(ARGENTINA – continued)

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Peron Takes Power

On February 24, 1944, a group within the military regime drove General Ramirez from office and elevated General Farrell from vice-president to the presidency. Perón was made minister of war and then vice-president. Argentina's new leadership watched as Germany was headed for defeat, and on 27 March 1945, with the fall of Germany imminent, they declared war on the Axis powers. Delegates to the United Nations in San Francisco had a heated debate on whether to admit Argentina to the United Nations, but did so in early May over opposition from the Soviet Union.

The victory of the Allies gave democracy added prestige in various parts of the world. Popular demonstrations erupted against the regime in power in Argentina, and the regime promised free elections. In  August, President Farrell lifted restrictions on liberty that had been in effect since 1941. Pent-up expressions of discontent erupted. In September, a protest rally drew the biggest crowd in the history of Buenos Aires – with blue collar workers not well represented. Students barricaded themselves in their universities and held off the police for ten days.

Perón, the former admirer of Musolini's regime in Italy and prominent in Argentina's military government, attracted attention by appointing a friend of Eva's as head of the department of Posts and Telegraph. He refused to backdown on the appointment, and officers who disliked Perón's influence – and, even more, Eva's influence – moved against him. President Farrell failed to back Perón, and Perón resigned. The labor unions and workers who looked upon Perón as a hero took to the streets and occupied the capital city, where they earned the label the shirtless ones – the descamisados.

The military regime backed down and brought Perón back into the government. Perón appeared stronger than ever. The regime announced elections for February 1946. Perón ran for president and won. His followers won two-thirds of the seats in Argentina's House of Representatives and all but two seats in the Senate. For the first time in Argentina's history, workers were now to occupy important government positions. And before taking office, Perón surrendered to respectability by marrying Eva.


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