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Chile: Who killed Victor Jara?
Scandal of state compensation paid to mass murderer
AMONGST THE first to be slaughtered by the military dictatorship which seized power in Chile in September 1973 was the very popular folk singer and Communist Party member, Victor Jara. He was married to an English woman, Joan, and dedicated his musical talents to the struggle of the working class and the poor. His songs were about the Chilean working people and their struggles.
Tony Saunois, CWI, Santiago
Following the coup, Jara was taken, along with thousands of others, to the National Stadium to be tortured and killed. Victor Jara's body was found on 16 September 1973 near the Cemeterio Metropolitano, riddled with 34 bullet wounds.
In December 2004, Chilean judge Juan Carlos Urrutia prosecuted the then retired Lieutenant-Colonel, Mario Manriquez Bravo for the murder of Jara. Bravo was the officer in charge of the National Stadium during the bloodbath in 1973. But the identity of the Jara's actual killer remained hidden.
Now, the killer has been exposed. Unbelievably, he works for the new government headed by Socialist Party president, Michelle Bachelet, in the ministry responsible for pensions.
A series of witnesses who survived the National Stadium pointed to Edwin Dimiter, known as the 'Sadistic Prince', and have now identified him. Their horrific testimonies recount the arrogance of this young military officer of 23 at the time. With no mask now hiding his identity, former prisoners recall how he spoke to thousands of prisoners assembled in the stadium.
"Can you hear me you Marxist shit?" was his first address to the prisoners from the second floor of the stadium. He had a booming voice and needed no microphone. "Do you look at me with fear? Now we have finished with speeches you sons-of-bitches. Now you will work and if you will not work, we will execute you. Can you hear me? I have the voice of a Prince". This is included in the testimony of one former prisoner, Victor Garcia. From that moment on he was known as 'The Prince'.
Others recall how a soldier tripped over the legs of a prisoner who lay on the floor after having been beaten. 'The Prince' ordered the prisoner to be shot on the spot. Others recount how he would beat prisoners on the testicles with a leather club and far worse.
No simple soldier
'The Prince' was not simply a soldier compelled to "carry out orders".
In 1970 he had travelled to Panama and underwent training in the notorious 'Escuela de las Americas' - a military training school run by US imperialism for the military throughout Latin America. Many of those who underwent training in Panama went on to participate in military coups and carried out the brutal repression which followed in the 1970s. 'The Prince' was no exception.
He participated in the aborted military coup against Allende in June 1973 - the "Tanquetazo" - and was consequently arrested. During the successful coup of September 11, 1973, he was immediately released and was assigned to duties in the National Stadium. Survivors of the bloodbath there now testify that he arrived at the stadium full of hate following his imprisonment and was out for revenge.
The identity of 'The Prince' has remained a well-kept secret for the last three decades. However, his exposure has revealed an even more bitter chapter in this tragedy. 'The Prince' has been employed by the coalition governments since the "Transition", in the Department of Pensions.
Yet even this is not the end of the story. 'The Prince' was stood down from the military in 1976 for unexplained reasons. Yet unbelievably he has been given protection and gained all the benefits included in the 'Ley de Exonerados Politicos' - a law which was introduced in February 1999.
It was introduced as a means of compensating political prisoners under the Pinochet regime. Once arrested, many lost their jobs, could not get work and lost all pension entitlement. This law provided a compensation payment and pension rights for the period concerned. To benefit from this law it is likely that 'The Prince' was nominated by a politician or government official.
This is not the only case of those responsible for torture and murder benefiting from this law which was introduced to assist former political prisoners. Another beneficiary was an intelligence officer with the Chilean Air force, Rafael Gonzalez Verdugo. He was charged with the murder in 1973 of the USA citizen, Charles Horman, featured in the powerful film "Missing" which told a part of the story of the 1973 coup.
Not a closed book
The 'Socialist' government headed by Bachelet, with its neo-liberal policies and continued repression of a new generation of youth in the current school student protests, wants such issues left buried in historical archives.
The uncovering of the identity of the murderer of Victor Jara demonstrates that this period of Chilean history, and the suffering endured by the workers and youth under the dictatorship, is not a closed book. It is being re-opened by a new generation.
The lesson of the defeat of the Chilean revolution in 1973 and the struggle against the dictatorship now needs to be re-learned if the system that bred the Pinochet regime is to be overthrown.
Building a new powerful socialist force, that can end capitalism and set about the task of building socialism, is the best way to avenge the death of Victor Jara and the thousands of others who suffered at the hands of the dictatorship in Chile.
In The Socialist 6 July 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party workplace news