Chile: Colonel charged with the murder of musician Victor Jara

19 May 2008
35 years after the torture and murder of the renowned Chilean folk singer and composer Victor Jara, a retired army colonel has been charged with the killing, reported the Associated Press

Judge Juan Fuentes has ended an investigation and charged the retired colonel Mario Manriquez in the case, saying the colonel was “responsible” for the murder of the Chilean folk singer Victor Jara in 1973 – a murder which transformed Jara’s music into a symbol of struggle against repression across Latin America.

40-year-old Victor Jara, “the Bob Dylan of Chile”, was arrested shortly after a military coup led by general Augusto Pinochet. He was taken to a soccer stadium in Santiago, Estadio Chile (renamed the Estadio Víctor Jara in September 2003), which was used as a detention camp for 5,000 prisoners. His hands were smashed with rifle butts so that he was unable to play his guitar, and his ribs were broken. On 15 September 1973 he was shot to death.

The Chilean army troops also destroyed master tapes of Jara’s recordings and concert appearances. They managed to find and destroy almost half of his recordings, and for much of the next 17 years, Jara’s music was in effect blacklisted. Fearful fans felt compelled to hide their albums and cassettes. His recordings could not be bought in stores, and his music was rarely if ever heard on radio.

Investigation and lawsuit
Democracy was restored in Chile in 1990. An official report issued after the restoration of democracy in Chile in 1990 found that 3,197 people died or disappeared during military rule.

In August 1999, Victor Jara’s British-born widow Joan Turner Jara filed a lawsuit against her husband’s killers, which after 26 years 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. A lawyer for the Jara family, Nelson Caucoto, said he intends to appeal the decision to close the probe with no other people charged than the colonel.

Victor Jara
Victor Jara was among the founders and best-known members of Chile’s “New Song” folk movement of the 1960s and 1970s (Nueva Canción Chilena). He was also a theatre director, and a Communist Party political activist who backed Chile’s elected socialist president, Salvador Allende. While Victor Jara was still alive, American folk artists like Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Pete Seeger recorded or performed songs written by or associated with him.

Victor Jara Foundation
His wife and widow, Joan Jara, started the Victor Jara Foundation which spent the 1990s trying to track down high-fidelity versions of Jara’s songs that could be remixed and remastered, and a result nine attractively packaged CDs, available as a box set and individually along with a two-disc anthology, was published in 2003, 30 years after the coup.

Sponsors of the Victor Jara Foundation include prominent contemporary performers like Bono, Peter Gabriel and the actress Emma Thompson.




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Victor Jara


Click to listen to mp3 of Victor Jara's song 'Lucin'
Click on photo to hear Victor Jara singing ‘Luchin’


Reuters’ video: Chilean singer murder case closed’ (1:19)


Latest news
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Google News – continously updated:

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The Associated Press – 15 May 2008:

‘Retired Chilean officer charged in singer’s death’

BBC News – 10 December 2004:

‘Colonel charged over Jara killing’

The New York Times – 23 December 2002:

‘A Voice Stilled by a Junta Now Lives Again’

Victor Jara Foundation (in Spanish only):

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

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