Late justice for Victor Jara

Victor Jara, one of Chile's best know folk singers, was killed a few days after the 1973 coup. The stadium where he was held now bears his name.

Victor Jara, one of Chile’s best know folk singers, was killed a few days after the 1973 coup. The stadium where he was held now bears his name.

A Chilean judge has issued an international arrest warrant against a former army lieutenant—now living in Florida—and charged seven other retired military officials in the 1973 killing of Victor Jara, a folk singer, theatre director and member of Chile’s Communist Party.

Jara was arrested the day after the coup at the Universidad Tecnica, when army troops occupied the institution and made mass arrests of students and university personnel, transferring them to Santiago’s Estadio Nacional and the Estadio Chile. Jara was held in the latter stadium, where he was recognized by military officials/ According to a ruling by the judge investigating the case,  Jara was moved to the locker rooms and subjected to several days of interrogation and torture before being shot.  The folk singer’s remains were exhumed in 2009 and investigators found 44 bullet wounds in his body, which had been dumped near the national cemetery, along with the bodies of three other prisoners.

The arrest order names retired army lieutenant Pedro Barrientos and another officer as those responsible for Jara’s killing, along with six other former officers as accomplices.  Barrientos, a car dealer living in Winter Springs, Florida, was interviewed by a Chilean television station last May, and denied any involvement in Jara’s death, saying he had never even been in the Estadio Chile. A former army conscript interviewed on the same program said he had witnessed Barrientos shooting Jara.

Apples in Cuba

In Habana Vieja, the historic center of the Cuban capital, American apples are on sale for half a convertible peso each.  This blogger bought one from a street vendor, inquiring where the apples came from.  The United States, she told me. What about the trade embargo (el bloqueo), I asked.

“Yes, el bloqueo exists, but I don’t know how these come into the country,” she said.

Here’s a link to a BBC report on the state of Virginia’s apple exports to Cuba:  One of the apple growers interviewed describes his visit to Cuba, meeting Fidel Castro and describing him as “the smartest politician I’ve ever seen.”

Of course, the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, first enacted in 1960, is not exactly watertight.  In 1999 President Bill Clinton simultaneously tightened and loosened the embargo, prohibiting the foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba while allowing agricultural and medical products to be sold on a cash-up-front, no credit basis.  In addition to apples, here are some more American products I saw on sale in Cuba:

  1. Coca-Cola (produced by the company’s Mexican subsidiary).
  2. Jack Daniels whiskey
  3. Head and Shoulders shampoo
  4. Colgate toothpaste (produced in China).

Here’s a link to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which advises American exporters on trading with Cuba:

Woes of the dead novelist

woes of the true policeman

It’s the second book by the late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño to be published this year, and rarely has a dead author been so prolific. An essay in the New Republic’s online literary review, The Book reviews Woes of the True Policeman, noting that in structure and style the novel resembles Bolaño’s 2666, a bestseller released four years ago.  But Bolaño left specific instructions for 2666 to be published, which he did not do for this novel and reviewer Sam Carter described Woes as “a rough sketch of ideas that were fully realized in 2666.”

The essay also asks if there aren’t hidden costs in a publisher catering to the Bolaño cult, releasing his unpublished writing as finished books instead of scholarly collections of papers. “The continued publication and popular packaging of his incomplete work may actually be diluting his reputation as a writer of varied talents and fearless ambition,” Carter writes.

And there may be more Bolaño books in the pipeline.  A Lumpen Novella, written a year before his death in 2003, has yet to be translated and there is a manuscript entitled Diorama that has not been published in Spanish or translated into English..

Hanukkah in Havana

American contractor Alan Gross, who has spent three years in a Cuban military prison, was visited this week by two leaders of Cuba’s Jewish community on Monday, December 17, the day after the eight-day festival ended.

“We spent a little more than an hour with him,” Jewish Community Foundation president Adela Dworin told the Spanish news agency EFE. “We lit the eight candles as tradition indicates, and we brought him latkes (potato pancakes), the main dish of the festival and other sweets.”

This blogger visited Havana’s Beth Shalom synagogue last month, transported by a cab driver who offered, without being asked, a suspicious amount of information about Fidel Castro’s health.  At the temple a caretaker happily showed his visitors the building, saying there was no anti-Semitism in Cuba and pointing out the photograph of film director Steven Spielberg’s visit in 2002:

Photo of Steven 'Spielberg

And here is a link to a NY Times story on Cuba’s Jewish community:


A Chilean news roundup

The Santiago Times reports that Chilean troops will continue to serve with United Nations peacekeeping forces in Bosnia for another year, joining soldiers from 23 other nations. Chile is the only Latin American country participating in this operation. Chilean troops also work with the UN in Haiti:

The British travel book company, Rough Guides, has included Valparaiso on its Travel Hot List 2013, describing the Chilean port as “one of the most distinctive cities in Latin America, with colourful houses draped across a series of steep, undulating hills overlooking the Pacific. Valparaiso has an edgy bohemian atmosphere, character-filled cobbled streets, and wonderful turn-of-the-century architecture, plus some of Chile’s best restaurants and bars.”

Entertainment Weekly has an interview on its blog with director Pablo Larrain about the making of the film “No,” Chile’s entry for the Oscar’s best foreign film:

The British Foreign Office’s announcement that the southern part of its claimed Antarctic territory would be named Queen Elizabeth Land has raised eyebrows in Chile and Argentina, as both countries have overlapping claims to the region as well. The Guardian newspaper calls the move “a retro piece of neo-imperialism for Her Majesty”   while the Telegraph notes that “Australia, Norway, France and New Zealand are the only countries that formally recognize the existence of British Antarctic Territory; Argentina and Chile clearly don’t.”….html.

MercoPress reports that Chile’s Antarctic bases expect to host some 250 scientists, including researchers from Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Germany, the United States, South Korea and Venezuela, who will work on 50 different projects over the 2012-2013 austral summer.

Illicit association

Asociacion Ilicita describes the activities of the Pinochet regime's security forces.

Asociacion Ilicita describes the activities of the Pinochet regime’s security forces.

It was the sort of incident you’d associate with the Pinochet years: intruders enter the home of an investigative journalist and steal his laptop, leaving other valuables untouched.  But this past Saturday that is what happened to Mauricio Weibel, a Chilean reporter for the German news agency Deutsche-Presse Agentur (DPA) and coauthor of a recent book on the military regime’s security apparatus, Asociacion Ilicita.

Weibel told the digital newspaper El Mostrador ( that thieves stole two laptops, one containing research for his work as a journalist.   “That same afternoon a man was discovered photographing my house and fled when family friends asked him to identify himself,” he said.  Chilean police visited the home, and Weibel had a conversation with Interior Minister Andres Chadwick, who assured him he would be protected. But then another robbery occurred: intruders entered the property and stole tools from Weibel’s patio.

And on the same day Weibel’s computers were stolen, intruders entered the home of another Chilean journalist, Javier Rebolledo, author of another book on the Pinochet regime’s security forces, La Danza de los Cuervos, and stole a computer disc. Reporters Without Borders has a piece on the case and other attempts to intimidate Chilean journalists:,43799.html.