[Marxism] Victor Jara’s Family Files Suit in U.S. Over His Torture and Death in ’73
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Fri Sep 6 07:46:16 MDT 2013
NY Times September 5, 2013
Chilean’s Family Files Suit in U.S. Over His Torture and Death in ’73
By PASCALE BONNEFOY
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 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
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,”
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
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