US harbors Chilean army torturer from Pinochet era

A former Chilean Army officer charged with murdering Víctor Jara, a popular folk singer, shortly after the 1973 military coup has been sued in a Florida court under federal laws allowing legal action against human rights violators living in the United States.  The lawsuit against the former officer accused of his murder, Pedro Pablo Barrientos, comes as Chileans take part in a number of events leading up to the 40th anniversary of the coup. It was filed Wednesday by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability in a Jacksonville district court on behalf of Mr. Jara’s widow and daughters under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. Mr. Barrientos, 64, moved to the United States in 1989 and became an American citizen. He lives in Deltona, Fla., southwest of Daytona Beach.

Last December, a Chilean judge charged Mr. Barrientos and another officer, Hugo Sánchez, with committing the murder. Six other officers were charged as accomplices.

Mr. Barrientos was found in Deltona last year by a Chilean television crew and denied having ever been in the stadium. But a dozen soldiers from his regiment have testified that he was in charge of the companies sent there. One of the soldiers, José Paredes, said in legal testimony that he had witnessed Mr. Barrientos and other officers beat and torture Mr. Jara and other prisoners.

“After that, Lieutenant Barrientos decided to play Russian roulette, so he took out his gun, approached Víctor Jara, who was standing with his hands handcuffed behind his back, spun the cylinder, put it against the back of his neck and fired,” Mr. Paredes stated. The gun went off and Mr. Jara “fell to the ground,” he added. The other officers fired as well, he said.

“All of the information that has been dug out about the officers who were in the stadium has been discovered without the help of the army,”

The legal action against Mr. Barrientos seeks damages for torture; extrajudicial killing; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; crimes against humanity; and arbitrary detention. The plaintiffs are requesting trial by jury. The ultimate goal, Ms. Jara said, was not monetary compensation, but to use the only available legal tool in the United States to hold Mr. Barrientos accountable. Mr. Barrientos could not be reached for comment.
“There’s no money that can cure the damage that has been suffered,” she said in a recent interview. “I’ve had two lives: one before and one after 1973.”

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