ORLANDO, Florida – Retired Chilean military officer Pedro Barrientos Nuñez appeared on Monday before a U.S. federal court at the start of a civil trial for his suspected role in the murder of popular folk singer Victor Jara in the wake of the Sept. 11, 1973, military coup in Santiago.
Wearing dark glasses, Barrientos Nuñez tried to elude photographers as he entered the court and refused to make a statement.
Half an hour later Jara’s widow, British-born Joan Turner Jara, arrived with her two daughters, Amanda and Manuela Jara Bunster. None wished to make a statement.
Barrientos, 67, who came to the United States in 1989, is a resident of Deltona, Florida, and has U.S. citizenship.
He was sued in 2013 by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, or CJA, assisted in the trial by the law firm Chadbourbe & Parke.
Jara, a musician, actor, theater director and cultural icon, was a prominent supporter of Socialist President Salvador Allende, who took his own life during the Sept. 11 putsch.
The singer was arrested the day after 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.
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.
Barrientos was one of the lieutenants holding the prisoners in custody at Chile Stadium, since renamed in honor of Victor Jara.
CJA executive director C. Dixon Osburn said Monday in a statement that “artists have the ability to speak truth in ways much more powerful than politicians. That is what scared General Augusto Pinochet” about Jara.