Justice for Víctor Jara: US Ex-Chilean Soldier Deported to Face Singer’s Killing

U.S. Expels Ex-Chile Army Officer to Face Charges in Killing of Víctor Jara
Justice for Víctor Jara: US Ex-Chilean Soldier Deported to Face Singer’s Killing

Pedro Barrientos, a 74-year-old former Chilean army officer, has finally been extradited from Florida to Chile to face charges in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of beloved folk singer Víctor Jara and prison director Littré Quiroga. This marks the culmination of a decades-long pursuit of justice for the brutal crimes committed during the dark days of the Pinochet dictatorship.

Barrientos, expelled from the US this week, was formally informed of the charges against him in Santiago. He will be temporarily detained at an army base while the investigation continues. His return to Chile closes a painful chapter in the nation’s history, coinciding with the emotionally charged 50th anniversary commemorations of the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power.

This extradition also comes shortly after the death of Henry Kissinger, whose declassified documents expose his pivotal role in destabilizing the Allende government, paving the way for the coup. It’s a stark reminder of the international forces that fueled Chile’s descent into dictatorship.

Barrientos’ case carries immense weight, not just for the families of the victims but for the entire nation grappling with its past. He is the last of eight officers charged in the killings, with four already convicted and serving sentences. Two remain at large, and one, facing arrest, took his own life.

Víctor Jara, a gentle soul who wore many hats – theatre director, composer, and singer – became a cultural icon during Allende’s presidency. His music, infused with social commentary and resistance, resonated deeply with the Chilean people. Even today, his songs remain anthems of hope and struggle.

His daughter, Amanda, remembers him as a loving father, but justice still feels incomplete. “So much time has passed,” she says, “but for Chile, for our collective memory, this is crucial.”

Barrientos’ journey from Florida landscaper to accused war criminal began unraveling in 2012 when Chilean reporters tracked him down. A judge charged him in absentia and sought extradition.

Fueled by an unwavering desire for accountability, the Jara family, backed by legal organizations, filed a civil suit against Barrientos in the US under the Torture Victim Protection Act. In a landmark 2016 verdict, a jury held him liable for Jara’s torture and murder, awarding the family $28 million.

A soldier’s chilling testimony cemented Barrientos’ alleged role. He boasted about shooting Jara in the head, even displaying the weapon he claimed to use.

Despite Chile’s pursuit since 2012, Barrientos’ capture came only two months ago. US authorities apprehended him after discovering he concealed his military past during his immigration application. His citizenship was revoked, paving the way for his expulsion.

Barrientos now faces a Chilean court, where he will be judged by a system different from the one that saw Pinochet escape prosecution. This time, a judge will determine his guilt, and if convicted, he can appeal.

Though the wounds remain raw, Víctor Jara’s legacy lives on. His music continues to inspire, his story a powerful reminder of the human cost of tyranny and the enduring fight for truth and justice. As Chile confronts its past, Barrientos’ case stands as a testament to the unwavering pursuit of accountability, no matter how long it takes. It’s a reminder that even in the face of seemingly insurmountable darkness, the quest for justice never truly dies.

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