An End to the Silence!

An End to the Silence!



American Trained Murderer of  VICTOR JARA found guilty in US Civil Court

“When Pinochet seized Chile they arrested Victor then –
They caged him in the stadium with 5000 frightened men

Victor picked up his guitar his voice resounded strong
And he sang for his comrades ’til the guards cut short his song

They broke the bones in both his hands and beat him on the head
Tortured him with electric wires then they shot him dead

Victor Jara of Chile lived like a shooting star
He fought for the people of Chile with his songs and his guitar
His hands were gentle and his hands were strong…

(Arlo Guthrie-Adrian Mitchell)[2]


…And his hands, they say, and wrists and fingers, were first crushed and broken by the military torturers[3] in Santiago’s Estadio Chile (now called Estadio Víctor Jara – Víctor Jara Stadium), during 3 days of brutality and torture while his torturers were requesting him to play his guitar…[4]


Monday 27 June 2016: after more than 40 years the silence surrounding the deaths of many of those murdered by the Chilean military was lifted temporarily by the decision of the jury in a Florida court to find ex-Lt. Pedro Barrientos Nunez culpable of homicide and awarded 28 million US dollars in damages to Joan Jara and Victor Jara’s 2 daughters. The case was supported by the Centre for Justice & Accountability (CJA), whose remit is to prosecute alleged crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killing and torture:

“In September 2013, on behalf of Jara’s widow and children, CJA filed a civil suit in a Florida court against Barrientos on claims of torture and extrajudicial killing. The suit seeks to hold Barrientos accountable for Jara’s torture and murder. Barrientos argued that U.S. courts lacked jurisdiction, but in April 2015, the court ordered the case to move forward.”


Jara’s family sued Barrientos under the Torture Victims Protection Act, which allows the families of victims of torture in other countries to file U.S. civil suits.

At the end of June, 2016, the Florida jury found the former Chilean army officer liable for the 1973 torture and murder of the folk singer and political activist awarding $28m to his family.[5]





VICTOR JARA – was one of the most well known of “los desaparecidos” (the disappeared) during Chile’s right-wing military dictatorship. Arrested as part of Pinochet’s purge of government supporters in the United States/CIA backed coup against the Popular Unity Government of Salvador Allende, Jara – who was also a folk singer, teacher, poet, theatre director and communist party member – was taken prisoner in the early days of the coup in September 1973.

Jara had long been associated with the social justice movement and the left. And was both a member of the Chilean Communist Party and a passionate supporter of the Popular Unity government as his wife Joan narrates in her book of her life with Victor: An Unfinished Song: The Life of Victor Jara.[7]

 “For Victor, art and social justice were one and the same. Today, there is some justice for Victor’s death, and for the thousands of families in Chile who have sought truth. I hope that the verdict today continues the healing.”[8]

A Nueva Cancion singer synonymous with the socially committed movement, Jara became one of the first victims of the dictatorship. The Nueva Cancion Chilena (New Chilean Song), was born in the mid-1960s and began to give voice to the growing social struggle, becoming a popular feature during Allende’s presidential campaign, with musicians and artists wholeheartedly extending their support and thus was an obvious enemy of the murderous military junta of Augusto Pinochet.

The details of the torture and murder of Victor Jara that have emerged are horrendous, stretching from his early isolation in the concentration camp of Chile Stadium to his eventual death during a ‘game’ of Russian Roulette at the hands of his-now-recognised murderer Barrientos.  Following his death his “bullet-ridden battered”[9] body was thrown outside the Metropolitan Cemetery for burial in a mass grave, “had he not been recognized by a social activist, who alerted others to his fate.”

His wife Joan and her daughters quickly buried him before fleeing to exile in the UK, risking their lives by smuggling some of his recordings out of Chile “at a time when any material related to the Nueva Canción was tantamount to conspiracy against the dictatorship. “[10]

According to Chile’s truth and justice commission, “3,095 people were killed during the 1973-90 Pinochet dictatorship, including about 1,000 who “disappeared”. Bodies are still being found today.”[11]


“How hard it is to sing
when I must sing of horror.
Horror which I am living,
horror which I am dying.
To see myself among so much
and so many moments of infinity
in which silence and screams
are the end of my song.”[12]

Jara wrote this, his last poem,  “Estadio Chile”, in the few days left to him in the notorious Stadium and had it smuggled out[13]:

 There are five thousand of us here

in this small part of the city.

We are five thousand.

I wonder how many we are in all

in the cities and in the whole country?


Here alone

are ten thousand hands which plant seeds

and make the factories run.

How much humanity

exposed to hunger, cold, panic, pain,

moral pressure, terror and insanity?


