A Chilean judge has ordered the arrest of eight former army officers over the arrest, torture and murder of a popular leftist singer during a US-backed military coup in 1973.
The BBC reports that Chilean Judge Miguel Vasquez has ordered the arrest of the former officers for the brutal murder of Victor Jara, a popular 38-year-old folk singer who wrote songs protesting his country's ruling elite.
Jara, a member of the Chilean Communist Party, was one the founders of the "New Song" movement, characterized by revolutionary and politically-charged folk tunes. He was one of the first and most famous victims of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's right-wing coup, a CIA-backed affair that overthrew the popular leftist government of democratically elected President Salvador Allende.
Since Jara and the "New Song" movement had helped Allende's rise to power, the artist was targeted for elimination. He was kidnapped on September 11, 1973, a date which lives in infamy for all Chileans as it marks the death of Allende and democracy and the beginning of nearly two decades of US-backed authoritarian rule under Pinochet. During that dark period, thousands of Chileans who dared oppose the regime were kidnapped, tortured, murdered or disappeared.
After his abduction, Jara was taken to a sports arena in central Santiago, the Estadio de Chile, which had been transformed into a prison and torture center. Jara was electrocuted and had his hands and wrists broken before being shot to death on September 16.
Judge Vasquez issued an international arrest warrant for one of the leaders of the alleged death squad that executed Jara, Lt. Pedro Barrientos Nunez, as well as orders for the arrests of Col Hugo Sanchez Marmonti, Raul Jofre Gonzalez, Edwin Dimiter Bianchi, Nelson Hasse Mazzei, Luis Bethke Wulf, Jorge Gumucio Smith and Roberto Souper Onfray. Barrientos currently lives in Daytona Beach, Florida.
SOA Watch reports that four of the eight officers were trained at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), which at that time was located in Panama and taught military and intelligence personnel from friendly Latin American nations courses in suppression of democracy, counterinsurgency, kidnapping, torture, assassination. Some of the most brutal dictators and human rights violators in the Western Hemisphere were SOA-trained, including Panamanian strongman and narco-trafficker Gen. Manuel Noriega and Bolivian tyrant and Nazi shelterer Gen. Hugo Banzer.
SOA graduates were also the perpetrators of horrific atrocities including the massacre of more than 900 villagers at El Mozote, El Salvador, a similar massacre of more than 200 villagers at Dos Erres, Guatemala and the rape and murder of four American nuns and church workers in El Salvador, to name but a few.
According to SOA Watch, Barrientos, Jofre, Dimiter and Smith all took courses at the notorious school in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In June 2009, Jara's body was exhumed in order to allow an investigation into the cause of his death. Six months later, the slain singer was laid to rest after a three-day wake at which thousands of fans paid their respects to the national icon.