Remembering Pinochet: Five Selected Voices

As the world’s political scale tips towards the right, we are beginning to welcome in politicians who are increasingly conservative and regressive in their policies and viewpoints. Recent voting appears to portray a certain desperation or fear that are built alongside  possible failings or a lack of a strong voice to build a succinct path to a well grounded ideology in left leaning parties, something we are seeing across the political landscape of the world. Of course you cannot generalise, it is our democratic right to vote for who we wish, but the recent successes don’t seem to add up in any logical way. Elections held in Colombia and Brazil are examples of right wing representatives that have won the majority, with Brazil being the most recent. I have mentioned previously about the rise of populism, in which some additional political analysis suggests a fall of populism, but this now doesn’t seem the case. Bolsonaro, the newly elected far right president-elect for Brazil will be called in to power on the 1st of January in place of Michel Temer (who entered office with rather hard-line austerity measures, replacing Dilma as the Centre-Left – Workers Party after her trial for impeachment), who now leaves with an incredibly low approval rating through allegations of corruption and appearing two times in court under impeachment, all with the unwillingness to step-down or give up power. Failure to relent or control measures have allowed the voice of a far-right politician to appeal to the mass populace’s broad anger for the current ‘corrupt politics’ and the allegations that surrounded their failings.

Bolsonaro, a politician who has been fined and even faced charges for inciting hate speech against the LGBT communities, indigenous peoples, minorities in Brazil and women will become acting president from 1st January 2019, another leading politician found muttering populist statements in which the hateful speech alongside it is swept under the rug for a false chance of something better. Bolsonaro has chosen foreign minister Ernesto Araújo as Brazil’s leading diplomat; a man who believes that Climate Change exists as a Marxist plot to stifle foreign economies, a statement that has produced an alarming ring in the ear’s of activists all around the globe.

But we are to be reminded of far-right parties and what they represent, they may offer words of supposed encouragement in these darkened times with bread and butter promises, but those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

 

In 2018 justice had been served after a long and painstaking investigation, and under the Chilean courts 9 ex-soldiers were sentenced against the brutal murder of musician and political activist Victor Jara; with all the involved parties or individuals sentenced accordingly. This felt, for me, the best time to create a brief overview in what feels like a world turning on it’s side for the worst, and to showcase an example that could possibly replicate a similar path of silencing, one that resulted in the dislodging of it’s peoples regarding the implementation of far-right wing policies, one where many Chilean artists were either fleeing the country or staying to risk their lives for their voice to be heard, those who wanted to perform their works uncensored.

 

Jara’s justice sparked a rounding up of five selected artists and their struggle against Pinochet’s Coup and their continuation of their arts in Chile where groups and individuals faced extradition, detainment or torture during his dictatorship. Many had suffered horrendous torture or even execution for their works, works that continued to fight oppressive censorship of the arts. There is now an ongoing search for generals and accomplices that committed these atrocities.
Alongside this a new documentary Nae Pasaran which I have noted at the end.

 

November 1970, Salvador Allende; co founder of the Socialist Party of Chile and leader of the Unidad Popular party was sworn in as president, much to the United States’ dismay and their fear with the rise of communism and potential growth of anti-Americanism in South America. His win was only slight over his opponent Jorge Alessandri, and required a coalition with the Christian Democratic Party (CDP). The first socialist government to be elected in via the ballot box, an achievement accomplished without the implementation of violence.

Allende begun his leadership with his program “the Chilean Path to Socialism”, one that focused on inclusion and social improvements for the Chileans most poorest. One example was the provision of scholarships to around 3000 to the indigenous Chilean Mapuche children to integrate them into mainstream education, which as a Marxist, is the foundation built on the focus on the inclusion of the working classes. The Mapuche population had been largely ignored by governments up until then, and even today, it does not exist as an official language in Chile.

 

There is a summary of the potential involvement of US politics in the Allende coup in that the Nixon Administration was worried of a further spread of communism post Cuba; the US believed that Latin America had belonged to them and Nixon had stated “Latin America is ours, and we want to keep it” and pursued an economic strangulation of Chile by isolating the state. This was all done in a cool and calm attitude to Allende so as not to draw attention to their intentions. This was done primarily through their neighbours, Argentina and Brazil, and through breaking their economy by influencing a reduction in Foreign Aid in which Chile had become dependent on to maintain their economy and continued development. This was done in an indirect way to produce such an attack on Chile, and although they were certain that voters from the last election and the potential voters of the progression of Allende’s implementations would be reduced – they were not, and Allende’s coalition won 43% of the congressional elections in 1973. Allende wanted to maintain diplomatic relations with the US, unlike Castro in Cuba who composed an anti-american front.

Nixon’s administration had withdrawn support and planned visits to Chile during 1973 in which Allende commented that he had “never never never said a bad word against him or Nixon” towards Edward Korry, Korry announced his departure from his position as US ambassador in Chile and left. This was a man wanting to maintain a relationship with a deeply paranoid US, which we could hear from his plea. We can speculate that the negative right-wing propaganda against Allende may have received funding from the Nixon’s potential blank cheque funding to the CIA. It is very difficult to prove certain funding as they are done in-directly, but it would seem the US’s actions against Allende would be supported by the negative diplomatic actions at work within the Nixon administration, one that had accused Allende of having a network of sympathetic organisations that covered the globe, supporting localised terrorist groups by financing or transferring weapons to them and swaying political votes towards Marxism. But from what we can observe on the actions carried out by Nixon between 1970 and 1973, this mirrored more the actions of the US during their smear of Allende’s image.

