nueva cancion Chilena

Chilean War-criminal Sheltering In the US May Finally Face Justice

(First published in Mint Press News)

Earlier this month, Chilean media erupted with the news that a former member of Chile’s secret police under the dictator Augusto Pinochet would face trial in the United States for the 1973 murder of , a popular revolutionary folk singer.

The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) confirmed the news with a statement on its website on April 14. “We are delighted with the news that our case will move forward for torture and extrajudicial killing,” CJA International attorney Almudena Bernabeu is quoted as saying.

Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez, a former National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) agent, has been living in the U.S. since 1989. Knowing that a number of previous extradition requests from Chile had failed, the CJA filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jara’s family in a U.S. District Court in Florida, asserting claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA).

Court documents made available by the CJA show that Barrientos is being held responsible “for the arbitrary detention, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and extrajudicial killing of Victor Jara at the Stadium on or about September 15 1973.”

After subjecting Jara to extreme torture, Barrientos played Russian roulette, eventually shooting the nueva canción singer in the back of the head. Jara’s body was then riddled with bullets by five military conscripts under orders from Barrientos.

On Jan. 30, 2015, Barrientos presented a motion to set aside the lawsuit instigated by CJA. His statement is replete with anti-socialist propaganda reminiscent of Henry Kissinger’s rhetoric, dismissing state violence as a mere excess that resulted “in the false detention, torture and execution of scores of individuals at Chile Stadium and other locations.”

Still, the CJA’s current legal proceedings against Barrientos, which commenced in September 2013, constitute a major step forward in attempting to bring Jara’s alleged murderer to justice.

“Quién mató a Víctor Jara?”

On Sept. 11, 1973, Pinochet ousted Salvador Allende, a democratically-elected, socialist president, in a U.S.-based coup that would keep Pinochet in power for almost two decades. In supporting the coup, the U.S. aimed to prevent the possibility of Chile becoming another beacon of socialism in South America, particularly in light of the resilience and popularity of the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro.

Allende’s campaign sought to unify the workers’ struggle within cultural consciousness. The Nueva Canción Chilena (Chilean New Song), a folk movement which originated in the mid-1960s as a means of articulating social struggle, became a popular revolutionary feature during Allende’s campaign.

Many nueva canción musicians, including Jara, later assumed roles as cultural ambassadors, and thus, targets for Pinochet.

A mural depicting Victor Jara, one of the founders of the nueva canción movement. A A mural depicting Victor Jara, one of the founders of the nueva canción movement.When “Quién mató a Víctor Jara?

(“Who Killed Víctor Jara?”) aired on Chilevision in May 2012, the documentary accelerated an otherwise dormant process as former DINA conscript Jose Paredes Márquez revealed the name of Jara’s alleged killer.

“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,” Barrientos says in the documentary with the self-assurance of a man who, despite being wanted for Jara’s murder in Chile, has continued to live in the U.S. for almost 30 years without much threat of extradition.

Barrientos also cast doubt over Paredes’ testimony because after naming Barrientos as Jara’s killer, Paredes later retracted his testimony, stating that he was pressured by authorities to reveal details. And, indeed, given the lack of cooperation by the authorities to open dictatorship archives, it is likely that Paredes was pressured into retracting his statements to preserve Chile’s ingrained culture of impunity.

In December 2012, Chilean newspaper El Mostrador reported that Chilean courts handed down indictments against former DINA agents involved in Jara’s murder. Barrientos and Hugo Sanchez Marmonti were indicted as the murderers, while Roberto Souper Onfray, Raúl González Jofre, Edwin Dimter Bianchi, Nelson Hasse Mazzei and Luis Bethke Wulf were indicted as accomplices.

Struggle for justice

Jara’s murder and the subsequent struggle for justice reflect the stories of the thousands of Chileans murdered during Pinochet’s dictatorship, which lasted from 1973 to 1990. And speculation as to who murdered Jara was long shackled by authorities’ refusal to cooperate with investigations.

Indeed, legal action initiated by Joan Jara, Víctor’s widow, in Chile, proved futile for decades. The first legal proceedings filed in 1978 remained pending until Aug. 31, 1982, when the Chilean Criminal Court of First Instance declared there was insufficient evidence to charge any DINA agents with Jara’s murder.

Meanwhile, Pinochet passed Decree Law No. 2.191 in 1978. The amnesty law effectively prevented Chilean courts from prosecuting military officials involved in human rights abuses, including torture and murder, during the dictatorship era, which ran from 1973 to 1990. (The country moved to overturn the law last year, aiming to bring the country more in line with international human rights standards.)

Other attempts to bring Jara’s killers to justice were launched in 1999 at the Santiago Court of Appeals and the Chile Court of Appeals. Both were hampered by witnesses who were hesitant to come forward with information. The cases were consolidated in 2001, then closed in 2008, when Paredes stepped forward as a witness to Jara’s murder and provided the Santiago Court of Appeals with Barrientos’ identity as the alleged killer.

