Victor Jara, tortured and murdered Chilean folk singer, laid to rest a second time

victorth.jpgChileans often speak of "the first 9/11" -- referring to September 11, 1973, the day Augusto Pinochet ascended to power in a military coup. Within days, thousands of citizens were rounded up as enemies of the state and arrested. Many were executed.

One of them was Victor Jara, a popular folk singer and advocate for the human rights of the common Chilean. He was arrested, tortured, and murdered just days after the coup.

His wife buried him in a hurried, clandestine funeral 36 years ago, then fled into exile with their two daughters. Over the weekend, his remains were laid to rest again, after a series of public events in which she and thousands of other survivors of Pinochet's brutal regime honored Victor Jara, and the countless "disappeared." Pinochet left power in 1990.

Jara's remains had been exhumed for the purpose of forensic analysis to learn more about the circumstances of his death. We now know how Jara died, but we still don't know who killed him -- or thousands of other Chileans who died in political executions. His widow Joan Jara, now 82, says all deserve justice:

"There's a tendency to say, and even government leaders say this, that we're working for justice particularly in the emblematic cases," she said. "Victor is an emblematic case. I can have the hope that we can discover the truth and perhaps even achieve justice, that those responsible could be sentenced. But it's not right that so many other cases are left unresolved."
Video: Jara performing one of his most famous songs, "Te Recuerdo Amanda." More online in Spanish: Fundación Víctor Jara.


  1. And yet Thatcher stood by Pinochet until the very end, for helping the UK in the Falklands war and for “bringing democracy to Chile.” I have a word to describe her, a word only my wife is allowed to use to describe other women in extreme cases. And it’s not “bitch”.

    1. Well, that’s exactly the point. She felt Pinochet should be honoured for bringing “democracy” to Chile. That would the democracy that came after the CIA helped oust the democratically elected government and replaced it with Pinochet’s regime until the 1990s. No, she didn’t have a hand in the events of 1972, but she was damned happy it happened.

  2. @freshacconci – And she didn’t just stand by him. She felt we owed him something. It still makes me sick.

    That really is a beautiful performance of the song in the video. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only ever heard the song through covers in the past (I actually have one by the wonderful Robert Wyatt on a cd sitting on this desk at the moment) but this really stands out.

  3. The Falklands … hmm. 1982, and all that.

    I always wonder what you do when they come knocking at the door to take you away. These events make me so sad. What do you do?

  4. Yes, well, that seems to be part of the job description for being part of either the Right or the Left*. Stand by every red-handed butcher as long as he’s your red-handed butcher: ie. one who’s useful in local, parochial politics. As to the people being butchered, well, they’re a long way off and probably dead anyway so what’s the difference? Besides, surely the mountain of skulls is worth if if it brings about our fabulous Right/Left Earthly Paradise that is coming any-day-now-real-soon-now.

    A curse on both their (utterly identical) houses.

    *See the teeming hoards of Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe groupies.

  5. And in the world a heart of darkness
    A fire zone
    Where poets speak their heart
    Then bleed for it
    Jara sang, his song a weapon
    In the hands of love
    You know his blood still cries
    From the ground

    From One Tree Hill by U2. Joshua Tree album

  6. Rough translation of Victor’s introduction: “This song is named “Te Recuerdo Amanda”, and it is a song that speaks about the love of two workers, two workers from now, those that you can can see in the streets; and perhaps sometimes you do not realize what exists within the souls of two workers, from any factory, from any city, anywhere in our continent.”

    Lyrics of this song in Spanish and English:

  7. Just so many people on here realize, many Chileans have different opinions on Pinochet… and not all people hate him as you may think.

    I lived there for a few years and there are mixed feelings on both sides of the fence. I had a friend who was getting married and at the wedding his parents met his in-laws for the first time. Well, turns out that his dad knew the father in law… as he was the prison guard who tortured him years ago… YIKES! And both men put it aside and kept their cool for the wedding.

    That is some heavy shit.

    But really… I met many people who thought Pinochet was good for the country. They told me before he came to power it was really, really bad and that the poverty that they lived in was horrendous, the government had nationalized every industry.. and their money was worthless. People went on strike.. not that it helped much…


    Once Pinochet came into power… many people feel that he helped the country by giving people more freedoms and also by freeing up the business sector. Eventually the people voted Pinochet out once his term was up.. and he stepped down. When I lived there (back in the late 90’s) many people spoke positively about him and many of the younger generation were happy with how the state of the country ended up. Many of these kids were the first of their family’s to be able to attend schools and continue on to College.

    Now there were just as many people that I met that hated Pinochet and I met many people that had been imprisoned. And even some of those people admit that the country is better now than it was before he rose to power. So for people to generalize on here about how they hate “thatcher for standing by Pinochet for bringing democracy to Chile” they need to realize that is exactly what he did!

    Did he murder thousands? Yes. Was it unjust? in my opinion… yes. Did he change the country for the better? Yes. Does this outweigh the other? I don’t know..

    On a funny side note that many people might not know at all… Pepsi even joined in on Pinochet’s election campaign..Vote Pep “si” for Pinochet.

    My friend told me that they would get in fights on the bus if you drank Pepsi! ahaha… which is why a lot of people just drink Coke down there.

  8. @10 is that true, Pepsi? I love it.

    I have a growth on my pituitary that compells me to instantly condemn anyone who commits murder, and damn to heel anyone who commits mass murder, no matter if savoury or other. I have this feeling progress can be had without engaging in bloodshed.

