Chilean officers charged in 1973 murder of Victor Jara

Chilean artist, activist Victor Jara.

Chilean artist, activist Victor Jara.

On the morning of Sept. 12, 1973, Victor Jara, the internationally acclaimed folk singer/writer, theater director, activist and musician, was taken along with thousands of prisoners to the Chile Stadium in Santiago, Chile, where he was repeatedly beaten and tortured. The bones in his hands were broken, as were his ribs.

Fellow political prisoners testified that his captors mockingly suggested that he play guitar for them as he lay on the ground. Defiantly, Jara sang part of “Venceremos” (“We Will Win”), a song supporting the people’s movement in Chile. After further beatings, he was machine-gunned on Sept. 16, his body dumped on a road on the outskirts of Santiago. Forty-four bullets were found in his body.

On Dec. 27, eight retired Chilean army officers were formally charged with Jara’s murder.

Judge Miguel Vásquez charged two of the former officers, Hugo Sánchez and Pedro Barrientos, with committing the murder and six others as accomplices. Sánchez, a lieutenant colonel, was second in command at Chile Stadium. Barrientos, who was second in command at the infamous National Stadium, currently lives in Deltona, Fla., a city southwest of Daytona Beach. All were arrested except for Barrientos.

Four of the eight had taken courses at the infamous School of the Americas, a combat training school for Latin American soldiers located at Fort Benning, Ga. In 2001, it was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), but retained its primary character and objectives.

Since 1946, the SOA has trained more than 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage war against their own people.

Among those whom SOA graduates arrest, beat and torture are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders and others who work for the rights of the poor. The SOA has left such a trail of blood and suffering that it has been dubbed the “School of the Assassins.”

The 1973 coup, which killed tens of thousands of Chileans, was carried out with the full support of the U.S. government. President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger promised the Chilean officers U.S. backing and provided it.

Among the top beneficiaries of the coup and the dictatorship that followed were giant multinational corporations such as Anaconda Copper. The companies were furious that Chilean President Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government had nationalized many large foreign-owned enterprises.

It remains to be seen whether or not Kissinger and other U.S. war criminals and corporations will ever be brought to justice for their crimes. A start could be made by closing the School of the Americas, deporting Pedro Barrientos to face justice in Chile, freeing the Cuban Five U.S. political prisoners, and putting an end to the illegal blockades and interventions against Cuba, Venezuela and other progressive governments and movements in Latin America.

¡Victor Jara, Presente!