A former Chilean army officer accused of torturing and killing Chilean folk singer Victor Jaro and others during the bloody aftermath of a 1973 military coup has been arrested in Florida, officials announced Tuesday.
Former police officer Pedro Pablo Barrijentos, 74, who moved to Florida in 1990, is wanted in Chile for the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Jara at a Chilean sports stadium. Mr. Jara and other dissidents were detained there after the September 11, 1973, coup that ousted the country’s president, Salvador Allende, and installed General Augusto Pinochet.
Federal immigration officials and local law enforcement officers arrested Mr. Barrientos on Oct. 5 during a traffic stop in Deltona, Fla., about 30 miles southwest of Daytona Beach, according to the Media Release released Tuesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mr. Barrientos is in ICE custody, officials said.
“Barrientos will now have to answer to charges he faces in Chile for his involvement in the torture and extrajudicial killing of Chilean nationals,” said John Condon, special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Division in Tampa.
Mr. Jara, who has been described as the “Bob Dylan of South America,” was a popular singer who hailed from rural Chile and sang stories of poverty and injustice.
He supported Allende’s government and was a member of the Communist Party of Chile when he was arrested at the State Technical University along with hundreds of students and professors.
Three days after his arrest, Jara’s bullet-riddled body was found outside a cemetery along with the bodies of four other victims. Before he was killed, the soldiers broke his fingers with their butts and mockingly said that he would never play the guitar again.
Mr. Barrientos’ arrest comes more than seven years after a federal jury found him liable in a civil suit for Mr. Jara’s death and awarded $28 million in damages to the singer’s family, which brought the case under a federal law that allows victims of human rights abuses abroad to seek compensation.
A former Chilean soldier testified in court that Mr. Barrientos boasted that he shot Mr. Jaro twice in the head.
“He was showing his gun and saying: ‘I killed Victor Jara with this,'” soldier José Navarrete testified.
A federal court revoked Mr. Barrientos’s US citizenship in July based on a sealed complaint filed by the Justice Department’s office of immigration litigation.
“The court found that Mr. Barrientos intentionally concealed material facts related to his military service in his immigration applications,” ICE said in a statement.
It is not clear whether Mr. Barrientos is being extradited. Federal authorities could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night, and it was not clear whether Mr. Barrientos had retained a lawyer.
Mr. Barrientos was the last former Chilean official to be arrested in Mr. Jara’s murder. In 2018, a Chilean judge sentenced eight retired military officers to more than 15 years in prison each for Mr. Jara’s death.