Chile honors famous folk singer killed in coup

AP News
Posted: Dec 04, 2009 1:23 PM

Thousands of Chileans including President Michelle Bachelet paid their respects Friday to a folk singer who became a martyr of the country's 1973 military coup and whose remains will be reburied following a search for clues to identify his killers.

Victor Jara's remains, which will be reburied on Saturday, were exhumed earlier this year for an autopsy that confirmed that he was tortured and then shot to death. Investigators have not said yet whether the clues have brought them any closer to solving his murder.

Jara, a folk singer, theater director, communist and outspoken supporter of socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende, was detained in a stadium along with 5,000 other leftists when Gen. Augusto Pinochet took power in a military coup on Sept. 11, 1973. Pulled from the crowd, he was tortured and shot to death by the military as a message to the rest.

Bachelet was among those who filed past the coffin at the Victor Jara Foundation, a community center that his widow, Joan Jara, helped create to keep his memory alive.

"I believe that finally, after 36 years, Victor can rest in peace," Bachelet said Friday, adding that many other victims of the dictatorship deserve similar resolutions, "and that's why it's important that we keep advancing in truth and justice so that Chile can rest in peace."

Joan Jara, now in her 80s, thanked the president. "This is not a normal funeral," she said. "This is an act of love and mourning for all of our dead. ... It's also a celebration of the life of Victor, and of all the rest."

A former draftee soldier, Jose Paredes, was charged with Jara's murder after saying he followed orders to shoot the folk singer, but he later denied being in the stadium. The officers who gave the orders have never been formally identified.

Jara's body will be reburied in Santiago's general cemetery, not far from the cement niche where Joan Jara secretly buried his body in the days after the coup.