After 30 years, reburial of Peron stirs violent protests

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The Independent US

Argentina's most influential president, Juan Domingo Peron, was finally laid to rest in a mausoleum at his former weekend retreat outside Buenos Aires, but a day planned as a final national tribute to an iconic leader descended into chaos amid violent protests.

Groups of men ­ some wearing shirts from the labour movements Peron championed ­ hurled rocks and sticks into the estate, where emotional supporters had already gathered, and one man fired several shots from a revolver.

More than 40 people were reported injured, and riot police with helmets and shields were deployed to restore calm. The funeral cortège, carrying Peron's coffin draped in Argentina's blue and white flag and strewn with red and white flowers, was briefly forced to halt its 30-mile journey. President Nestor Kirchner cancelled plans to preside over yesterday's ceremony.

Even after the coffin arrived and the tributes began, disturbances flared again outside. Amid a disorganised scrum and with none of the dignity Peron's supporters had hoped for, the coffin was finally laid to rest behind bulletproof glass, overlooked by a eucalyptus tree.

It was one last indignity for the strongman army general, elected president three times between 1946 and his death in 1974. His hands were hacked off by vandals who broke into his family crypt in the Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires 1987 and earlier this month, his coffin was opened for forensic experts to extract DNA samples for a posthumous paternity suit.

The populist policies Peron championed with his glamorous wife, Evita, empowered Argentina's working class and left a lasting imprint on the nation's politics.

Peron had Evita embalmed after her death in 1952 from cancer aged 33. After a military coup three years later, her body was bundled out of the country, first to Italy, then Spain and finally back to Argentina in 1974. Her body is now in the ritzy Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, though Peron's supporters want her moved to the mausoleum where a space is waiting for her.

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