SANTIAGO – The Chilean government is seeking restitution of public lands that were donated to a foundation chaired by the widow of dictator Augusto Pinochet, the minister of National Assets told EFE on Friday.
The 134 properties in question were transferred to the CEMA Chile foundation during Pinochet’s 1973-1990 rule for a social purpose that the foundation no longer serves, Victor Osorio said.
CEMA Chile was created in 1957 by President Carlos Ibañez del Campo with the aim of helping low-income women organize cooperatives to improve their economic situation.
He made his wife the head of the foundation, setting a precedent that was followed by subsequent administrations.
When Gen. Pinochet seized power in a September 1973 coup, his wife, Lucia Hiriart, took charge of CEMA Chile, changing the foundation’s statutes to allow her to remain in the post indefinitely.
Last month, Chilean media reported that Hiriart was enriching herself by selling and renting out public lands administered by CEMA.
“Currently the foundation is practically dismantled and we have received information that indicates that part of these properties has been sold,” Minister Osorio told EFE, adding that the number of parcels may be larger than 134.
The appraised value of the 43 properties that the ministry has been able to identify so far is 4.62 billion pesos ($6.5 million).
Osorio said he has asked government attorneys to study possible legal action to recover lands transferred to CEMA during the Pinochet dictatorship.