J. Patrice McSherry



The Víctor Jara Case and the Long Struggle against Impunity in Chile

The judicial case concerning the 1973 torture and murder of Víctor Jara, beloved Chilean singer-songwriter and pioneer of Chile’s New Song movement, has continued for almost 40 years. Víctor Jara was a celebrated musician, theater director, and composer. His songs spoke stirringly of the lives of the poor, denounced injustices and massacres, and communicated the vision of a new, socially just future. He was actively involved in the social and political movements that elected democratic socialist Salvador Allende as president in 1970. Jara was killed in the Chile Stadium in one of the military’s first and most infamous extrajudicial executions after the bloody September 1973 coup. The artist, and thousands of other supporters of the Popular Unity government, were detained in the stadium in the first days after the coup. The ongoing judicial case of Víctor Jara symbolizes the long struggle against impunity in Chile. This article updates information on the development and significance of the judicial case of Víctor Jara. Under the government of Michelle Bachelet, who took office in 2014, political conditions may be more promising for a resolution. But strong forces in Chile–and probably in the United States-are opposed to clarifying Jara’s murder. Pressure from within Chile and from the international human rights community will be crucial to finally identifying and holding accountable those who authorized and carried out the murder of Víctor Jara.

Víctor Jara, Chile, popular music, social movement, impunity, democratization

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 41, No. 3 (2014): 52-68


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