[News] Chilean Victor Jara's Family Files Suit in U.S. Over His Torture and Death in ’73

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 6 12:49:58 EDT 2013

September 5, 2013

  Chilean’s Family Files Suit in U.S. Over His Torture and Death in ’73


SANTIAGO, Chile — A former Chilean Army officer charged with murdering 
Víctor Jara, a popular folk singer, shortly after the 1973 military coup 
has been sued in a Florida court under federal laws allowing legal 
action against human rights violators living in the United States.

Mr. Jara, then 40, was a member of the Communist Party and an 
accomplished theater director and songwriter whose songs of poverty and 
injustice remain vastly popular. He was arrested with hundreds of 
students and employees at the Santiago Technical University, where he 
was a professor, a day after the Sept. 11 coup that ushered in 17 years 
of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The detainees were taken to Chile Stadium, used to hold thousands of 
prisoners. There, Mr. Jara was singled out with a few others, beaten, 
tortured and shot. His body, with 44 bullet wounds, was found dumped 
outside a cemetery with four other victims. The arena was later renamed 
Víctor Jara Stadium.

The lawsuit against the former officer accused of his murder, Pedro 
Pablo Barrientos, comes as Chileans take part in a number of cathartic, 
emotionally charged events leading up to the 40th anniversary of the coup.

It was filed Wednesday by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and 
Accountability <http://www.cja.org/> in a Jacksonville district court on 
behalf of Mr. Jara’s widow and daughters under the Alien Tort Statute 
and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. Mr. Barrientos, 64, moved 
to the United States in 1989 and became an American citizen. He lives in 
Deltona, Fla., southwest of Daytona Beach.

Last December, a Chilean judge charged 
Mr. Barrientos and another officer, Hugo Sánchez, with committing the 
murder. Six other officers were charged as accomplices.

“Although ideally justice should be achieved in the home country, 
international justice efforts are at the service of the victims and by 
pursuing them, we can support and invigorate justice at home,” said 
Almudena Bernabeu, a lawyer for the center.

Mr. Barrientos was found in Deltona last year by a Chilean television 
crew and denied having ever been in the stadium. But a dozen soldiers 
from his regiment have testified that he was in charge of the companies 
sent there. One of the soldiers, José Paredes, said in legal testimony 
that he had witnessed Mr. Barrientos and other officers beat and torture 
Mr. Jara and other prisoners.

“After that, Lieutenant Barrientos decided to play Russian roulette, so 
he took out his gun, approached Víctor Jara, who was standing with his 
hands handcuffed behind his back, spun the cylinder, put it against the 
back of his neck and fired,” Mr. Paredes stated. The gun went off and 
Mr. Jara “fell to the ground,” he added. The other officers fired as 
well, he said.

Although the Chilean Supreme Court authorized the judge’s request to 
extradite Mr. Barrientos from the United States in January, the Chilean 
government has not sent the extradition request to American officials. 
The 543-page legal file is still being translated, according to the 
Foreign Ministry.

After Mr. Jara’s death, his wife, Joan Jara, a British-born dancer who 
moved to Chile in 1954, left the country with her two young daughters. 
She returned 11 years later and has dedicated the past 40 years to 
“rescuing Víctor from being merely a victim.”

Since she first filed a criminal lawsuit in Santiago in 1978, the case 
has been handled by half a dozen judges; it was closed and later 
reopened; Mr. Jara’s remains were exhumed for forensic analysis and 
reburied in 2009; and the details about his killing have been coaxed out 
of witnesses drop by drop.

“All of the information that has been dug out about the officers who 
were in the stadium has been discovered without the help of the army,” 
she said.

The legal action against Mr. Barrientos seeks damages for torture; 
extrajudicial killing; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; crimes 
against humanity; and arbitrary detention. The plaintiffs are requesting 
trial by jury. The ultimate goal, Ms. Jara said, was not monetary 
compensation, but to use the only available legal tool in the United 
States to hold Mr. Barrientos accountable. Mr. Barrientos could not be 
reached for comment.

“There’s no money that can cure the damage that has been suffered,” she 
said in a recent interview. “I’ve had two lives: one before and one 
after 1973.”

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