Six of us were lost

as if into starry space.

One dead, another beaten as I could never have believed

a human being could be beaten.

The other four wanted to end their terror

one jumping into nothingness,

another beating his head against a wall,

but all with the fixed stare of death.


What horror the face of fascism creates!

They carry out their plans with knife-like precision.

Nothing matters to them.

To them, blood equals medals,

slaughter is an act of heroism.

Oh God, is this the world that you created,

for this your seven days of wonder and work?

Within these four walls only a number exists

which does not progress,

which slowly will wish more and more for death.


But suddenly my conscience awakes

and I see that this tide has no heartbeat,

only the pulse of machines

and the military showing their midwives’ faces

full of sweetness.

Let Mexico, Cuba and the world

cry out against this atrocity!

We are ten thousand hands

which can produce nothing.


How many of us in the whole country?

The blood of our President, our compañero,

will strike with more strength than bombs and machine guns!

So will our fist strike again!


How hard it is to sing

when I must sing of horror.

Horror which I am living,

horror which I am dying.

To see myself among so much

and so many moments of infinity

in which silence and screams

are the end of my song.


What I see, I have never seen

What I have felt and what I feel

Will give birth to the moment[14]





Barrientos, who left Chile in 1989 and is now living in the U.S., is part of the group of officers who face criminal charges in Chile related to the singer’s killing. Barrientos had denied all involvement, saying he wasn’t there and didn’t even know who Jara was at the time of the coup. Graduate of the infamous School of the Americas: now The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) (also dubbed the “School of Assassins” by the former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca[16]),  a United States Department of Defense Institute located at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia, that provides military training (including training in ‘interrogation techniques’) to government personnel in US-allied Latin American nations.

The Centre for Justice and Accountability, the California-based human rights group that brought the suit on behalf of the Jara family, disagrees with Barrientos:

“Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez was a Lieutenant in the Tejas Verdes regiment of the Chilean Army at the time of the coup d’etat led by General Augusto Pinochet in Chile. In 2009, eye witness statements revealed that Barrientos commanded a section of soldiers within the Second Company of the Tejas Verdes at Chile Stadium, a section responsible for overseeing the detention of civilians, and helped execute a strategy of mass incarceration, torture, and extrajudicial killing at the Stadium in the days immediately following the coup. He is alleged to have spent extensive time inside the stadium interrogating suspected leftists, including Víctor Jara.

 According to eyewitness testimony, Barrientos directly commanded the soldiers who tortured and interrogated Víctor Jara. Barrientos is alleged to have played a game of “Russian Roulette” with Jara, which culminated in Barrientos shooting Jara in the back of the head and then ordering his solders to riddle Jara’s body with bullets. ” 

Democracy was restored in Chile in 1990.

In August 1999, Victor Jara’s British-born widow Joan Turner Jara filed a lawsuit against her husband’s killers, who, after 26 years at the time, had still not been identified. The lawsuit was lodged with a Chilean judge, Juan Guzman, who interviewed a number of senior military figures in an effort to determine who was in command at the stadium on that day.

In 2004, the former military ruler Augusto Pinochet was asked to testify in writing in the murder case.

Judge Juan Fuentes took over the investigation in 2005.

The singer’s body was exhumed in 2009, 36 years after his hasty burial, and later reburied, with thousands of Chileans paying their respects on 3 December 2009, in Santiago, Chile.[17] Jara’s widow led the funeral cortege in what was the scond time she buried her husband. Michelle Bachelet, of the Socialist Party ands president at the time said: “Finally after 36 years, Victor can rest in peace.”

In January 2013, Amanda Jara, Victor’s daughter

“…also expressed the feelings of the family in relation to recent prosecutions ‘We want to take this time to ask the [Chilean] Supreme Court to get the United States to extradite Pedro Barrientos [living in Florida] to answer for what he did. I think it is important to acknowledge the will of the Visiting Minister, Appellate Court Magistrate Miguel Vasquez, for taking steps. The first complaint was filed September 12, 1978, and now is an important time for us and we recognize that the judge has done something very significant.’ Amanda also thanked the prosecuting attorneys for their work, and thanked the Legal Medical Institute and the Human Rights Brigade. “We are excited, I’d say a little anxious, but expectant and must continue working because this is not over.”[18]

In 2013, the Chilean Supreme Court formally requested the extradition of the former Lieutenant Pedro Barrientos from the United States to Chile to stand trial for the 1973 torture and murder of Jara.[19]

The US government has yet to respond to this extradition request.

Also in 2013, Joan Jara and her daughters Amanda and Manuela, filed a civil lawsuit in the US for torture and extrajudicial killing against the former lieutenant.