The legacy of the nueva cancion: an interview with Patricio Manns

(First published in Upside Down World)

Patricio Manns, Chilean poet, author, singer and songwriter is one of the few whoseEncuentro_Internacional_de_Escritores work is a testimony to history. Despite current trends and contemporary politics, which contribute a difference to ideology and culture, Manns remains committed to the universality of the Nueva Canción, and continues to be a revolutionary voice, recognizing the necessity of it and promoting the movement through his numerous works.

More than three decades ago, in September 1973, the world witnessed the horrors unleashed in Chile following the military coup of right wing military dictatorship Augusto Pinochet. But prior to the coup in Chile, there was a movement that elevated music to a higher consciousness. The Nueva Canción was the revolutionary song of Chile and other Latin American countries, and its strength lay in its loyalty to the people and delivery of its political message and social change.

In adhering to the social message within the music – fighting injustice, oppression and dictatorships, several artists of Nueva Canción suffered when their home countries were flagellated by right-wing regimes. For instance, Victor Jara was tortured and brutally murdered in the Estadio Chile.

The Pinochet regime was so concerned with the powerful message of the Nueva Canción that it strived to ban the genre of music, together with traditional musical instruments associated with the revolutionary style of songs. Other prominent singers and groups, such as Inti Illimani, Quilapayun and Patricio Manns were exiled.

Today, Nueva Canción artists are of a lesser number. Patricio Manns, Chilean poet, author, singer and songwriter is one of the few whose work is a testimony to history. Despite current trends and contemporary politics, which contribute a difference to ideology and culture, Manns remains committed to the universality of the Nueva Canción, and continues to be a revolutionary voice, recognizing the necessity of it and promoting the movement through his numerous works.

Patricio Manns’ song, De Pascua Lama, has been chosen to represent Chile in the Festival de Vina del Mar 2011. The Pascua Lama mining project, located in the Andes south of Atacama, has been the source of controversy ever since Barrick Gold obtained permission to mine for gold in the area, which straddles the Chilean – Argentinean border. Despite numerous protests and petitions, both the Chilean and the Argentinean governments approved of the project, which has left many families pondering the situation of their livelihood.

On its website, Barrick Gold claims that the Pascua Lama project is subject to more than 400 conditions that strive to ensure the protection of the glaciers and the environment. The project is described as one that will create thousands of jobs for Chileans in the area over the projected 25-year span of the mine. Barrick Gold has stated that it will not be mining the gold partially lying under the glaciers, after outrage from environmentalists at the proposal of shifting the ice from the glaciers to the Guanaco glacier, which lies on the Chilean – Argentinean border.

However, many Chileans have expressed doubt over these statements. The Toro 1, Toro 2 and Esperanza Glaciers, which are located in Pascua Lama, are described as a vital source of water for farmers in the area, which suffers from rain shortages and relies on water from the glaciers. According to Chilean environmentalist group Sustainable Chile, the Toro 1 and Toro 2 glaciers have already suffered damage from mine exploration.

There is also an abundant oasis in the Huasco valley which is nurtured by careful irrigation of water that comes from the glaciers. It is the source of livelihood for the 70,000-person community living in the area. Farmers fear the water being used for irrigation will be contaminated by cyanide from the mines.

The mining is perceived as incompatible with agriculture, there is a fear of destruction of the eco-system in the area, displacement of the community, and the settling of dust on the glaciers will cause them to melt more quickly. The white hues of the glaciers reflect light from the sun and the process might be reversed. The dust will absorb the heat, causing a more rapid meltdown of the glaciers and a possibility of draining the reservoirs.

According to an extract from “Exile of the Cóndor: Transnational Hegemony on the Border: the Mining Treaty Between Chile and Argentina” (Moon, Padilla and Alcayata, Santiago, 2004), the vicinity of the Estrecho River is being used as the site for waste rock dumping, maintenance of mine equipment and the storage of explosives. The Estrecho River is considered to be the only remaining source of uncontaminated water in the area.

De Pascua Lama voices the people’s concerns about the mining project, just as a few decades ago the Nueva Canciónserved to unite the people in a wave against right wing dictatorships. The necessity of the Nueva Canción will prevail. As Patricio Manns states in his interview, there is also the need for people to realise that the conditions necessary for the revival of the song are with us today – the artists must take up the opportunity once again.

Ramona Wadi: How did the concept of memory change throughout the exile years? How would you define the exile period?

Patricio Manns: It is a well known fact that memory betrays – that is, it alters our recollections through a strange process. I had the occasion to experience this betrayal of memory during my exile, which lasted thirty years, and again on my return to Chile. For some reason, streets, plazas, faces, hills, rivers and seas appeared to me as something that was not part of, or very different from my ‘memories’. I noted these modifications in a book of memoirs. “Far from the certainties of your own surroundings, amid your observations of exile, separated from that luxurious pleasure of inhabiting the familiar, among your own people, you are never secure, you are never sure of anything, never. Every day, you go deeper into that otherworldly trance where we barely begin to realize that we are becoming endlessly, deeply, irrevocably corrupted. Corrupted by the imaginary.

RW: Is there any difference between the songs you wrote prior to the exile, the songs written during the exile, and those written after?

PM: I think of it as almost equivalent to my life. My first songs are babbling questions, small musical pieces that try to say something without finding the right words. But as you progress through life, your understanding, your appreciation of things, changes. If you manage to achieve the power of your craft, those same songs, or their themes, will be much more reflective, more perceptive, expressed in greater depth. This depth did not exist before my exile experience. And that is fundamental for an analysis of my work. During my exile I saw the world, I saw people, I learned other languages, and I came into contact with another kind of music. I returned to Chile another person. The person who left Chile was stuck somewhere on the planet, and is now no longer necessary.

RW: What is the importance of the Nueva Canción today in Latin America, where socialist movements have gained strength?

PM: The original spirit of the Nueva Canción has been lost; the replacement generation has not yet appeared. And cultural policies do not facilitate its appearance. I feel I am an orphan in my work to conserve the premises and ideals of that movement, but I have continued to emphasise the importance of the Nueva Canción — and this has made my work necessary.

RW: Did the Nueva Canción undergo any changes in its messages to the poblacion?

PM: I believe that in Latin America, song continues to develop. Although it seems to me that at times there are pauses. The vehemence and creativity of the past no longer exists, and many people of the Nueva Canción have died, people who today would be essential for its revival. Furthermore, there are concrete facts: singing to a triumphant movement is not the same as singing to a defeated movement. Triumphant movements inspire suspicion and mistrust toward the creator. Because it is an act in perpetual movement, its days are unpredictable.

RW: Is the Nueva Cancion universal? Would you say its message is relevant today within the West, where capitalism seems to be the order of the day?

PM: The Nueva Canciónes (of various countries) are universal. I receive people from all over the world several times a year, who ask me questions about the Nueva Canción, from Hong Kong to New York. The movement is still a political and cultural reference, at least in the West.

RW: How does the Nueva Canción explore society? The political through the social or vice-versa?

PM: The Nueva Canción has given extraordinary power to popular song, stripping away the residue of nostalgic memories and patriarchal shadows, replacing them with pride, perseverance and resistance – these are the materials we are working with. For example, right now in Chile the conditions exist for the revival of the Nueva Canción, if those who are called to revive it can perceive it in that way and understand the opportunity.

Asociacion ilicita. Los archivos secretos de la dictadura.


Mauricio Weibel Barahoma, Carlos Dorat Guerra

Ceibo Ediciones, 2012

(review first published in Chileno)

Re-enacting Chile’s dictatorship history is an arduous task, undoubtedly hindered by Augusto Pinochet’s insistence upon oblivion and legally sanctioned by the enacted impunity laws. Seeking to annihilate memory by imposing a reign of persecution, torture, disappearances and exile, the struggle to delegitimize the leftist struggle degenerated into Pinochet’s obsession to legitimise his dictatorship. Evidence compiled by authors Carlos Dorat and Mauricio Weibel reveals a sinister collaboration extending beyond the secret network Dirección de Intelligencia Nacional (DINA) and later Central Nacional de Información (CNI), involving ministries, embassies, diplomats, the FBI, the Vatican and right wing Latin American governments.

Asociación Ilícita: los archivos secretos de la dictadura (Ceibo Ediciones, 2012) examines documents which for some reason, failed to be destroyed by the CNI in 1988 prior to the transition period. The documents, detailing extensive correspondence on behalf of Pinochet, are mainly attributed to Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, Odlainer Mena, Humberto Gordon and Hugo Salas, proving the extent of collaboration between various governmental and international bodies, as well as incursions to divert civilian attempts to shed light upon Chile’s reality. From El Plan Condor to inscribed orders from Pinochet requesting the detention of socialist opponents, terror and diplomatic strategy comprise the analysis of what the authors term ‘a catalogue of horror and intolerance’.

September 11, 1973 unleashed the neoliberal experiment upon Chile, supported by the US which was, in Kissinger’s words, unwilling ‘to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide from themselves’. Following an initial purging of socialism in Chile, the published documents in this book reveal how political strategy, in collaboration with the Vatican, was aiming to install Pinochet as an icon of freedom and anti-communist struggle. Apart from the well known targeting of Communist Party and Movimiento Izquierda Revolucionario (MIR) militants, the military advocated a complete dismantling of social movements, student organisations and embarked upon restricting the Church’s activities. With regard to the latter, correspondence with the Vatican illustrates the alignment of the church oligarchy with Pinochet’s dictatorship, as opposed to priests working in the country who, contrary to what had occurred in other countries, aligned themselves with the left. While the Vatican urged priests to adhere solely to ceremonial roles, Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez had abandoned the designated conservative role in favour of exposing dictatorship atrocities through the Vicaria de la Solidaridad. Part of the political strategy against human rights groups was to seek invalidation of exposed atrocities by citing Marxist infiltration.

