Front PagePage TwoRecent OfferingsWeekly MagazineHoroscopesSubscribe!Feedback

Special Comment: The Death of Pinochet

Jara sang, his song a weapon, in the hands of love
    You know his blood still cries from the ground

           --U2, "One Tree Hill" from The Joshua Tree

By Eric Francis

THERE IS a story that former US President Gerald R. Ford, a devoutly religious man, once said he knows he is going to hell, because he pardoned Richard Nixon. He of all people knows what Nixon did. He took over that disgusting presidency and before that he sat on the Warren Commission that investigated and covered up facts surrounding the murder of John F. Kennedy.

For the next couple of days you're going to be hearing the name Pinochet a lot. He is something of the pinnacle of American hypocrisy when our government claims to help make the world safe for freedom or democracy. Pinochet was one of the most vicious dictators of our lifetimes; his rule represented the very essence of cruelty.

He was, by all indications, one of the anchor points for negativity, violence, deception and terror on our planet. The world is a better place without him, and there are many people tonight who regret that they did not get to personally kill him; many as well who longed only for him to be brought to justice for his crimes. I do not suggest that we rejoice in his death. Rather, I think there is a place and time for anger, and this is it, but that anger need only take us so far as recognizing, feeling, the need for justice.

Pinochet escaped both assassination and trial to the enviable age of 91. No doubt, he had a lot of help.

Two of his most valued accomplices, indeed, his sponsors, were Richard Nixon and his partner Henry Kissinger (the former US secretary of state, who presided over the worst phase of the Vietnam War), whose salaries we paid. On the real Sept. 11 -- the one in 1973 -- Nixon and Kissinger were in office and, as Steve Bergstein explains in today's edition of Psychsound (please see Front Page or Page Two), both are deeply implicated in the coup that left a democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende, dead (by most accounts, he killed himself before he could be killed by Pinochet). This coup led to the summary executions and torture of tens of thousands of Chilean people over many years that followed.

Watch as the mainstream press tries to talk its way around just who Pinochet was. Watch the sick dance of trying to maintain "balance" because they are the ones who so dutifully covered up who he was over all the years he was in power, and the involvement of the United States, through five presidencies -- from Nixon to Ford to Carter to Reagan to Bush the First.

Note how they go out of their way to tell you that some people are sad he's dead, and that he did a few "good things" (for example, helped the Chilean economy), which is the approximate equivalent of telling us that Charles Manson accomplished a lot because he used to feed stray cats.

Here we have one of the core issues: this kind of thing can only go on if a lot of people go into denial. On one level, the press is correct to point out that Pinochet had some support. But it would be wise of them to point out that all dictators do, and none could stay in power without at least some support, often that hovering around what we have seen through the past six years in the United States. Popularity, however, does not make a murderer into a saint. It is as immoral to knowingly believe a lie as it is to perpetrate one.

Pinochet became the prototype for numerous Latin American dictatorships that thrived not merely on violence and fear, but on pure sadism. In many ways these dictatorships, from Pinochet forward, make the Nazis (many of whom fled to South America) look like an orderly bunch of people who had a comprehensible agenda and who at least did what they did for a reason, disgusting as that reason was.

When you learn about the events of the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and many others come to mind), all sponsored by the CIA, you get the feeling of a nonstop free-for-all for death and torture, so senselessly cruel that it exceeded any explainable agenda or useful purpose, and existed merely for its own sake.

And so few Americans or Brits have a clue what was going on. Often, it is up to artists to bring us the news. Have you ever wondered who Jara is, the one that Bono sings about in the song "One Tree Hill," on the CD The Joshua Tree?

Victor Jara was a Chilean folk singer and theater director who brought the messages of revolution, dignity and freedom into his creative work. The "New Song," Jara's own phrase, was a kind of song wherein one was free to take a political stand, to speak from one's heart or guts, and to remind people that the struggle for freedom must continue every day. In doing so, be broke a taboo, which is that art must somehow remain neutral. The New Song freed art to exist as a mode for communicating the messages of liberation, and encouraged the uprising of the spirit, that is to say, of love, as the true power behind political progress.

When asked what love meant to him four days before the US-backed military coup that put Pinochet into power, Jara responded:

    Love of my home, my wife and my children.
    Love for the earth that helps me live.
    Love for education and of work.
    Love of others who work for the common good.
    Love of justice as the instrument that provides equilibrium for human dignity.

Science fiction author Frank Herbert (the Dune series, among others) once wrote, "Who do you despise? By that you are truly known." Here is an excerpt from Jara's Wikipedia page that tells you all you need to know about about Pinochet, based on one of those he despised the very most:

On the morning of September 12, Jara was taken, along with thousands others, as a prisoner to the Chile Stadium (renamed the Estadio Victor Jara in September 2003). In the hours and days that followed, many of those detained in the stadum were tortured and killed there by the military forces. Jara was repeatedly beaten and tortured, the bones in his hands were broken as were the bones of his ribs. Fellow political prisoners have testified that his captors mockingly suggested that he play guitar for them as he lay on the ground.

Defiantly, he sang part of a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition. He was murdered on September 15, after further beatings were followed by being machine-gunned and left dead on a road on the outskirts of Santiago. Soon after, his body was taken to a city morgue. Before his death, he wrote a poem about the conditions of the prisoners in the stadium, the poem was written on a paper that was hidden inside a shoe of a friend. The poem was never named, but is commonly known as Estadio Chile.

Jara's wife, Joan, was allowed to come and retrieve his body from the site (and was able to confirm the physical abuse he had endured). After holding a funeral for her husband, Joan Jara fled the country in secret.

Jara's Wiki Page

Pinochet's Wiki Page

Photo of Jara's Grave