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“Dangerous” Evita's Vanity and “Driving Force”

Saturday, January 6th 2001 - 20:00 UTC
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A British Government assessment of the personality and influence of Eva Peron at the height of her fame in Argentina, concealed in secret Foreign Office files for 50 years, has been widely publicised with the release of the documents by the United Kingdom Public Records Office.

The files give a highly unflattering view of General Juan Peron's wife, described by the Foreign Office as a "dangerous but very remarkable woman", who brought "the techniques of pantomime" to politics. She is described as "the driving force of all national activities" but portrayed as a vain and facile woman surrounded by cronies fawning upon her.

The assessment is based upon a report by the British Ambassador in Buenos Aires at the time, Sir John Balfour, who sat beside her at a lunch aboard the British-built liner "Eva Peron", at the end of her maiden voyage on May 27, 1950, attended by Argentine Cabinet members and senior military officers.

The Ambassador noted that the main adornment of the liner's lounge was a "full-length theatrically painted portrait of the senora in a golden décolleté evening dress. Her admirers having drawn attention to this garish picture ,she and the President gazed upon it with admiration".

Sir John Balfour remarked : "It was not easy to carry on sustained talk with the senora.... not only because other guests came up to greet her but because every time she made a remark to me which pleased her, she was apt to repeat it either to the President or to the Vice President". Senora Peron had "a fatal preoccupation with the adulation of adherence, the tongue of flatterers and the plaudits of the populist and, while she presented herself as ?merely the handmaiden' to her husband, she was in fact the driving force of all national activities in the country".

"Projection of Pantomime into Politics"

The Ambassador said to her: "You must find your position of responsibility a great burden", to which she replied with an air of unfeigned surprise: "Responsibility, but I am nothing. I am only the lowest kitchen maid. I am the one who peels the potatoes for the chef -- is n't that true?" she asked Peron. The ambassador's letter spoke of her less attractive features, including prodigal expenditure, demagogic propaganda and haphazard granting of favours, and "above all, the projection on to the stage of national politics the technique of the vaudeville - not to say pantomime - by a woman who, until meeting Peron, had no knowledge of public life other than that vouchsafed to

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