Eduardo Lonardi took office as provisional president, promising to restore democratic government. Perón went into exile, first in Paraguay and later in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and finally Spain. "Argentina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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