JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CN) – The widow of singer-songwriter Victor Jara claims the Chilean Army officer who directed her husband’s torture and “personally participated” in his murder during Agusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup is living as a U.S. citizen now, and she sued him for punitive damages.
Victor Jara was a popular singer, songwriter, poet, theater director and political activist in Chile and remains an iconic figure there. He was tortured and executed in the national soccer stadium on the fifth day of Pinochet’s coup, which began on Sept. 11, 1973. The democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, was killed on the first day of the coup.
Jara’s widow, Joan Jara, sued Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez, in Federal Court.
She claims that Barrientos, “now a US citizen … not only led, with other Chilean army officers, the arbitrary detention and brutal torture of Victor Jara, but also personally participated in the execution of Victor Jara on or about September 15, 1973 and then ordered his subordinates to repeatedly shoot Victor Jara’s corpse. Defendant acted under color of state authority and his acts were, among other things, committed in violation of United States law and the law of nations.”
Also suing are the Jaras’ daughter, Amanda Jara Turner, and Victor Jara’s step-daughter, Manuela Bunster.
They claim, as is well known, that in the days after Pinochet’s coup, “The Chilean Armed Forces (hereinafter the ‘Chilean Army’) arrested, tortured, and violently executed Victor Jara as part of its mass roundup of intellectuals, political leaders, and perceived supporters of democratically elected President Salvador Allende Gossens.”
The Jaras claim in the lawsuit: “Defendant and members of the Chilean Army under defendant’s command and control arbitrarily detained, tortured, and killed Victor Jara. Defendant directed, exercised command responsibility over, conspired with, or aided and abetted the Chilean Army or persons or groups acting in coordination with the Chilean Army or under their control to commit acts of arbitrary detention, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, extrajudicial killing, and crimes against humanity, and to subsequently cover up these abuses.”
During the coup, the Jaras say, Barrientos was a lieutenant and section commander in the Tejas Verdes Regiment. The complaint states: “Lieutenant Barrientos and the section he commanded were stationed at the Stadium in Santiago, Chile, including during the period from September 12, 1973 to September 16, 1973, charged with overseeing the detention of civilians. The Tejas Verdes ran the facility where civilians were detained and tortured during that period.
“In 1989, Lieutenant Barrientos moved permanently to the United States.
“On December 26, 2012, Lieutenant Barrientos was indicted in Chile for the murder of Victor Jara.”
Barrientos was identified as Victor Jara’s killer in a May 2012 documentary on Chilean TV called “Quien Mató a Victor Jara?“
According to a Sept. 21, 2012 article in the Irish Left Review, Barrientos was identified as Jara’s murdered by a conscript in the Tejas Verdes group, José Alfonso Paredes, who had been charged with participating in Jara’s murder.
“Barrientos was the unidentified lieutenant who, according to Paredes, shot Victor in the head after the singer refused to answer his questions. ‘He shot him at almost point blank range because the man would not answer him,'” according to the Irish Left Review.
Barrientos has been living in Florida since the 1990s.
After Pinochet left office, a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 3,195 people who were murdered or “disappeared” by state agents under Pinochet, and another 1,000 unaccounted for. More than 27,000 people were tortured.
Jara was arrested at a university, where he was professor, and taken, along with hundreds of students and other professors, to the national soccer stadium, where he was identified, tortured and murdered.
Jara’s widow says in the lawsuit: “During his three days of detention in that part of the Stadium, Victor Jara composed a poem about his experience, which one of his fellow detainees who survived the ordeal later delivered to his wife, Joan Jara. He wrote: ‘How hard it is to sing when I must sing of horror. Horror which I am living, horror which I am dying.’
“On or about September 15, 1973, after three days of arbitrary detention, during which Victor Jara was restrained and beaten, he was again separated from the other detainees and taken to an underground locker room of the Stadium, which the Chilean Army used to violently interrogate and torture civilians.
“Throughout his detention in the locker room of the Stadium, Victor Jara was in the physical custody of Lieutenant Barrientos, soldiers under his command, or other members of the Chilean Army who acted in furtherance of the Chilean Army’s common plan, design, and scheme to commit human rights abuses against civilians at the Stadium.
“While detained in the locker room of the Stadium, soldiers under Lieutenant
Barrientos’s command blindfolded, handcuffed, interrogated, brutally beat, and otherwise tortured Victor Jara. Lieutenant Barrientos ordered soldiers under his command to further beat and torture Victor Jara to punish him for his political beliefs and support for President Allende.
“Following this cruel treatment and torture, Lieutenant Barrientos put a pistol to the back of Victor Jara’s head and proceeded to ‘play’ rounds of ‘Russian roulette.’ Lieutenant Barrientos loaded one bullet in the chamber of his pistol, spun the chamber and pulled the trigger, knowing that each shot could be lethal. During the course of this ‘game,’ Lieutenant Barrientos shot Victor Jara in the back of the head at point blank range. He then ordered the five military conscripts under his command to repeatedly shoot Victor Jara’s corpse. The subordinates then shot Victor Jara’s corpse at least forty times.”
The Chilean Army then dumped Jara’s corpse, with others, outside the stadium. Joan Jara identified his body at a morgue and then fled with her daughters to England.
They seek damages for torture, extrajudicial killing, arbitrary detention, wrongful death, crimes against humanity, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and battery.
They are represented by Stephen Busey with Smith Hulsey & Busey, of Jacksonville, with assistance from Chadbourne & Park, of New York City, and the Center for Justice and Accountability, of San Francisco.
Victor Jara was a leader in the Nueva Canción movement, comparable perhaps to the political-poetic, folk song-inspired movement that was so influential in the United States in the 1960s.
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