September 6, 2013
by Abby Zimet
Forty years ago next week, during the early days of Chile’s military coup ousting Salvador Allende, thugs working for the US-backed Augusto Pinochet arrested thousands of progressive students and professors, including renowned activist, poet, folk singer and songwriter Víctor Jara. Held for three days in the stadium that now bears his name, Jara was interrogated, tortured, beaten and, famously, had his hands broken, after which act his tormentors mockingly ordered him to play his guitar. Defiant, he sang part of “Venceremos,” a political anthem that translates roughly as “We Will Win.” Then they killed him.
Today, Jara’s widow and daughters, working with the San Francisco-based Center for Justice & Accountability and pro bono counsel, filed a civil suit against Pedro Barrientos, the man accused of murdering Jara, who now lives peaceably in Florida. Thanks to the Jara family’s tireless efforts since 1978, Barrientos is one of eight men indicted last year by Chilean prosecutors in Víctor Jara’s torture and death, part of their ongoing fight since 1978 for accountability in the crimes of the past. Perseverance, thy name is Jara.
“How hard it is to sing when I must sing of horror. Horror which I am living, horror of which I am dying.” – Jara during detention