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LATIN AMERICA | 17-12-2021 02:31

Lucia Hiriart, widow of Chile's Pinochet, dead at 98

Lucia Hiriart, 98, widow of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, died on December 16 at the residence where she lived in the company of all her children and grandchildren.

Lucia Hiriart, the widow of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, died Thursday at the age of 98, her family said.

The former first lady was known for her domineering personality during Pinochet's iron-fisted rule from 1973 to 1990. During his dictatorship, at least 3,200 people were killed or disappeared, and some 38,000 were tortured. Pinochet died in 2006.

Some historians have even credited Hiriart with being one of the instigators of the military coup against socialist president Salvador Allende that brought her general husband to power. She was one of his closest personal and political advisors during the dictatorship that followed.

Hiriart's death was announced in a brief statement from her youngest son, Marco Antonio Pinochet.

There is a dispute over whether she was 98 or 99, but according to her birth certificate, of which AFP has a copy, she was in fact 98.

Earlier, as reports of her death spread, drivers honked their horns in celebration on the streets. People also gathered in Plaza de Italia in downtown Santiago to cheer the moment.

Hiriart had been in and out of Santiago's Military Hospital in recent months.

Her death came three days before a presidential run-off between leftist Gabriel Boric and far-right candidate Jose Antonio Kast, who defends the Pinochet regime.

Few profiles had good words to say about Pinochet's widow.

The Argentine journalist Juan Gasparini highlighted her taste for luxury and a collection of shoes to rival even that of Imelda Marcos, the wife of late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in his 2002 book Wives of Dictators.

The couple were married in 1943 and had five children – three daughters and two sons.

The cover of the book shows her putting on lipstick while sitting next to the general. Gasparini calls Hiriart "ambitious and proud of the crimes committed. Vain, capricious, arrogant and with a weak cultural level for her role as first lady."

Gasparini said that Hiriart repeatedly used her influence to "toughen the repression and human rights violations" that marked the Pinochet years. 

A fervent Roman Catholic, Hiriart liked to portray herself as a "simple housewife" and said that when Pinochet took power, the couple had only a modest house and a car.



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