A former Chilean army officer was deported from Florida to Chile to face charges in the kidnapping and murder of a popular folk singer and prison warden, days after the 1973 military coup that ousted President Salvador Allende .
Army officer Pedro Barrientos, 74, expelled on Friday, was formally informed of charges relating to the murder of folk singer Víctor Jara and former prison director Littré Quiroga and detained temporarily on a military base while the investigations against him.
Barrientos’ return to Chile was the final chapter in one of the Chilean dictatorship’s most notorious crimes, as the country concludes an emotional year of commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973. The The expulsion comes just days after the death of Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state who, declassified documents show, was the main architect of the cover-up of US plans to destabilize the Allende government.
It also comes after decades of relentless pursuit of justice by Mr. Jara’s widow, Joan Jara, a British-born dancer who filed a criminal case in Chile and took Mr. Barrientos to civil court in Florida. Ms. Jara died last month at the age of 96.
Mr. Barrientos is the last of eight Chilean officers accused of the killings. Four were convicted and began serving their sentences in August; two others, Nelson Haase and Juan Jara, are at large; While a seventh officer, Hernán Chacón, 86, took his own life when investigators arrived at his house in Santiago to take him to prison. A judge will determine whether Mr. Barrientos is guilty of the charges. Human rights cases in Chile under the old judicial system do not include a trial system. Once convicted, Mr Barrientos will be able to appeal.
Mr. Jara was a mild-mannered and talented theater director, composer and singer who rose to fame in the 1960s and emerged as a cultural icon during the Allende government in the 1970s. His songs became part of the musical repertoire of the political opposition during the dictatorship and are still popular to this day.
His daughter, Amanda Jara, who was 8 when her father was killed, remembers him as “a loving, really fun dad.” But he believes justice is still elusive.
“You’ve been through so much that this doesn’t feel like justice,” he said in an interview. “However, I think for the country, for our collective history, this is important.”
Jara and Quiroga, supporters of the left-wing Allende government, were arrested by the military on the day of the coup, September 11th. On 11 October 1973 and taken to the capital’s Chile Stadium – since renamed the Víctor Jara Stadium – where they were held along with thousands of other prisoners. A court found that they were singled out by military officials and interrogated and tortured for several days. On October 15, 1973, both were shot by a group of agents; Mr. Barrientos was believed to be one of them.
“Their death was slow,” says Nelson Caucoto, lawyer for the Jara and Quiroga families. “There was not a day or an hour when they were not mistreated, beaten or tortured by a group of officers. One soldier testified that he had been sentenced to death; “They wouldn’t leave the stadium alive.”
Mr. Jara had two gunshot wounds to the back of his head and more than 40 wounds all over his body. Mr. Quiroga was shot 22 times. Their bodies were abandoned outside a cemetery in the capital along with those of three other victims, and were eventually identified by their families at the morgue.
“I lost so much that day,” Joan Jara said in a New York Times interview in 2016. “I lost my job and my profession. My children have left school, their friends, their home and their country. I have never been able to remarry. “I was very in love with Víctor.”
Barrientos left Chile for the United States at the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990. He worked as a landscaper and then as a cook in Deltona, Florida, and became an American citizen.
The unraveling of his quiet suburban life in Florida began in 2012, when Chilean journalists found him at his home and the judge investigating the murders charged him in absentia and requested his extradition.
The following year, the Jara family — supported by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and the New York law firm Chadbourne & Parke — filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Barrientos in Orlando under the Torture Victim Act Protection Act, which allows people to prosecute human rights violators living in the United States.
In 2016, a federal jury found that Mr. Barrientos was responsible for the torture and extrajudicial killing of Mr. Jara and awarded the family $28 million.
During the trial, a soldier testified in a videotaped deposition that Mr. Barrientos had bragged about shooting Mr. Jara in the head, and liked to show off the weapon he allegedly used.
Although the Chilean judiciary had been requesting his extradition since 2012, Mr. Barrientos was arrested just two months ago by Homeland Security agents, after a Florida court found that Mr. Barrientos had concealed material facts relating to his military service in the your immigration application.
The court revoked his citizenship last July, based on a complaint filed by the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation.