Chile: ex-officers to stand trial for Jara murder

Chilean judge Miguel Vázquez Plaza issued an order on Dec. 28 for the detention and trial of eight former military officers for their alleged participation in the murder of renowned singer and songwriter Víctor Jara during the military coup that established the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The leftist musician was one of the first and best known of the estimated 3,000 people murdered or disappeared by the dictatorship.

The judge named former lieutenants Hugo Sánchez Marmonti and Pedro Barrientos Núñez as the people who carried out the murder, which took place on Sept. 16, 1973 at a Santiago sports stadium where political prisoners were being held. Jara was tortured and then shot dead; when found, his body had at least 44 bullet wounds. The judge charged former officers Roberto Souper Onfray, Raúl Jofré González, Edwin Dimter Bianchi, Nelson Hasse Mazzei, Luis Bethke Wolf and Jorge Smith Gumucio as accomplices in the killing. Pedro Barrientos is living in Daytona Beach, Florida; Chile is expected to seek his extradition. The suspects will probably be held at Santiago's Police Battalion Number 1, which the Mexican daily La Jornada describes as a "luxury prison for murderers in uniform."

Four of the eight officers took courses at the US Army's School of the Americas (SOA), then located in Panama, according to SOA Watch, which monitors the school, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) and based in Fort Benning, Georgia. Pedro Barrientos, second in command at the stadium, and Raúl Jofré took the Officers' Orientation course in 1968; Edwin Dimter Bianchi took a Combat Arms Orientation course in 1970; and Jorge Smith Gumucio took a Combat Arms Orientation course in 1972. SOA holds protests each November at Fort Benning, charging that the school is responsible for training many of the most notorious human rights abusers in Latin America. (BBC News, Dec. 28; La Jornada, Dec. 29, from correspondent; SOA Watch website, accessed Dec. 30)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 30.