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Pinochet’s formidable widow, who pushed him into coup, dies

Lucia Hiriart, the widow of Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, has died aged 99. She was as divisive a figure as her late husband due to the influence she had on his brutal policies.

Hiriart passed away “surrounded by family and loved ones,” her granddaughter said in a tweet on Friday. “She gave her life to the service of Chileans and history will know how to value her great work and her work for our beloved country. Rest in Peace.”

The daughter of a wealthy Chilean senator, Hiriart was in her late teens when she first met Pinochet, then a military school cadet. They married in 1943 and remained together until the controversial politician’s death in 2006. They had two sons and three daughters together.

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FILE PHOTO. Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet speaks to his followers on the night of September 11, 1980, while celebrating the results of a plebiscite that allowed him to draft a new constitution. © Getty Images / Horacio Villalobos
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Described by acquaintances as a formidable and strong-willed woman, Hiriart had significant influence on her husband. According to Pinochet’s own memoirs, she pushed him into staging the 1973 coup against the elected president, socialist Salvador Allende, wondering about the future their grandchildren would have if he didn’t act.

After her husband seized power, Hiriart played a prominent role by taking over CEMA Chile, a now-defunct foundation created in the 1950s for the empowerment of women. Critics say she turned the organization into a propaganda machine to support her husband and allegedly used it to fund her family’s personal expenses.

Months before democracy was restored in Chile in 1990, she changed CEMA’s rules so that it was headed not by the first lady of Chile – a position she was about to lose – but by the wife of the commander-in-chief of the army. Pinochet retained that office until 1998. Hiriart kept control of the foundation until 2016, when she resigned amid accusations of embezzlement.

Hiriart’s legacy proved to be as divisive as her husband’s. While some Chileans mourned her passing, others celebrated it in the streets. The reaction was likely amplified by the fact that the news came days before one of the most heated elections in the nation’s history. Sunday’s vote will be the second round between two candidates with opposing views on both Pinochet’s rule and the country’s future.

A woman holds a banner that reads “No more dictators, vote for Boric” during a demonstration after Lucia Hiriart passed away. ©REUTERS / Pablo Sanhueza

Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old leftist and former student leader, runs on the promise of continuing the push to rid the country of the neoliberal policies inherited from the times of dictatorship. In the past two years, Chile has seen mass protests that led to the abolition of its Pinochet-era constitution.

His opponent, 55-year-old ultra-conservative Jose Antonio Kast, has openly praised Pinochet’s policies, including the brutal persecution and killings of thousands of leftist dissidents he oversaw to stay in power. Opinion polls indicate a narrow race between the two candidates.

https://ift.tt/32bFTZm 17, 2021 at 04:18PM
from RT – Daily news

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