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President Perón giving a speech

María Estela Martínez de Perón (born on February 4, 1931, in La Rioja, Argentina) better known as Isabel Martínez de Perón would become the third wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and serve as President of Argentina in her own right from 1 July 1974 to 24 March 1976.

She met her future husband during his exile in Panama. At the time Isabel was a nightclub dancer. Perón was attracted to her beauty and believed she could provide him with the female companionship he had been lacking since the death of his second wife, Evita.

Perón brought Isabel with him when he moved to Spain in 1960. Authorities in the strongly Roman Catholic nation did not approve of Perón's living arrangements with this young woman, so in 1961 the former president reluctantly got married for a third time.

As Perón began to return to an active role in Argentinian politics, Isabel would often be used as a go-between from Spain to South America. Having been deposed in a coup years prior Perón was forbidden from returning to Argentina, so his new wife would travel in his stead and report back to him when she returned.

It was also around this time that Isabel met José López Rega, an occult philosopher and fortune teller. Isabel was quite interested in such matters, so the two became fast friends. Under pressure from Isabel, Perón appointed López as his personal secretary.

In 1973 Perón was persuaded to return to Argentina and run for president. He agreed and, in a surprisingly uncontroversial move, chose Isabel as his running mate. Isabel had very little in the way of political experience or ambitions, and she was a very different personality from Evita, who had been denied the post of vice president years earlier.

Isabel as President

Perón died on July 1, 1974, less than a year after being elected. Isabel assumed the presidency and became the world's first female president.

By this time, José López Rega, who had been slowly consolidating his power over the years by controlling Isabel, emerged as the clear power behind the throne—a notion which greatly frightened the military. Isabel agreed to fire López, but the military concluded that with Argentina's prevailing climate of widespread strikes and political terrorism, a weak-willed and inexperienced woman would not be a suitable president.

On March 24, 1976, she was kidnapped and deposed in a bloodless coup. After remaining under house arrest for five years, she was sent into exile in Spain in 1981. She was not allowed to return to Argentina until the presidency of Raúl Alfonsín in 1983.

Preceded by:
Juan Domingo Perón
President of Argentina
Succeeded by:
Jorge Rafael Videla

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