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Domingo Antonio Raso was the proud bodyguard of General Juan Domingo Perón . In his department at Remedios de Escalada, Gran Buenos Aires, Raso treasures an incredible photo album that gave account of his work: guarding the most important Argentine popular leader of the 20th century, on his return to the country and power after 18 years of exile. A few years ago, Raso granted this note, generously opened his personal file, and decided to tell some details of his life, including the mysterious story of a failed attack on Peron . The last time I spoke to Raso, he told me he wanted this chronicle to be published in his own country, and he was very happy when I told him it was going to be in Selections. Unfortunately, she didn't get to see her. Thanks to the courtesy of her widow, Maria Magdalene Udrizard, and her desire to honor her husband's memory, a part of the photos of the invaluable personal album of Perón's bodyguard is reproduced here.
It's in all the photos from the 73 and 74 years, always next to Perón . It is not Isabel, the leader's wife, the vice president, who succeeded him in the first magistracy after his death. It's in all the pictures of those years, always next to Perón. Nor is José López Rega, his sinister private secretary and Minister of Social Welfare and the man who ran the no less sinister Triple A (paramilitary group of ultra-right). It is in all the photos of 73 and 74, always next to Perón, always in suit, always attentive, always armed: now he decided to show his albums and tell his story. “My work was simple,” he says. If someone wanted to shoot General Perón, I had to hit him first.” And he says, too, that someone actually wanted to shoot Perón in 1973. This is the first time I've heard this story: on the one hand it gives chills to think about the consequences that Perón's murder might have had; on the other it seems difficult to think that that time , in Argentina, could have had worse consequences than it had. But let's not rush yet.
Domingo Antonio Raso keeps the renegros whiskers, the military's voice, the knife, the revolver, the memories. He was lucky to have a curious hierarchical career: in the forties he guarded Perón's horses; then, his Minister of Defense, Franklin Lucero. In 51 he was in danger during the aborted uprising of General Benjamin Menéndez: some of his friends fell under those bullets; he did not. In the 55 came the coup d'état, the “Libertator Revolution” which meant the exile of Perón, the proscription of Peronism for 18 years, clandestine militancy. Raso participated in the conspiracy of 56 led by General Juan José Valle to return the government to Perón. He hid under a bed at the right time and saved himself from being shot.
In the '60s he tried again. This time the conspiring was General Iñíguez: once again the conato was disrupted, again Raso saved his life as a miracle. Over time, Perón rewarded loyalty to the cause: after all, Raso's was one of the last faces he saw when he embarked on the Paraguayan gunboat, after the coup of 55. After all, Raso's was one of the first faces he saw when he stepped on earth on his fleeting return to Argentina on November 17, 1972, and on his final return on June 20, 1973. There was no other person (besides Perón, of course) who was present at the port when Perón left and at the airport when he returned.
On September 19, 1955 we are at dock B of the Port of La Boca. Raso accompanies Lucero to fire the overthrown president.
Lucero almost fell into the water to say hello: we were all very nervous and very sad. Perón was dressed in a brown sport jacket, with the attitude of strong men who try to contain their sadness but can not. I saw him cry, with tears and everything, and he made everyone who was there cry. It was 17 years until I saw him again.
On November 17, 1972 I had to work, although I don't have much to say about that day. It was raining a lot and [José Ignacio] Rucci [leader of the General Confederation of Labour] covered it with an umbrella, which was slightly larger than conventional umbrellas —one of those umbrellas used for promotions, if I remember correctly, Coca Cola. I reached the umbrella to Rucci: it seems like a lie, such an insignificant gesture, when I tell people they look at me as amazed as you are looking at me now. But Perón spent one day at the same International Hotel in Ezeiza, then he will have spent a month in Gaspar Campos and returned shortly after to prepare his return. In January his wife Isabel returned and I started working with her. I didn't have a lot of political meetings yet: I accompanied her on her shopping outings, I took her to Pozzi to buy her wigs, that kind of thing... But you better be comfortable, Mr. Journalist, that I bring the albums.
A few weeks after the events of Ezeiza, in the house on Gaspar Campos street, an ambulance from the Ministry of Social Welfare appeared. They said they were doctors and they came to Perón because they had received a call telling them he was sick. One wore a beard, tall, skinny, black hair; the other, with very short hair, chubby, brown, both wore white overalls... At that time Perón's personal doctors were highly recognized professionals and were also political leaders: Dr. Jorge Taiana, Dr. Raúl Matera, Dr. Pedro Cossio... The supposed ambulance also had bullet holes. I'm not telling you it was a strainer, but it had four or five holes. That's why the visit caught my attention and I called him to the head of custody, Juan Esquer, who was chatting with the General at the time.
Esquer, come on, please...
- Is it very urgent?
“ Look, there's an ambulance at the door, with some bullet holes. There are two guys who claim to be doctors, who asked them to come and see the General because he was sick.
“ What will be sick, if he is here, working, rather... That custody be put together.
Custody was set up, police were warned through radio command, we called Lopez Rega to come and see if the ambulance was from his ministry. We had surrounded the ambulance, the guys had two briefcases. Lopez Rega said to them:
- Who are you?
—We're social welfare doctors — right to him, who was the Minister of Social Welfare...
“ Oh, yes, don't tell me, and what are you coming?
“ We came to see the General because they told us he was sick.”
We took out the briefcase and found revolvers, grenades... Inside the ambulance there were rifles. We handcuffed them with feet and hands. We called an armored man from the Buenos Aires Province police to take them away and I never knew what became of them again. Clearly they were coming with the intention of killing Perón. The fact transcended very little, like a rumor, because Perón himself did his best to not spread... He wanted to pacify and thought that at such a convulsive time in Argentina did not help to keep the calm that this episode was made public.
In the photo that Domingo does not want to lend me, General Perón poses with Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu and his wife Elena.
“No, sir, it looks ugly, don't you think? The General with that guy...
“ Well, Sunday, it's a historical fact, not...
“ No, sir, don't make the General look bad...
( Author's note: The first time this story was published in the Mexican magazine eMeequis, Raso was particularly gracious to reproduce this dialogue. He said, then, funny, if he behaves well, around next time I'll lend him the picture. That friendly commentary encouraged his current publication, without fear of contradicting his will).
When he was president, no longer at Gaspar Campos's house but in Quinta de Olivos, he would wake up at six in the morning, drink matte with light bulb or matte cooked with toast, smoked a Kent cigarette . (three per day: one at breakfast, one at lunch and one at dinner), and at seven and a half he was already in the Government House. He would return at the fifth or so at two in the afternoon, and slept a nap until four o'clock. Then he'd lock himself up in his office, where he worked until eight, half past eight in the evening. In the house he always walked with his robe-de-chambre, pyjamas, bedside pins and sometimes his traditional hat. He was not a great music lover, although he listened to Argentine folklore and opera records, and from time to time went to the Colón Theatre. He really liked cinema, especially cowboy movies, which he saw in the microcinema of Quinta de Olivos... It was to comment on the movies out loud, dead laughing: suppose that the sheriff was chasing the villain with his horse and Perón screamed: Watch out, che, they're going to catch you!... He was like a boy, don't you think?
Publication Date: 10/05/2021
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