Jara v. Barrientos
On September 15, 1973, the famed poet and singer Víctor Jara was killed at Chile Stadium by members of the Chilean Armed Forces in the days following the infamous coup d’état of General Augusto Pinochet. On behalf of Jara’s surviving wife and children, CJA filed a civil suit on September 4, 2013 against one of the alleged perpetrators of Víctor Jara’s death. Read the press release in English and Spanish. The damages hearing is set to begin in February 2015.
In the days after General Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état in September 1973, the Chilean Army launched a campaign of repression against perceived enemies of the new military dictatorship. Pinochet’s dictatorship defined elements of the Chilean population as an ideological enemy—the “subversive”—and targeted individuals who fit the profile.
On September 11, the day of the coup, troops from the Arica regiment of the Chilean Army took control of the State Technical University (UTE) in Santiago— perceived to be a center of leftist sentiment— and prevented people from entering or leaving. On September 12, military personnel entered the university and detained hundreds of UTE teachers, students, and administrators who were perceived to be supporters of deposed President Salvador Allende. Among those detained was Víctor Jara, a nationally known singer-songwriter, poet, and political activist who was a theater director and professor at UTE at the time of the coup.
Hundreds of students, professors, and staff from UTE were soon transferred to Chile Stadium, one of the first mass detention centers run by the new dictatorship. Chile Stadium quickly became the site of widespread human rights abuses. In the days following the coup, approximately 5,000 individuals were detained there. Among the thousands held at the stadium, some were selected to be taken to underground changing rooms, where they faced interrogation and torture. Teams of Army personnel conducted interrogations, beat and abused suspected socialists, and murdered hundreds of individuals. Prisoners were shot, then left for dead or dumped in deserted areas of the Mapocho River. Most others were transported to the larger National Stadium, where they were subject to further mistreatment.
On September 15, 1973, as the detainees were being moved from Chile Stadium to National Stadium, Jara was separated from the group and taken to an underground changing room in the Stadium, an area reserved for interrogation and torture.
According to recent statements by soldiers in the stadium, Jara was put in the custody of Lieutenant Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez. While detained, soldiers under Barrientos’s command blindfolded, beat, and brutally interrogated Jara. Following the beating, Barrientos shot Jara to death and then ordered that the body be shot several dozen times by Army conscripts and dumped in the vicinity of the Metropolitan Cemetery in the outskirts of Santiago de Chile.
In the years since the horrors perpetrated by the Pinochet dictatorship in the aftermath of the coup, Víctor Jara has become a symbol of peace and human rights. Chile Stadium, the one-time site of the torture and death of civilians, is now known as Víctor Jara Stadium. Yet many of the perpetrators of the violence at the Stadium remain unpunished. Though prosecutors in Chile indicted eight individuals in Víctor Jara’s death in 2012, Pedro Barrientos—the man accused of firing the fatal shot—currently resides in Florida, beyond the reach of Chilean courts, and has yet to be tried for any crime.
CJA filed Jara v. Barrientos before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in 2013. Brought on behalf of Joan Jara, Amanda Jara Turner, and Manuela Bunster (Víctor Jara’s wife and daughters). The suit accuses Pedro Barrientos of arbitrary detention; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; extrajudicial killing; and crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS); and of torture and extrajudicial judicial killing under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), in connection with the death of Víctor Jara. The complaint alleges that Barrientos is liable for Víctor Jara’s death as a direct perpetrator, as well as a commander, and an indirect collaborator to the crimes at Chile Stadium. See the complaint here.