Juan Domingo Perón was elected Argentine president in 1946 and 1952. He was overthrown in 1955 by a military coup. Perón barely escaped with his life and found temporary refuge in Latin American countries (Paraguay, Venezuela, Panamá) where there were attempts on his life arranged by the military junta installed in Buenos Aires. He was then granted residence in Spain (Generalissimo Francisco Franco had received Perón's support after World War II, when Spain was internationally isolated) and settled in Puerta de Hierro, a secluded enclave on the western edge of Madrid.
The last years of Peron's government were oppressive and corrupt, and many Argentines (including the leaders of most political parties, the moneyed classes, many intellectuals and the Catholic Church) supported the coup. In the coming years Peron's followers were harshly repressed (firing squads included), many of his reform were rolled back and the Peronist party was not allowed to participate in elections even with another candidate. The mere mention of the word "Perón" in public was illegal for a time, and could land you in jail.
The incompetence/malevolence/corruption of the governments that succeeded Perón (both "democratic" and military) gradually returned him some of his luster, and his achievements began to be remembered: workers' rights flourished in his regime, and there were initiatives to develop Argentine industry, to recover resources in the hands of foreign concerns (for instance the railway system, owned by the British) and to facilitate direct commerce and collaboration among Latin American countries, where divide/and/rule was successfully practiced first by the British and then by the Americans.
By 1969 Argentina slid into increasing anarchy; there were numerous guerrilla actions, some of them by the Montoneros and the Juventud Peronista (the Peronist left) and brutal counteractions by the military and the police. Many Argentines (among them the the politicians that applauded Perón's ouster) began to realize that there could be no solution to Argentina's problems until Perón was allowed to return and participate in elections. That happened in 1973, and Perón won by a large margin at the helm of his party, assuming the presidency on October 1973. He was enthusiastically supported by the Peronist left that imagined (wrongly) that Perón could be coaxed in the direction of socialism.
Perón's return was an unqualified disaster. His entourage included characters from unsavory to sinister like José López Rega, founder of the AAA = Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, a death squad that soon began targeting not only the left but moderate opposition. Peron envisaged for his third wife Isabel Martínez a role similar to that of his second, Eva Perón, "Evita", but Evita was a tough act to follow. Moreover, Perón was clearly not in control even of his own party, by then including discordant elements from extreme left to extreme right. In a notorious public speech on May 1974 Perón disowned and condemned his party's left. The consequence (intended or not) was to give a green light to the AAA, the police and the intelligence services to hunt down the Montoneros and other leftist organizations. After Perón's death on July 1, 1974, and especially after the military takeover in 1976 the Dirty War began in earnest; it targeted every kind of leftist or progressive, real or suspected, lasted until 1981 and cost thousands of dead and disappeared.
This movie centers on Perón' time in Puerta de Hierro, where he gradually became the arbiter in absentia of Argentine politics. There are not many historical details; the main subject is Perón's legendary charisma. He received hundreds of visitors in Puerta de Hierro, many of them former opponents, and managed to convince each one of his/her unique importance in the coming Peronist coalition that would take power on his return to Argentina. That these visitors' ideologies ranged from extreme left to extreme right did not seem to worry him.
Victor Laplace is a very popular Argentine actor; his career started in 1971 and includes more than eighty films, many of them of quality. His interpretation of Perón is flawless; he captures all nuances of his folksy charisma, further aided by his uncanny physical resemblance to the original. Laplace is also credited as director (with Dieguillo Fernández) and writer (with Leonel D'Agostino). The film is well worth watching; it moves the story forward steadily and interest never lags. Of course you will enjoy it more if you are acquainted with recent Argentine history.
Laplace has played Perón with equal success in the excellent movie Eva Perón: The True Story directed by Juan Carlos Desanzo (1996).
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