A dinner-party chez Perón would, no doubt, be a lively affair. Amongst his former compadres were communist guerrilla pin-up, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara; Alfredo Stroessner, ‘the dictator’s dictator’, who ruled Paraguay for 35 years; future socialist Chilean President, Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in a US-backed coup; Alberto Pinochet, Allende’s successor, and good friend of Margaret Thatcher; and that stalwart of Spanish fascism, General Franco.
Presumably, all of Evita’s charms would be needed to keep the conversation off football and politics. With too few women to allow the conventional boy-girl, boy-girl seating plan – same old stale, male, middle-aged dictators and revolutionaries, I hear you say – the place settings would probably be commie, fascist, socialist, Perónist, commie, fascist, socialist, Perónist etc.
Unsurprisingly, the achievements of Perónism are viewed with ambivalence. It is less a political movement than a cult. His followers include numerous democratically-elected presidents – such as another husband and wife dynasty, Nestor and Cristina Kirchner – suggesting his legacy is barely tarnished by his schizoid political dealings.
Perón died on the job in 1974. Three days of official state mourning followed. His funeral cortege drew a million. In 1987, his body was dug up by some of those unlikely to have lined the streets in tears. The hands of his corpse were hacked off in a ritualistic gesture designed to stop his soul finding eternal peace. The $8 million ransom was not paid and his hands remain at large. It is not for me to say what’s happening with his soul.
As my mother might say, he was a ‘bit of a character’.