María Estela Martínez Cartas de Perón (born February 4, 1931), better known as Isabel Perón, is a former President of Argentina . She was also the third wife of another former President, Juan Perón. During her husband’s third term as president, Isabel served as vice president and following her husband’s death in office, Isabel served as president from July 1, 1974 to March 24, 1976. She was the first non-royal female head of state and head of government in the Western Hemisphere.
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María Estela Martínez Cartas was born in La Rioja into a lower middle-class family. She became a nightclub dancer in the early 1950s, adopting a variant of her saint’s name, Isabela, or Isabel, as her stage name,
Marriage and Beginning of Political Activism
She met her future husband Juan Perón while he was in exile in Panama. He was 35 years her senior. They married soon after in Spain in 1961, When he began a more active role in Argentine politics, Isabel acted as a go-between from Spain to South America since he was forbidden to enter Argentina after being deposed in a coup.
Rise to power
In the 1973 presidential elections, Perón’s Justicialist Party won allowing him to return to Argentina later that year. When he ran for president, after Camporo stood down in his favourm Perón chose Isabel as his running mate. Perón’s return from exile was marked by a growing rift between the right and left wings of the Peronist movement. Cámpora represented the left wing, while López Rega (an occult philosopher friend of Isabel’s)represented the right wing. Under López Rega’s influence, Juan and Isabel Perón favored the right wing.
Juan Perón died on July 1, 1974, less than a year after his third election to the presidency. Isabel assumed the office and became the first non-royal female head of state and head of government in the Western Hemisphere. Although initially popular due to public sympathy for her widowhood, her policies and relationship with Lopez Rega quickly estranged her from her public, Economic instability, state sanctioned murders of opponents to Isabel and Rega led to protests and riots and the latter’s exile in Spain in 1975,
The Argentinian economy went into free fall, reaching inflation of 35% by 1975. Budget deficits of US $5 billion put pressure on prices in November of that year, leading to hoarding and shortages of basic goods. She was formally arrested and deposed on March 23, 1976 by the army after months of violent reprisals and popular unrest. Democracy was suspended until 1984.
After remaining under house arrest for five years, she was sent into exile in Spain in 1981. She lived in Madrid, returning to Argentina only briefly, and kept a low profile.
She was arrested at her home in Madrid in 2007 after an Argentinian judge launched an investigation into alleged human rights abuses during her tumultuous rule in the 1970s. Spanish police acted on an international arrest warrant issued by the judge, Raul Acosta. Perón, was accused of having links to right wing death squads which abducted and murdered left wing activists during her 1974-76 rule.
Spain refused the request for her extradition in January 2008,
- The Guardian (2007), “Isabel Perón arrested over accusations of human rights abuses”
- Wikipedia, “Isabel Martínez de Perón”
- BBC, “1974: First female president for Argentina”