In 1943, as an army officer, he joined a military coup against Argentina’s ineffectual civilian government. Appointed secretary of labor, his influence grew and in 1944 he also became vice president and minister of war. In October 1945, Perón was ousted from his positions by a coup of constitutionally minded civilians and officers and imprisoned, but appeals from workers and his charismatic mistress, Eva Duarte, soon forced his release. The night of his release, October 17, he addressed a crowd of some 300,000 people from the balcony of the presidential palace, and promised to lead the people to victory in the coming presidential election. Four days later, Perón, a widower, married Eva Duarte, or “Evita,” as she became affectionately known.
As president, Perón constructed an impressive populist alliance, and his vision of self-sufficiency for Argentina won him wide support. However, he also became increasingly authoritarian, jailing political opponents and restricting freedom of the press. In 1952, his greatest political resource, Evita, died, and support for him dissolved. Three years later, he was ousted in a military coup. In 1973, after 18 years of exile, he returned to Argentina and won the presidency again. His third wife, Isabel de Martinez Perón, was elected as vice president and in 1974 succeeded him upon his death.