U.S. Expels Ex-Chile Army Officer to Face Charges in Killing of Víctor Jara

A former Chilean Army officer has been deported from Florida to Chile to face charges in the kidnapping and killing of a popular folk singer and a prison director days after the 1973 military coup that deposed President Salvador Allende.

The army officer, Pedro Barrientos, 74, who was expelled on Friday, was formally informed of the charges in the killings of the folk singer, Víctor Jara, and the former prison director, Littré Quiroga, and temporarily detained in an army base while the investigation against him concludes.

Mr. Barrientos’s return to Chile was the final chapter in one of the most notorious crimes of the Chilean dictatorship, as the country concludes an emotionally charged year of commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the coup that carried Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973. The expulsion comes days after the death of Henry Kissinger, the former American secretary of state who, declassified documents show, was the prime architect of covert U.S. plans to destabilize the Allende government.

It also comes after decades of a relentless pursuit of justice by Mr. Jara’s widow, Joan Jara, a British-born dancer who filed a criminal lawsuit in Chile and took Mr. Barrientos to a civilian court in Florida. Ms. Jara died last month at 96.

Mr. Barrientos is the last of eight Chilean officers charged in the killings. Four were convicted and began serving their sentences in August; two others, Nelson Haase and Juan Jara, are at large; while a seventh officer, Hernán Chacón, 86, took his life when detectives arrived at his home in Santiago to take him to prison. A judge will determine whether Mr. Barrientos is guilty of the charges. Human rights cases in Chile under the old judicial apparatus do not involve a trial system. Once convicted, Mr. Barrientos can appeal.

Mr. Jara was a mild-mannered, accomplished theater director, composer and singer who became well known in the 1960s and emerged as a cultural icon during the Allende government in the ’70s. His songs became part of the political opposition’s musical repertoire during the dictatorship, and are still popular to this day.

His daughter, Amanda Jara, who was 8 years old when her father was killed, remembers him as “a warm and really fun dad.” But she feels that justice is still elusive.

“So much time has passed that this does not feel like justice,” she said in an interview. “However, I think that for the country, for our collective history, this is important.”

Mr. Jara and Mr. Quiroga, supporters of the leftist Allende government, were arrested by the military on the day of the coup, Sept. 11, 1973, and taken to the Chile Stadium in the capital — since renamed Víctor Jara Stadium — where they were held with thousands of other prisoners. A court established that they were singled out by military officers and were interrogated and tortured for several days. On Sept. 15, 1973, both were shot by a group of officers; Mr. Barrientos was believed to be one of them.

“Their death was a slow one,” says Nelson Caucoto, a lawyer for the Jara and Quiroga families. “There was not a day nor an hour when they were not mistreated, beaten or tortured by a group of officers. One soldier testified that they were condemned to die; they would not leave the stadium alive.”

Mr. Jara had two gunshot wounds to the back of his head and more than 40 wounds all over his body. Mr. Quiroga was shot 22 times. Their bodies were dumped outside a cemetery in the capital with those of three other victims, and were eventually identified by their families in the morgue.

“I lost so much on that day,” Joan Jara said in an interview with The New York Times in 2016. “I lost my job and my profession. My children left their school, their friends, their home and their country. I was never able to remarry. I had been very much in love with Víctor.”

Mr. Barrientos left Chile for the United States at the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990. He worked as a landscaper and then as a cook in Deltona, Fla., and became an American citizen.

The unraveling of his quiet suburban life in Florida began in 2012, when Chilean reporters found him at his home, and the judge investigating the killings charged him in absentia and requested his extradition.

The following year, the Jara family — backed by the Center for Justice and Accountability, based in San Francisco, and the New York law firm Chadbourne & Parke — filed a civil suit against Mr. Barrientos in Orlando under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows people to take human rights violators living in the United States to trial.

In 2016, a federal jury established that Mr. Barrientos was liable for the torture and extrajudicial killing of Mr. Jara and awarded the family $28 million.

During the trial, a soldier testified in a videotaped deposition that Mr. Barrientos had boasted about having shot Mr. Jara in the head, and liked to show the weapon he presumably used.

Although the Chilean judiciary had sought his extradition since 2012, Mr. Barrientos was apprehended only two months ago by Homeland Security agents, after a Florida court found that Mr. Barrientos had concealed material facts related to his military service on his immigration application.

The court revoked his citizenship last July, based on a complaint filed by the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation.