Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chilean Documentary Reveals the Name of Victor Jara's Alleged Killer

This article was first published in Irish Left Review here.
cn2Earlier this year human rights lawyer Nelson Caucoto Pereira and Joan Jara, wife of nueva canción singer Victor Jara, appealed to the Chilean Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence to collaborate in the effort to reconstruct the events leading to Victor Jara’s murder, as well as divulging the names of lieutenants responsible for the atrocity. While no affirmative statement was issued following the appeal, a documentary featured on Chilevision in May revealed the name of the lieutenant who allegedly pulled the trigger on Victor Jara.

The documentary entitled ‘Quien Mato a Victor Jara?’ (Who Killed Victor Jara?) created a strong narrative of the events unfolding in Estadio Chile and the circumstances leading up to Victor’s murder and subsequent discovery of his body. Jose Alfonso Paredes Marquez, a former conscript from the Tejas Verdes contingent who had previously been indicted for his participation in the murder, named Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez as Victor’s alleged killer.

Barrientos was the unidentified lieutenant who, according to Paredes, shot Victor in the head after the singer refused to answer his questions. “He shot him at almost point blank range because the man would not answer him.” [1]

Barrientos has been living in Florida since the 1990s, around the time when Paredes was arraigned in court for his participation in Victor’s murder. Barrientos was interrogated by the FBI some weeks before the airing of the documentary, following a request from Chile regarding the murder of Victor Jara. Tracked by journalist Macarena Pizarro from Chilevision, Barrientos denied his involvement in Victor’s murder. When asked whether he would return to face Chilean justice, Barrientos retorted, “It depends. I do not have to face justice because I killed no one. I’ve been to Chile several times but now, loud and clear, I won’t go.”[2]

The Tejas Verdes contingent, under the command of Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, had been ordered to Santiago as part of the support for the military coup in the vicinities of La Moneda. Upon the transfer to Estadio Chile, the lieutenants indulged in the interrogation, torture and murder of those detained in the stadium. The first prisoners to be transferred to the stadium were those barricaded inside the Technical University, including Victor Jara.

Testimony by Osiel Nuñez from the Students’ Federation sheds light upon the treachery and intimidation by the Tejas Verdes contingent at Estadio Chile. Upon the persona of ‘el Principe’ (The Prince), Nuñez states that he had a very powerful voice and did not need a microphone to make himself heard in the stadium. The lieutenant declared “Soy un Principe” – I am a Prince, to the detainees, later addressing each section of detainees, asking them if they were hearing him, with each section having to answer in the affirmative.
The identity of El Principe remains disputed – both Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko from DINA and Edwin Dimter from Tejas Verdes were suspected of having been ‘the Prince’. However during court procedures, Paredes mentioned Lieutenant Nelson Edgardo Haase Mazzei as the alleged ‘Prince’; a statement which has been denied by Haase.

It was the Prince who, upon recognising Victor Jara, separated him from the rest of the detainees together with Litré Quiroga; Chief of the Service of Prison under Salvador Allende’s government. Victor was taken into a room where Lieutenant Nelson Haase was sitting behind the interrogation desk. Another lieutenant – allegedly Pedro Barrientos, played Russian roulette with Victor, eventually shooting him in the skull. Victor fell to the ground, his body convulsing. The order was given to conscripts to open fire on Victor’s body,[3] as well as upon the other fourteen detainees who were with Victor. One of the victims was Quiroga, who was reportedly tortured for three days prior to his assassination.[4] The documentary featured the exact location where Victor’s body was discovered by social activist Monica Salinas – in a field outside the walls of Cemeterio Metropolitano.

The documentary highlights the impunity enjoyed by the ex officials. Implying a range of absurd rhetoric, Pedro Barrientos, Jorge Smith and Luis Ernesto Bethke denied being present at the Estadio Chile in the aftermath of the military coup, although Paredes’ testimony contradicts the lieutenants. When interviewed by Chilevision, Barrientos denied the Tejas Verdes regiment or himself having been present in Estadio Chile. Asked about Paredes, who accompanied Barrientos in his role, more denials ensued. Echoing Jorge Smith, Barrientos insisted he did not remember Paredes and was nowhere near Estadio Chile, claiming instead to be in the vicinities of La Moneda. This contradicts the fact that Paredes stated he had access to the interrogation rooms through accompanying Barrientos. Bethke’s non-committal reply to the same question was “Why wouldn’t I admit I was there?” The epitome of impunity was characterised by Nelson Haase in 2009 during a telephone interview with newspaper La Nacion. Asked whether he was present in Estadio Chile during Victor’s torture and murder, Haase replied that he was not in Estadio Chile. “I was never in Estadio Chile. I don’t know it. I don’t even like football.”[5]

The officials from Tejas Verdes responsible for the atrocities which occurred in Estadio Chile in the aftermath of the coup are Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, who later became Head of DINA (Dirección de Intelligencia Nacional), Jorge Smith, Luis Ernesto Bethke, Nelson Haase, Edwin Dimter, Rodrigo Rodriguez Fuschloger and Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez. The officials specialised in torture and indulged in the violations upon their return to Tejas Verdes, taking over a resort hotel and transforming it into an interrogation and torture center.[6] Hernan Valdes, a survivor of Tejas Verdes stated “… all I knew about evil until then was only caricature, only literature. Now evil has lost all moral reference.”[7]

Reacting to the information revealed in the documentary, Joan Jara expressed shock at the cynicism and arrogance of officers involved in her husband’s murder. “Everyone was lying with impunity. I believe that there was a large official circle in the stadium that was, in one way or another, involved in this cruelty.” Gloria Konig, executive director of the Victor Jara Foundation, declared that justice must allow investigations into the new declarations by conscript Paredes. “I believe yesterday it became clear that the conscripts have fear.” Lawyer Nelson Caucoto Pereira stated he expects Chile to respond to the warrant requested by the Courts in order to indict Barrientos for his alleged role in killing Victor Jara, echoing earlier statements in which he insisted the aim is to hold those officials wielding power responsible for Victor’s death.[8]

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