Monday, March 4, 2024

Former Chilean Military Official Found Liable for Killing of Victor Jara

Victor Jara was a major protagonist in the latest show, Future remnants of a missing word, at Meyohas Gallery. His voice singing, “Yo no canto por cantar,” (I don’t sing to sing) echoed in various sound and video pieces. On Monday, a former Chilean military officer was found liable for his torture and murder. This comes 43 years after Jara’s death.

Here’s a video piece by Constanza Alarcón Tennen that was part of the exhibition, and here are Constanza’s thoughts on the indictment:

When Shahrzad Changalvaee and I started working on this project we were aware of the judicial processes that were taking place in order to extradite [Pedro Pablo] Barrientos, and we were following the case closely, but the criminal was nowhere to be seen and it seemed that to achieve justice was more in the realm of hope than reality. This was one of the reasons why we felt it was so important to do this project, because the case is still open and because it is a story not fully told yet. The aftermaths of that dark period are still very present in the lives of the people in Chile. But we were to be surprised.

On Monday, June 27th a jury found Barrientos liable for the murder of Victor Jara in a civil lawsuit that took place in Orlando, Florida. Barrientos, a former lieutenant from the Chilean military, was indicted in 2009 for the torture and murder of the Chilean singer, but from the group of 10 military men accused (the 10 indicted for participating in the crime), Barrientos was the only one who fled out of Chile after the end of the dictatorship, becoming a U.S citizen in the early 1990s.

The outcome of the trial, though a gigantic step towards breaking the silence that has characterized the Chilean military- when it comes to facing the brutality of the crimes that took place in that dark era in Chile- is also a reminder of the bittersweet reality of seeking justice. Seeking justice is only a consequence of having to seek justice. In other words, if truth wasn’t hidden, or if human lives and liberties weren’t disrupted, terminated or silenced, then this moment wouldn’t be necessary.

But don’t get me wrong. I am not by any means trying to take away the weight of this. It is huge, and I can only imagine the relief or consolation that Victor Jara’s family must be feeling now, and if possible, perhaps this step towards justice made the pain a bit less heavy.

Chile has requested the extradition of Barrientos a few times, but because [Barrientos] became a U.S citizen it hasn’t been possible. It’s a funny thing how the law works. He hasn’t been extradited, which means he hasn’t faced the murder and torture charges and potential conviction that would await for him in Chile, but because of the Torture Victim Protection Act[1], Jara´s family with the aid of CJA[2], were able to file a civil suit against the murderer of their loved one in this country.

Hopefully the result of the trial will help the process of extradition, perhaps give some sort of closure, if that’s even possible. But symbolically, to seek justice for Victor Jara, so his story is told with the truth it deserves, in a way represents all the other non-public faces whose stories were silenced, the hundreds whose killers walk freely today.

Perhaps to extradite Barrientos will empower the people of Chile and will make us face our own History, to face the dark shadow that stills walks un-healed and un-spoken, but above all, will help us remember, that something like this, can never happen again.

Constanza Alarcón Tennen, June 2016.

More information about the case can be found here

[1] The Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA; Pub.L. 102–256, H.R. 2092, 106 Stat. 73, enacted March 12, 1992) is a statute that allows for the filing of civil suits in the United States against individuals who, acting in an official capacity for any foreign nation, committed torture and/or extrajudicial killing.

[2] Center for Justice & Accountability


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