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  HOME | Chile

Chilean Government Seeks Arrests in 1973 Murder of Folk Singer

SANTIAGO – Chile’s Interior Ministry has asked a judge to issue arrest warrants for four retired army officers in connection with the slaying of folk singer Victor Jara following the military coup of Sept. 11, 1973, officials said Wednesday.

Evidence shows that Edwin Dimter, Hugo Sanchez, Raul Jofre and Rolando Melo “participated in the kidnapping and subsequent homicide of Victor Jara,” ministry prosecutor Cristian Cruz told Efe.

“We must reach the people really responsible for this murder,” he said, calling it unacceptable that the only person tried so far for Jara’s killing is former army conscript Jose Paredes, who admitted shooting the singer on the order of a superior, a confession he later retracted.

Retired Col. Mario Manriquez Bravo, who commanded the prison camp where Jara died, was indicted last year, but has yet to face trial.

Jara, a singer-songwriter, actor, theater director and cultural icon, was a prominent supporter of Socialist President Salvador Allende, who took his own life during the 1973 military rebellion that toppled his government.

The singer was arrested the day of the coup at the State Technical University – now the University of Santiago – along with numerous students and instructors and taken to Chile stadium, where roughly 5,000 Allende sympathizers were being held.

Soldiers and surviving prisoners have testified that Jara, seen as an emblematic figure of the Allende era, was singled out for particularly brutal treatment.

Not long after his arrival at the stadium, Jara was taken into an underground passageway together with about a dozen other prisoners.

He was never seen alive again.

Jara’s body was found a few days later and the coroner’s office turned the remains over to his wife, British-born dancer Joan Turner, who buried her husband in a Santiago cemetery.

“He had 44 bullet wounds, burns and other injuries,” Turner later wrote.

Judge Juan Fuentes Belmar sought a few months ago to close the current investigation into Jara’s death, saying he had exhausted every available lead, but the Santiago Appeals Court ordered him to continue the probe.

The Interior Ministry brief says Edwin Dimter and Raul Jofre took part in a tank regiment’s abortive June 1973 mutiny against the Allende government.

After Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s coup, Dimter and Jofre were assigned to the makeshift prison camp at Chile stadium, as was Hugo Sanchez.

The fourth defendant, Rolando Melo, made periodic visits to the stadium in his capacity as a military prosecutor, according to the brief.

Jara’s killing remain a powerful symbol of the atrocities committed by Chile’s 1973-1990 military regime, which is blamed for more than 3,000 deaths and some 25,000 documented instances of torture.

Chile stadium was renamed for Victor Jara in 2003. EFE

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