Lucía Hiriart, powerful wife of Chilean dictator, dies at 98

Lucía Hiriart, who as the wife of the Chilean dictator Auguste Pinochet would have had a strong influence on him, died Thursday in the ...


Lucía Hiriart, who as the wife of the Chilean dictator Auguste Pinochet would have had a strong influence on him, died Thursday in the district Lo Barnechea of ​​Santiago. She was 98 years old.

His death was announced by his son Marco Antonio Pinochet.

Ms Hiriart was one of the defining figures of 20th century Chile, but opinions about her were mixed. Her longevity and role in her husband’s diet led many to revile her as a sinister and macabre figure known simply as “the old woman”. Others argue that she was a distinguished philanthropist who dedicated her life to serving the Chilean people.

Her health had been kept a secret since her husband’s death in 2006, and her public appearances were rare.

Ms Hiriart is said to have wielded extraordinary power at the presidential palace, La Moneda, during her husband’s 17-year dictatorship.

She was allegedly involved in the dismissal of ministers, and General Pinochet admitted that she had urged him, while he was at the head of the armed forces, to participate in the 1973 coup that overthrew the president. Chilean socialist, Salvador Allende. .

“One evening my wife took me to the room where our grandchildren slept,” General Pinochet wrote of the day before the coup in a memoir, “Camino Recorrido, Memorias de un Soldado”. “She turned to me and said, ‘They will be slaves because you couldn’t make a decision.'”

Soon after, General Pinochet joined the attempted coup, which overthrew President Allende on September 11, 1973, in a rapid attack on La Moneda. He was installed at the head of the military junta, and his dictatorship ruled Chile until the country’s return to democracy in 1990.

When the four branches of the armed forces – the army, air force, navy and police – agreed to change direction after the coup, it was Ms.Hiriart who pushed her husband to become the first chief. of the junta. It’s a role he never gave up.

“La Moneda functioned more or less like a monarchy during the dictatorship, with Hiriart and Pinochet as queen and king,” Chilean journalist Alejandra Matus, author of “Doña Lucía”, an unauthorized biography of Ms. Hiriart, said in an interview. .

“Lucía Hiriart created ‘Pinochet the Dictator’,” Ms. Matus said, “because if she hadn’t conspired with him, he wouldn’t even have supported the coup.”

María Lucía Hiriart Rodríguez was born on December 10, 1923 in Antofagasta, a town on the arid north coast of Chile. She was the eldest daughter of Osvaldo Hiriart, an influential politician of Basque-French origin who would serve briefly as Chile’s interior minister in the 1940s, and Lucía Rodríguez.

The family then moved to the San Bernardo district, south of the capital, Santiago, where, in 1941, they met Augusto Pinochet, an army officer eight years his senior. Much to the chagrin of his family – he was from a lower social class – they married two years later.

Ms. Hiriart helped define a philanthropic role for herself as Chile’s first lady. But she also quickly developed a reputation for strong will and high standards.

She had more than 20 assistants at her disposal in quarters spanning the entire 17th floor of the Diego Portales building in Santiago, where the executive branch was initially based after the coup.

In 1981, it moved its offices to a La Moneda wing, above the press center.

She then ordered Italian marble to adorn the floors of the $ 14 million mansion built for the couple in the foothills of the Andes, overlooking the capital. The 5,000-square-meter house, complete with a swimming pool, tennis courts and an underground bunker, was never given to the couple; following a public outcry, it was handed over to the armed forces and used as an officers’ mess.

Ms. Hiriart has been accused on numerous occasions of tax evasion, embezzlement and embezzlement of public funds.

She took over the presidency of Centro de Madres Chile (CEMA Chile), a foundation representing the interests of Chilean mothers, which she supervised until 2016. While she and her husband resided in the south of England in the 1990s, the money was used to cover the general According to Chilean prosecutors, Pinochet’s living and health costs were allegedly diverted from the organization.

An investigation into CEMA Chile was closed in 2013 and no member of the Pinochet-Hiriart family was charged. When CEMA Chile ceased operations in 2019, it ceded 108 properties worth 7.6 billion pesos to the state.

Among several other corruption investigations, the Chilean tax administration brought tax evasion charges against Ms Hiriart and her five children in 2005 involving more than $ 21 million held in 125 accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington on behalf of the children of the couple and a variety of aliases.

Ms. Hiriart was never convicted in this or any other investigation.

Besides her son Marco Antonio, Ms. Hiriart’s survivors include four other children, Inés, Augusto, María Verónica and Jacqueline Marie; and many grandchildren.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Lucía Hiriart, powerful wife of Chilean dictator, dies at 98
Lucía Hiriart, powerful wife of Chilean dictator, dies at 98
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