Lucia Hiriart, the wife of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, dies at the age of 99

Lucia Hiriart, the widow of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, died in Santiago de Chile at the age of 99. Hiriart, belonging to the Chilean upper class, married the dictator in 1943 and had five children. The woman was known for the influence she always exercised on her husband, starting with the 1973 coup against the elected government of President Salvador Allende.

Pinochet died in December 2006. Since her husband died, Lucia immersed herself in her private world and news of her was only known due to her constant health problems. When she was admitted to the hospital, there was false news about her death. But this Wednesday, the information of the woman who played an important role in the coup has been confirmed.

In his memoirs, Pinochet wrote that his wife pushed him to participate in the democratic breakdown of 1973 against Salvador Allende. “One night, my wife took me to the room where my grandchildren slept and told me: ‘They will be slaves because you have not been able to make a decision,” wrote the general in his memoirs, Road travelled.

Lucía Hiriart comes from a democratic and antimilitarist family that made up the political elite of the early 20th century. Daughter of a senator, at the age of 16, she met Pinochet, who was 23 at the time. He was a simple military man who was enchanted by the girl he married in 1943 and led the classic military life with their five children, three women and two men.

Of Basque-French descent, the first lady of the regime gave her personal view of what Chile should be through CEMA, a network of mothers’ centres where poor women were taught in different trades, for which a few years ago she was investigated by the Justice. The foundation had been created in 1954, but Hiriart took control from the beginning of the dictatorship, assuming the presidency.

Over the years, it became her own female army and her main tool to give her husband’s government a supposed character of moral fundamentalism. Shortly before the arrival of democracy, in 1990, the regime changed the statutes so that CEMA would remain in the hands of the wife of the Army Commander-in-Chief, the position that Pinochet assumed after leaving La Moneda. 

In 1996, new regulations helped CEMA remain in the hands of Hiriart even though her husband left the Army in 1998. After a lengthy investigation by the Justice, last September, the State Defense Council requested the dissolution and cancellation of the legal personality of CEMA after recovering an inheritance for the State of about 18,000,000 dollars.

Her last appearance in a mass event was on December 11, 2019, at a mass for the 13 years since the death of her husband. Hiriart, considered a key figure in the 17-year dictatorship, appeared publicly in the press on April 21 last year, when she signed an obituary in memory of the recently deceased former Pinochet minister, Sergio Onofre Jarpa. The small text ended with his signature: “Lucía Hiriart R., vda. of Pinochet and family ”.

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