In Chile, a thousand guitars pay homage to Victor Jara

A number of events and debates are taking place around the 30th anniversary of the referendum following which Augusto Pinochet had to step down

September 26, 2018 by Muhammed Shabeer
The singer was killed in the aftermath of the 1973 coup. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Communist Party of Chile appealed to Chilean citizens to participate on a grand scale in the October 5 anniversary celebrations of the successful ‘No’ vote campaign in the 1988 referendum that marked the beginning of the end of the Augusto Pinochet regime.

The 20th anniversary celebrations of the referendum have seen a number of events and debates on the coup and the dictatorship that followed it. On September 22, the La Paz de Recoleta Square in Santiago witnessed a massive musical tribute to renowned Chilean singer Victor Jara. Hundreds of guitarists participated in this event titled ‘Thousand guitars for Victor Jara’ #MilGuitarrasParaVictorJara. The event was a homage to the iconic musician who was tortured and killed immediately after the coup d’etat in September 1973.

Victor Jara was an active member of the Chilean Communist Party and a supporter of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government. He was taken into custody by the military on September 12, 1973 from the Technical University campus and detained at the Estadio Chile, along with around 5,000 people. After he was identified, Jara was brutally tortured and killed. His body was riddled with over 40 bullets. On July 3, 2018, eight retired Chilean military officers were sentenced to 15 years in jail for murdering Jara.

On September 21, a Chilean judge awarded life terms in prison to 20 ex-officials of Chile’s notorious National Intelligence Direction (DINA) for kidnapping, torturing and killing 12 peoples as part of Operation Condor (the large-scale political repression and state terror in the southern cone of South America) that was backed by the CIA. But in another earlier instance, judges from the second criminal chamber of the Chilean supreme court had granted conditional release to 5 persons who were convicted in another case of human rights violations during Pinochet’s rule. All five were convicted in the case of  disappearance and torture of Dr. Eduardo Alberto Gonzalez Galeno and the imprisonment of his wife Natacha Maria Carrion Osorio in 1973. On August 2018, the Chilean opposition under the leadership of Communist Party moved a petition for a constitutional indictment in the Chilean parliament against those three judges who released the convicts. They said that such a move from the Chilean court violated certain international laws regarding human rights such as the Rome Statute which protects victims of crimes against humanity. Even though the indictment motion got rejected by a slender margin, the issue was widely discussed all around country and brought international attention to the issue.

Recently, on the 45th  anniversary of the 1973 coup, Chilean president Sebastian Pinera wrote an article in the newspaper ‘El Mercurio’ recalling the events of 1973, in which he said that the coup d’etat was foreseeable but not inevitable because the Popular Unity government heaed by Allende had led the country on a path resisted by a majority of Chileans. This comment led to a huge backlash from various progressive and leftist sections. In the context of such distortion of history by the current government, Lautaro Carmona, the secretary general of the Communist Party of Chile, appealed to the citizens of the country to actively participate in the October 5 anniversary celebrations of the successful ‘NO’ vote campaign.

The National Organizing Committee is conducting two events in the coming days: one to commemorate renowned Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda at Isla Negra on September 29, and the other on September 30th to pay homage to Víctor Jara and Litre Quiroga.