“The name of Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nunez became the source of a relentless campaign by Chilean social movements to pursue justice for Jara. A documentary aired in May 2012 by Chilevision, entitled Quien Mató a Víctor Jara? (Who Killed Víctor Jara?) drew upon the testimony of several survivors, conscripts, former lieutenants and activists to reconstruct the events leading to the singer’s death. In the course of the documentary, ex-conscript Jose Alfonso Paredes Marquez alleged that Barrientos had pulled the trigger, shooting Víctor in the head.

 “He shot him at almost point blank range because the man would not answer him,” stated Paredes.”[20]


23 July 2015: The Guardian reported Chile’s arrest and charging – forty two years after the murder of the poet and musician – of ten of the alleged perpetrators.  Barrientos was not included being in Florida and prosecutors not wishing the process to be delayed.[21]

The fact that the U.S. Justice Department did not respond to a request by the Chilean government and pressure from the Jara family for his extradition is an outstanding issue reminding the world of the involvement of the Nixon-Kissinger administration in these crimes against humanity and their simultaneous involvement in Operation Condor (Operación Cóndor)[22] responsible for an estimated 60,000 deaths of left wing activists and opponents of the right wing regimes in the region.

After the verdict in Florida, Kathy Roberts, legal director of the Center for Justice and Accountability, told reporters that “we hope that the United States will extradite Mr. Barrientos to face justice in the country where he committed these crimes.” [23]


Wikipedia says:

In 2009, Jara’s body was exhumed in order to discover exactly what had happened to him. Many officers were being charged for having some participation in his murder. As of 2013, ten officials have been charged for Jara’s murder. The intentions of the 2013 lawsuit by Jara’s family were against Pedro Barrientos Nuñez for delivering the fatal bullet into Victor Jara’s head. The lawsuit says that Barrientos Nuñez is responsible for personally firing the final shot into the back of Jara’s head as part of Barrientos Nuñez game of Russian roulette.


Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, stated:

“I hope that the Jara family will prevail and that the U.S. government understands that it must expel Pedro Barrientos to Chile to join these others who’ve been indicted… otherwise the United States will be seen as harboring one of the key culprits in the murder of Victor Jara. Barrientos Nuñez is still living in Florida, United States, since 1989. The case of Jara is one of the many in which families of desaparecidos (people disappeared by the Pinochet government and most likely tortured and killed) are still struggling to get justice for… “


This is the question now – not, unfortunately the $28 million highly unlikely to be paid out:   will the Americans, original backers of the illegal coup by Pinochet now facilitate the extradition request by Chilean courts to have Barrientos sent back to Chile to face a criminal trial for a murder an american jury has just agreed he committed..?


Hágase por fin tu voluntad aquí en la tierra.
Danos tu fuerza y tu valor al combatir.
Sopla como el viento la flor de la quebrada.
Limpia como el fuego el cañón de mi fusil.

Levántate y mírate las manos.
Para crecer estréchala a tu hermano,
juntos iremos unidos en la sangre,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.
Amén. Amén. Amén.

 Clean the barrel of my gun like fire
They will be done at last on earth
Give us your strength and courage to struggle.
Blow, like the wind blows
the wild flowers of the mountain pass

Clean the barrel of my gun like fire
Stand up, look at your hands,
Give your hand to your brother so you can grow.
We’ll go together, united by blood,
Now and in the hour of our death.


Victor Jara

Plegaria De Un Labrador

(The Worker’s Prayer)[25]

What horror the face of fascism creates!” And how we must constantly struggle to prevent its re-appearance –   a lesson our world must repeatedly learn and re-learn at its peril.

Silence and denial and the art of ‘forgetting’, not withstanding


séamas carraher



[1] By Marcelo Urra from Santiago, Chile [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

[2] Listen to the song: – Arlo Guthrie, lyrics by UK poet Adrian Mitchell who has also  translated Jara’s poems and lyrics.


[4] Arlo Guthrie lyrics by UK poet Adrian Mitchell who has also  translated Jara’s poems and lyrics.


[6] Picture: fair use under United States copyright law:



[9] Joan Jara in an Address at the CJA:

[10] (

[11] (

[12] Quoted from its original translation:


Read the Spanish Version here:




[17] See, for example:


[19] “A judge in Chile indicted Barrientos and seven other officers for Jara’s murder in 2012 but the case has been slow to progress and the US government has not publicly responded to a formal request from Chile for Barrientos’s extradition.”


[21] (

[22] “Victims included dissidents and leftists, union and peasant leaders, priests and nuns, students and teachers, intellectuals and suspected guerillas.”

[23] (



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