That Juan Peron was a fascist is debatable; that his policies were damaging to Argentina’s economy is not. Therefore, the decision to honor his wife on the country’s largest banknote may be surprising to observers, especially given recent inflation, and concerns about a stagnating economy.
Sitting Argentine President Cristina Fernandez’s policies have been described as a “Peronist” due to their similarities with the policies of Argentinian dictator Juan Perón, who’s oppressive policies included nationalizing industries and services, heavy handed regulation of the economy, and protectionism.
Despite the destructive legacy of Peronism in Argentina, he remains a popular icon for leftists in the country, and President Cristina Fernandez recently spent time unveiling a revamped 100 peso banknote, which replaces Julio Argentino Roca, with an image of Eva Duarte de Perón, the wife of Juan Perón.
Alejo Julio Argentino Roca Paz was appointed Minister of War in 1877, and was tasked with quelling raids by natives against settlements on Argentina’s frontier. He would also serve as President from October 12, 1880 to October 11, 1886, and again from 12 October 1898 to 1904.
María Eva Duarte de Perón married Juan Perón in 1945, and Juan would be elected President of Argentina the following year.
Eva would run the Ministries of Labor and Health in her husband Perón’s government, and was a powerful leader for unions in the country. Ironically, her husband’s own policies would suffocate, and constrict the economy for the working class.
Starting in 1945, the 10 year administration of Juan Perón began nationalizing industries and services which were previously run by private interests. The government took center stage, and controlled the previously natural impulses of the economy. Rampant inflation followed these fascist policies. Growth from the 1960s was undercut by the corrupt and disorganized economic policies during the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. In 2002, Argentina defaulted on its debt; no longer able to make interest payments.
Today, the economic situation is foggy at best, and there is considerable concern for personal liberties as well.
In replacing an important historic figure with a relatively contemporary political figure representing the political far left of Argentina, it would be difficult to view the decision as anything other than a political calculation by President Christina Fernandez to shore up populist sentiment, as her own restrictions, controls, and nationalizations have damaged her own popularity have left Argentina’s economy increasingly stagnant.