  9. Gracias por no olvidar a Víctor Jara.

    Well, no matter how well a country ends, killing people, torturing them (Supposedly Víctor’s murderers chopped his fingers and told him to play the guitar after they did it) is despicable and should be punished. We do not need to kill people to achieve a good society, ask the Norwegians, or South Koreans.

    Even worse, Pinochet killed thousand of people for the only crime of dissent, shall we really believe that thousands of dangerous terrorists were in CHile wanting to avenge Allende? Yeah, right.

    Yes, Chile was and is very polarized concerning Pinochet. That’s why I think that Pinochet never went to jail, he could not be found guilty without screwing the reconciliation process, but, they neither left him alone and he was constantly being summoned to see if he was fit for trial of new cases. I could see the pain and the suffering on his face, and, to be honest, I enjoyed that the bastard was not left alone until he died.

  10. The long comment by anonymous is a true example of the obscurity that the Pinochet regime brought to Chile and their citizens. His whole rant is filled with inaccuracies and misconceptions.

    It is true that a big part of the population admires the dictator but he turns a blind side to the real facts. He did NOT made the country better.

    Chile today represents the perfect neo liberal dream, everybody can buy things they don’t need, everybody is in debt and everybody doesn’t care about the future of their country. As long as they have rebates, offers and reality tv everything is fine. This is the main fact of the “chilean dream” that the far right is trying to sell to the rest of Latin America. If you can turn your entire population into bargain frenzy zombies your country is better that the rest.

    Another “Anonymous’s” terrible inaccuracy is the fact that everything was horrendous before Pinochet murdered his way into power. The wealthy started a boycott against the government of Allende in 1970, three years before the coup, with the help of every powerful economic group in the country and with the help and advise of the US governement and Henry kissinger who personally prepared the military and the far right of Chile. So it is NOT true that the money was worthless, the money had worth but it was hard to find basic products because of the boycott.

    It is very sad to see that someone “doesn’t knows” if murdering thousands of human beings “doesn’t outweights” reasons to overthrow a democratically elected president. One murder, one human life is enogh reason not to back that regime.

    And bottom line: if you are a dictator that overthrows a democratically elected president and stay in power for 17 years you are NOT bringing democracy back to Chile. “Anonymous’s” comment is not only politically but logically wrong. Pinochet didn’t “stepped down when his term was up” he didn’t had a “term”, dictators don’t have “terms”. He lost a plebiscite right when he was planning to stay in power forever. He was planning to stay in power in spite of losing the election but international pressure was too much, even for a murderer. At the time he left power (in 1990) it is calculated that over 3000 people were murdered or dissapeared and a much larger number were torturated and imprisoned.

    The main idea behind giving Jara a proper burial is to show to the country and the world the reality of the brutality of Pinochet’s murderous regime and that the idea of prosperity that they are trying to sell us is a brutal and horrible lie created and manufactured by the economical and political powers of Chile.

    Please inform yourselves about the subject

    If any of you thinker readers liked that beautiful song I personally recommend:


    Best Regards

  11. @guidodavid, as a minor point of clarification: the urban legend about Jara’s hands or fingers having been cut off was disproved by the recent autopsy. He was tortured and shot to death, but it is not true that his hands or fingers were severed.

  12. As someone who had family put both put in Pinochet’s prisons or been put at risk of far worse, I have no respect for people who try to mitigate his atrocious legacy with idle talk of “free markets”. Markets aren’t “free” when you kill the intelligentsia, educators, organizers, and opposition. It costs bloody pain and suffering. It’s not even like the coup was an isolated affair that didn’t affect the average person. My aunt and uncle were on a bus at a station in Santiago where they witnessed the shooting of an unarmed man by military personnel.

    I was never more disappointed with the UK than when they let that vile murderer go. I remember what my mother said to me when they let him go, “Mala hierba nunca muere!” (Bad grass never dies) Indeed he died a free man at a ripe old age of natural causes. More than I can say for many of his innocent victims.

    This idea that Chile was a disaster that needed “saving” against the will of the people: Bullshit, and bullshit of the same brand that got us into two pointless, endless wars. It’s either deliberate distortion or pinheaded ignorance. This was the Cold War, and Chile was getting cozy with the USSR. (Cozy enough that Russian started to be taught as a second language in schools) Chile would have been a lot better off if the US and various other governments weren’t actively and surreptitiously undermining and sabotaging their already struggling economy. The US imposed sanctions for cripessake! People forget that Chile had an actual peasant class before Allende.

    We’re talking about ranch and factory owners who held a great deal of power over their respective fiefdoms. Unskilled labor found itself dealing with the novel aspects of collective management. Allende took power in 1971, he was killed in 1973. Gimmee a break, this current economic crisis will last longer than that! Should we overtthrow Obama? Ridiculous.

    Meanwhile, I can assure you a good proportion of the people looking back on Pinochet’s influence on present-day Chile are people too young to have remembered it. Just as in Spain today, there is a great deal of historical revisionism going on in Chile that favors the Right.

    But that’s okay! Big Macs more than make up for systematic undermining of democracies, oligarchic power, torture, millenarianism, classism, and racism- Just ask the Saudi royal family.

  13. @Xeni

    Gracias. I did not know if that was true, that’s why I said supposedly. The saddest part is that what Pinochet did was so hideous that the fake tale can ring true, as it is conceivable. It is no worse than the Argentinian death flights, and the mock executions on helicopters.

    Never forget.

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