(ARGENTINA – continued)

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Peron's Fall, 1953-55

Perón lost some of his appeal following his wife's death. He labored on, labeling his rule Justicia, which was supposed to be a philosophy of balance between individualism and collectivism and between "idealism" and materialism. Perón launched a mild austerity program, which was not well accepted among workers who during previous years had acquired rising expectations.

In January 1953, Perón launched his second five-year plan. The plan emphasized increased agricultural output instead of the all-out industrialization goal of his first five-year plan. Argentina's industrialists were not receiving the funds they wanted for expansion of their industries, and Perón was looking for more investment with which to expand the economy. In April, Milton Eisenhower, the brother of the new US President, Dwight Eisenhower, visited Perón, and Perón started to encourage cooperation with the United States and to encourage foreign investment. During 1953, Argentina concluded important economic and trade agreements with several countries, including Great Britain, the Soviet Union and Chile. Foreign commercial transactions in 1953 produced the first favorable balance of trade since 1950.

Much was still being spent on the importation of goods needed for a modern industry and for affluent living. Inflation continued. Wages and prices remained frozen, and Perón continued to lose support. More damage to Perón's reputation came with his attempt to rally youth to his side by his support of sports clubs. One club of girls met at his residence, where they learned fencing, swimming and riding motorbikes. With the girls Perón behaved with utmost propriety, except toward a fourteen year-old, Nelly Rivas. She began helping around the house with chores, then staying overnight, and eventually she moved in with him. It was a scandal, with rumors floating around about orgies. The sight of Perón riding down the avenue on a motor bike with a flock of teenage girls behind him on their motorbikes did not help. Perón's image never recovered.

In July 1954 a group of Catholics founded a rival political party. Then Catholics started organizing their own labor union. Perón felt threatened and began making verbal attacks against the priesthood. He accused priests of meddling in politics. He threw some priests in jail, closed Catholic papers and prohibited religious processions. His followers chanted "priests no, Perón yes." Hoping for support from liberals, he had Congress legalize divorce and remove religious instruction from the schools. He granted legitimacy to children born out of wedlock, and he had prostitution legalized. The Church incited mass demonstrations against Perón. The question was asked, "Is it Christ or Perón?" Congress expelled two Argentine priests to Italy, and on June 16, 1955, the Vatican excommunicated those responsible for the expulsion, without naming anyone specifically. On that same day, the Navy and Air Force launched a coup, and airplanes bombed Perón's primary residence. Perón survived, but 350 civilians died in the assault.

The Army was opposed to a takeover by the Navy and Airforce and suppressed the coup. Perón's supporters sacked the grand cathedral in Buenos Aires. They destroyed the headquarters of the archdiocese and burned several Catholic churches. Perón denounced these acts and reshuffled his cabinet. In September, a delegation from labor unions offered to provide Perón with the armed workers' militias – as Evita had planned. The Army's leaders did not want another rival military force. They were fed up with Perón. And in September the armed forces fought each other again, for three days. Four thousand died. Perón took refuge in the Paraguayan embassy where he wrote a goodbye letter to Nelly Rivas, signed Daddy – the letter never reached her. Then Perón went into exile, first to Paraguay and then to Venezuela. Anti-Perón mobs broke into Perón's several homes, where they found what they believed was too much luxury.


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