SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A judge has charged 10 former soldiers in the killing of internationally renowned Chilean folk singer and political activist Victor Jara, who was tortured and shot to death just days after the country’s 1973 coup.
The charges announced late Wednesday by Judge Miguel Vazquez include homicide and kidnapping in the slaying of Jara and former military police head Littre Quiroga Carvajal.
Jara was a popular songwriter, theater director and university professor at the time of the coup on Sept. 11, 1973. He also was a member of the Communist Party, and many believe he could have served as a powerful voice against the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
A key leader of the New Chilean Song movement, Jara was familiar to young people worldwide in the late 1960s and early 1970s for songs including “Te Recuerdo Amanda,” or “I’ll Remember You Amanda,” and “Manifiesto.”
But he was dragged down to the basement of an indoor stadium in Santiago that had been converted into a detention and torture center where some 5,000 supporters of socialist President Salvador Allende were being held. Jara was tortured before he was shot 44 times on Sept. 16 as a warning to those who challenged Pinochet’s authority.
Local residents later found the bodies of Jara and Quiroga Carvajal, who was shot 23 times, in a vacant lot near Santiago’s Metropolitan Cemetery, according to court documents.
Jara was eulogized by American folk singer Arlo Guthrie, who wrote the music for a poem about the late performer. At a 2013 concert in the Chilean capital of Santiago, Bruce Springsteen remembered him by performing his signature song “Manifiesto.”
Jara’s family filed a civil lawsuit in 2013 accusing former Carmy Lt. Pedro Barrientos Nunez of ordering soldiers to torture Jara. He is not among the 10 people charged by the judge.
The lawsuit was filed in a U.S. court in Florida, invoking rarely used U.S. laws that address human rights violations committed elsewhere.
It says Barrientos personally fired the fatal shot in the back of Jara’s head while playing a game of “Russian roulette” inside a stadium locker room. He then ordered five military conscripts under his command to repeatedly shoot Jara’s corpse before later dumping the body outside, it says.
A U.S. judge recently allowed the lawsuit to go forward. Barrientos left Chile in 1989 and lives in the U.S.
“I hope that the Jara family will prevail and that the U.S. government understands that it must expel Pedro Barrientos to Chile to join these others who’ve been indicted … otherwise the United States will be seen as harboring one of the key culprits in the murder of Victor Jara,” said Peter Kornbluh, author of “The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability.”
In all, 40,018 people were killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Chile’s government estimates 3,095 were killed.
“The process of justice in Chile has come slowly, periodically, but also steadily. These are high-profile cases that can’t be forgotten and that demand resolution,” Kornbluh said. “The families have kept these cases alive.”
Pinochet died in 2006 under house arrest without ever being tried on charges of illegal enrichment and human rights violations.
Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao
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