Victor Jara Killing: Ex-Chilean Soldier Arrested in Florida

A former Chilean Army officer accused of torturing and killing the Chilean folk singer Victor Jara and others during the bloody aftermath of a 1973 military coup was arrested in Florida, officials announced Tuesday.

The former officer, Pedro Pablo Barrientos, 74, who moved to Florida in 1990, is wanted in Chile for the extrajudicial murder of Mr. Jara at a Chilean sports stadium. There, Mr. Jara and other dissidents had been detained after the coup on Sept. 11, 1973, that toppled the country’s president, Salvador Allende, and thrust Gen. Augusto Pinochet into power.

Federal immigration officials and local law enforcement officers arrested Mr. Barrientos on Oct. 5 during a traffic stop in Deltona, Fla., about 30 miles southwest of Daytona Beach, according to a news release published on Tuesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mr. Barrientos is in ICE custody, officials said.

“Barrientos will now have to answer the charges he’s faced with in Chile for his involvement in torture and extrajudicial killing of Chilean citizens,” John Condon, a special agent with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division in Tampa, said in the news release.

Mr. Jara, who has been described as the “Bob Dylan of South America,” was a popular singer who hailed from the Chilean countryside and sang tales of poverty and injustice.

He had supported the Allende government and was a member of Chile’s Communist Party when he was arrested at the State Technical University alongside hundreds of students and faculty members.

Three days after his arrest, Mr. Jara’s bullet-riddled body was found outside a cemetery alongside those of four other victims. Before he was killed, soldiers smashed his fingers with their rifle butts and mockingly told him that he would never play guitar again.

Mr. Barrientos’s arrest comes more than seven years after a federal jury in a civil case found him liable for Mr. Jara’s death and awarded $28 million in damages to the singer’s family, which had brought the case under a federal law that allows the victims of overseas human rights violations to seek redress.

A former Chilean soldier testified in court that Mr. Barrientos had bragged about having shot Mr. Jara twice in the head.

“He used to show his pistol and say, ‘I killed Víctor Jara with this,’” the soldier, José Navarrete, testified.

A federal court revoked Mr. Barrientos’s U.S. citizenship in July based on a sealed complaint brought by the Department of Justice’s immigration litigation office.

“The court found that Mr. Barrientos willfully concealed material facts related to his military service in his immigration applications,” the ICE news release said.

It was unclear whether extradition proceedings for Mr. Barrientos were underway. The federal authorities could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday night, and it was unclear if Mr. Barrientos had retained a lawyer.

Mr. Barrientos was the latest former Chilean official to be arrested in Mr. Jara’s killing. In 2018, eight retired military officers were each sentenced to more than 15 years in prison by a Chilean judge over Mr. Jara’s death.

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