BUENOS AIRES -- Ill with a bronchial infection reportedly affecting his heart, Juan D. Peron Saturday turned the government of Argentina over to his vice president and wife, Maria Estela.
"Carrying out his wish, I have assumed on this date the presidency of the nation," the 43-year-old Mrs. Peron, a former cabaret dancer and Peron's third wife, announced on nationwide radio and television.
Statements of support for Mrs. Peron's assumption of the presidency came from all three branches of the military, the heads of all party blocs in the Chamber of Deputies, the General Labor Confederation and the "62 Organizations" the labor arm of Peron's political movement.
Peron, 78, the strongman of the 1940s and 1950s who returned to power in a sweeping electoral victory last year after 18 years in exile, has been confined to his home since June 17 with a bronchial infection doctors said had "repercussions on his old central circulatory problem."
This was taken as meaning his heart had been affected.
Mrs. Peron was elected vice president when Peron won the presidency in a landslide victory in 1973.
Her assumption of power evoked the memory of Peron's charismatic second wife, Eva, who in effect ruled Argentina with him for nearly a decade before his exile in the 1950s.
Little is known about Mrs. Peron's early years except that she was born on Feb. 4, 1931, in the impoverished Argentine province of La Rioja, where her father was a banker.
Mrs. Peron met the Argentine leader in 1956 when he was living in exile in Panama. She was then a 25-year-old cabaret dancer known as Isabel Martinez.
Her marriage to Peron in 1950 was kept secret for several years for fear that followers of Eva, who died in 1952, would not accept someone else in her place.
As vice president, Mrs. Peron took on a full load of official chores sitting in on cabinet meetings, talking to political delegations and representing the government at public ceremonies.
Peron also sent her on an official visit to Spain and Italy and she was received by the Pope