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López Rega, José (1916–1989)

López Rega, José (1916–1989)

José López Rega, born October 17, 1916, entered the Argentine Federal Police as a corporal in mid-1940 and was later involved in Argentine politics; he served as private secretary to Juan Perón during his exile. He practiced a combination of spiritualism and esotericism and became spiritual adviser to Perón's second wife, Isabel (María Estela Martínez de Perón), after meeting her in 1965. A short time later he moved to Madrid, where he worked as bodyguard and later private secretary to Perón. Nicknamed El Brujo (The Wizard), he exercised a strong yet inconsistent influence on Perón. When the electoral ban on the Peronist Justicialist Party was lifted in 1973, he returned to Argentina. Following the election of Héctor Cámpora, López Rega served as minister of social welfare. In that position he organized the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance (Triple A), a far-right paramilitary group responsible for the assassination of numerous left-wing militants between 1973 and 1975.

In what became known as the Ezeiza Massacre, officers under the command of López Rega fired into the vast crowds assembled to welcome Perón back to Argentina in June 1973. Shooting at close range from the presidential box, they killed a number of young militants of the Peronist left. When Cámpora resigned from the presidency in July, Raúl Lastiri, López Rega's son-in-law, assumed the interim presidency. With the left out of the government, López Rega's influence increased. Following the September elections, Perón again assumed the presidency, with his wife, who remained under the strong influence of López Rega, as vice president. Isabel assumed the presidency following Perón's death in July 1974 and López Rega acquired enormous control over the cabinet.

The government granted broad repressive powers to the army and the Triple A increased its activities. By mid 1975, López Rega managed to get Celestino Rodrigo appointed as minister of economy. This dark character applied a brutal program of economic adjustment, the Rodrigazo. The powerful Peronist unions reacted strongly, forcing the resignations of López Rega and Rodrigo in July 1975, and then reached an agreement with businesses for wage increases that ultimately brought on massive inflation. Isabel appointed López Rega as special ambassador to Spain. After the military coup of March 1976, he remained a fugitive for ten years. In 1986 he was arrested and extradited to Argentina, where he died on June 9, 1989.

See alsoArgentina: The Twentieth Century; Argentina, Political Parties: Justicialist Party; Cámpora, Héctor José; Perón, Juan Domingo; Perón, María Estela Martínez de.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

De Riz, Liliana. La política en suspenso: 1966–1976. Buenos Aires: Paidós, 2000.

James, Daniel. Resistencia e integración: El peronismo y la clase trabajadora argentina, 1946–1976. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1990.

Torre, Juan Carlos. Los sindicatos en el gobierno. Buenos Aires: CEAL, 1983.

                                        Vicente Palermo

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