A brief overview of DINA establishes an ideological framework attributed to Jaime Guzman, who fostered a counterinsurgency programme based upon combating Marxism and seeking the annihilation of social movements from the political scene. As DINA’s power intensified, counterinsurgency became central to the stability of the dictatorship, lending the state a channel through which to intensify diplomatic efforts with other right wing governments and repressive bodies, in order to present a formidable opposition to organisations expressing their outrage at the widespread violence. Documents relating to Operaciones Epsilon reveal that former head of DINA, Manual Contreras, was authorised to give orders to various ministries. An 11 page document relating to the assembly of ‘Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos’ sought to ‘neutralise worldwide accusations of human rights violations in Chile’, instead proposing an emphasis of human rights disputes in Vietnam and the Soviet Union, among other countries.  The neutralisation of any verbal opposition against the dictatorship was to be met with an open and clandestine psychologicalcampaign, in order to preserve Chile’s ‘image’ from any possible ‘discrediting and spreading of false information’.

The political threat was personified in particular by the clandestine Communist Party and MIR, who waged armed resistance against the dictatorship and suffered great losses due to persecution and disappearances of many militants, including the notorious Operacion Colombo. The book states that, according to research carried out by renowned author Manuel Salazar, Contreras had been compiling information about political leaders of leftist organisations since Salvador Allende’s presidency. Related documents published in this book and stamped as confidential outline the activities of several left wing leaders, including Victor Diaz and Luis Recabarren.

‘The problem of human rights’ constituted a major problem for the dictatorship, as it relentlessly sought to portray any internal or external criticism as tarnishing the image of Chile. Despite the extermination of socialist leaders, subsequent regrouping of MIR, Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario (MAPU) and other left wing groups gave rise to an initiation of protests against the dictatorship, with people demanding the return of their exiled relatives. Hundreds were massacred by the CNI, as the military was deployed to the streets in an effort to stifle dissent. As the dictatorship faced the most difficult years of its era, Guzman advocated an ideology shifting towards permanent military rule.

The authors describe the oppression as methodical – indeed the documents reveal statistical data of ‘terrorist activity’ and ‘manipulation of conduct’. The constant preoccupation and compilation of data enabled the dictatorship to enact legislation according to the circumstances, in order to ensure a continuation of impunity. A trend of state terrorism is easily gleaned from the documents produced in the book, as well as the analysis provided by the authors. The ‘Caravan of Death’, the ‘Plan Condor’, which was carried out in collaboration with other Latin American countries, ‘Operacion Colombo’ – also known as the Case of the 119, ‘Operacion Epsilon’ and the collaboration with the US regarding ‘the distortion of Chile’s truth in favour of Marxism’ gave rise to the tracking of dissidents’ and exiles’ activity abroad, in order to prevent the possibility of the formation of a government in exile. Embassies were also authorised to keep copies of any published material relevant to Chile, in particular reports concerning human rights violations. The exercise was described as ‘censorship of negative information’. However, the dictatorship’s targeting of any person suspected of harbouring leftist sentiment, even through association not related to political activity and irrespective of nationality, led to disclosure of torture practices in international media. The case of Sheila Cassidy – a British doctor suspected of having offered medical assistance to Pinochet’s opponents led to international outrage, which in turn the dictatorship tried to stifle by refusing to issue working permits for journalists travelling to Chile in order to report on human rights. State organisations were also forbidden to comment about Chile without prior permission granted through formal official channels. At least 761 journalists were prohibited from reporting about human rights violations in Chile and their details were included in the dictatorship’s archives.

Hostility against the media was enhanced by the fact that culture – an integral part of Allende’s campaign and perhaps synonymous with the nueva canción movement, was not to be stifled. Inti Illimani and Illapu, together with other singers in exile such as Angel Parra, Isabel Parra and Patricio Manns maintained their political stance and disseminated their convictions through music. The literature of Ariel Dorfman and Antonio Skarmeta was banned in Chile, as was the political thought of Eduardo Galeano and Karl Marx.

Perhaps the significance of this book lies in the fact that it is yet another sliver in Chilean memory elucidating the callous ideology behind the committed atrocities. By analysing this archive of documents, Dorat and Weibel have succeeded in reassembling the fragments of the dictatorship, most importantly eliminating the gap between the experienced violations and the dictatorship laws which ravaged the lives of thousands of Chileans.