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Chile: Pinochet's widow Lucía Hiriart dies aged 99

Friday, December 17th 2021 - 09:00 UTC
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Doña Lucía was feared even by the dictator himself, according to reports Doña Lucía was feared even by the dictator himself, according to reports

Lucía Hiriart, the widow of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, has died at her home in Santiago at the age of 99, her family announced Thursday.

Hiriart had been long away from public life due to her age and health, after being the country's first lady during the “iron years” which have left over 3,000 people disappeared.

Her death seemed to have brought some sort of relief to many Chileans as honks began to be heard in some areas of Santiago and dozens of people crowded into Plaza Italia, the capital's roundabout that was the epicenter of the October 2019 protests.

Hiriart's death draws the spotlight back onto conservative presidential candidate José Antonio Kast, whose admiration for the former dictator has earned him enough votes to win the first round but it also seems to scare away the rest of the support he needs to overcome leftwing hopeful Gabriel Boric in next Sunday's runoff.

Hiriart is said to have had a strong influence in the military government of her husband (1973-1990). Born on December 10, 1922, into a left-wing family linked to the political and social elite of the Radical Party (which ruled Chile during the 1940s), Hiriart ended up becoming one of the symbols most recognized of the bloody civic-military dictatorship that terrorized the South American country. She is also remembered for her strong, dominant and capricious character who was said to be feared by the dictator himself. Ironically, Pinochet died on her birthday: December 10, 2006.

It was Hiriart who reportedly persuaded Pinochet to join the September 1973 coup which toppled President Salvador Allende, at a time when the general was not a part of the conspiracy still had Allende's support.

“There would be no Pinochet without Lucia Hiriart,” journalist Alejandra Matus told Efe. She wrote the unauthorized biography Doña Lucía.

Hiriart was also instrumental in Pinochet's military career. Her father had been a senator and Minister of the Interior under Juan Antonio Ríos in 1944. He is said to have played a role in Pinochet being promoted despite a rather modest academic and professional performance.

“In her psychology it was a kind of monarchy where she was the queen and Pinochet the king,” said Matus. Her Santiago mansion, paid for with public funds, shows who she really was.

From her marriage to Pinochet five children were born: Augusto Osvaldo, María Verónica, Inés Lucía, Jacqueline Marie and Marco Antonio.

Categories: Chile.

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