Hands of Perón
Perón died in July 1974. His casket remained in the Quinta de Olivos presidential residence until the March 1976 coup. The coffin was then placed in the Perón family tomb in Chacarita Cemetery, located in the Chacarita ward of the city of Buenos Aires.
In July 1987, 13 years after his death, the Peronist Justicialist Party received an anonymous letter claiming Perón's hands had been removed from his tomb along with his army cap and sword; the letter demanded the party pay an US$8 million ransom for their return. When authorities checked Perón's tomb, they discovered that it had indeed been broken into and the hands and other items removed. Forensic experts who examined the body said the mutilation had occurred only a short time before the discovery. One source states that the tomb was broken into on June 23, 1987, and that a poem written to him by his last wife, Isabel, had also been removed from the tomb. At the time, some news reports stated that the hands had been removed with "a surgical instrument", but later reports state that the dismemberment had been done with an electric saw.
The head of the Justicialist Party, Vicente Saadi, refused to allow the ransom to be paid. A criminal investigation was begun under the leadership of judge Jaime Far Suau: although six men were arrested and five arraigned, none were charged in relation to the incident. No suspect has ever been charged, and the hands have never been recovered.
Many of those involved in the investigation of the disappearance of Perón's hands (including Judge Far Suau) have since died, some under circumstances considered questionable. There is evidence that the theft had some sort of official support, as the robbers used a key to enter the tomb.
Argentinian anthropologist Rosana Guber has written that Perón's hands were seen by Argentinians as a symbol of his power, and that their theft was not just a simple criminal matter but also had deep cultural meaning; she viewed the debate about the hands as symbolic of the attempt to promote democracy in the country. Lyman Johnson viewed the dismemberment as "a catalyst to destroy the symbolic cult of Perón". With Perón's hands gone, Lyman wrote, his body became less important and his importance as a religious figure also decreased in comparison to that of his second wife, Eva Perón.
In their book Second Death: Licio Gelli, The P2 Masonic Lodge and The Plot to Destroy Juan Peron, writers Damian Nabot and David Cox write that the Masonic lodge P2, also known as the Propaganda Due, were involved in the theft, and that there was a ritual involved in the cutting of Peron's hands.
- "Peron Hands: Police Find Trail Elusive." The New York Times, September 6, 1987. Accessed October 16, 2009.
- "Grave robbers cut off hands of Juan Peron". The Chicago Sun-Times, July 3, 1987.
- Johnson, Lyman L. Death, Dismemberment and Memory: Body Politics in Latin America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8263-3201-3. Pp. 251-253.
- "5 Arraigned in Theft of Juan Peron's Hands". The Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1987.
- Verdery, Katherine. The Political Lives of Dead Bodies: Reburial and Post-Socialist Change. New York, Columbia University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-231-11230-0.
- Nabot, Damian, and Cox, David. Second Death: Licio Gelli, The P2 Masonic Lodge and The Plot to Destroy Juan Peron Amazon, 2014.