 

Allende’s continued success came from his door-to-door campaigns and appealing to a majority of working class through his inclusive programs; he also received overwhelming support from grassroots organisations, labour unions and left leaning parties, but this begun to change. Allende received much pressure from the MIR (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria de Chile) who wanted to increase the rate of leftist progression to the more moderate pacing Allende wanted to feed in, he did not want to create a copy of the Russian, Czech or Cuban communist paths, he wanted a reformation for the people of Chile.

The economic decline begun to set in and the Banks crashed, and was now receiving a political backlash from MIR and their former coalition group CDP, causing internal conflicts whilst protests and strikes within the middle classes were held in city centre populations – which increased political pressure on Allende’s political party.

Pinochet had already set the wheels in motion for a Coup d’état when the US government had heard been made aware of his intentions, he was waiting for the glaring weakness in Allende’s government before he could make his move. Allende had committed suicide before they could reach him, forensics had drafted that an assault rifle was held between his legs, firing from the jaw upwards with the automatic feature set on. Recent autopsy results were carried out to be certain of Allende’s cause of death in a recent investigation and clean up from the Pinochet regime, but is has now been confirmed that it he took his own life instead of risking humiliation by the uprising.

On September 11th, 1973 the military had overthrown the Allende UP government creating a Junta; this suspended the constitution as well as congress in which they also implemented strict censorship and a ban or even eradication left-wing parties and individuals. Pinochet had begun a roundup of those who promoted left-wing policies throughout the country which created a great divide between those who supported Allende during his time in office and Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Marxism was to be eliminated from Chile at all costs.

Several concentration camps were set up across Chile including: Estadio Nacional de Chile (National Stadium), Estadio Chile (now Víctor Jara Stadium), Villa Grimaldi and Londres 38 are just a few based in Santiago. A report by Harvard have noted nearly 80 alone in Santiago, with others in far reaching areas including the Atacama desert. In the Estadio Chile,  where Jara was tortured before being taken out to a deserted area and shot, was renamed in 2003 in his honour.
Many artists were detained and tortured in these camps. Guillermo Núñez is one of Chile’s most important visual artists, he had painted images representing the atrocities such as the Vietnam War, the treatment of African-Americans in the United States and the military coups over Latin America. Núñez had kept a shelter for those who were in danger of capture by the Pinochet regime,this included member of Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR) – Victor Toro. Núñez was arrested and interrogated about his affiliation with the MIR and he was kept in a room with multiple others, blindfolded with a cardboard sign attached to them displaying only a number, this is to reduce them down – stripping them of their identity and their rights to humanity.

The human right’s of Chileans were abused on a tremendous scale, with approximately 40,000 people being subjected to torture, rape or death. This would not of been possible with the implementation of DINA (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional), often referred to as Pinochet’s ‘Gestapo’, DINA had been engaged with Operation Condor and Operation Colombo to capture and interrogate or eliminate opponents. The DINA’s mission was to assassinate members of MIR, UP and coalition parties by association to the UP. Operation Condor had been a collaborative effort to round up left leaning figures across S.A with the US backing the campaign, a campaign that has caused misery to many and caused deaths with some believing to be upward of 60,000 people.

 

“In some camps, routine sadism was taken to extremes. At Villa Grimaldi, recalcitrant prisoners were dragged to a parking lot; DINA agents then used a car or truck to run over and crush their legs. Prisoners there recalled one young man who was beaten with chains and left to die slowly from internal injuries. Rape was also a reoccurring form of abuse. DINA officers subjected female prisoners to grotesque forms of sexual torture that included insertion of rodents and, as tactfully described in the Commission report, “unnatural acts involving dogs.”

 

 

This leads us to the selected musicians of the time, those that promoted peace and their rights to humanity; all in the face of a highly oppressive dictatorship in which blighted Chile.

 


Victor Jara

 

Joan Jara, the wife of Victor has expressed Victors passion for songwriting in her book;

 

“I realised how profound was Victor’s necessity for music and how important his guitar was to him. I could have been jealous of it, because it was almost as though it were another person with whom he conversed…. He always seemed to have two or three songs inside him. As he had said to me in one of his letters, ‘Something seems to take root in me and then has to find a way of getting out.'”

 

Victor Jara had been a passionate song-writer, and through this had created a reputation throughout Chile for antagonising the Conservative population. A composition by Jara titled “La beata” had been about a religious woman lusting after the priest, visiting him often for during confession. This was banned throughout Chilean radio stations and stripped from the record stores as it antagonised the Chilean conservative population, but this appealed to Chile’s young and progressive population.

He had joined vocalist and musician Violeta Parra in the influential movement of Nueva Canción (New Songs), which promoted a move towards a modern structure of Chilean Folkloric performance. Jara was also a part of Conjunto Cuncumén, this translates to Murmur of Water in the Mapudungun language of the Mapuche people of southern Chile. The Mapuche had received little to no government support over time, although Allende’s program was to introduce programs as mentioned earlier to integrate them into modern Chile.

Jara visited the Soviet Union and other communist states throughout the 1960s, which begun to influence his work through Marxism and ultimately joining the Communist party, showing his most utmost support for Salvador Allende and the UP party and often dedicating music towards the cause. Jara’s visit to Cuba had sparked his revolutionary song A Cuba (to Cuba) –

If I were to sing to Cuba,
I will sing a song,
it would have to be a son,
a revolutionary son,
foot with foot, hand with hand,
heart to heart.
Since I do not play the son
but I play the guitar,
who is right in the battle
of our revolution

 

El Derecho De Vivir En Paz is a collaboration of Victor Jara and the Chilean psychedelic band of Los Blops and is truly a piece of art that supports Allende and his policies to the fullest, whilst also looking at peace in general Jara hits on other events such as the Vietnam War – which is the opening of this album.

 

The right to live 
Poet Ho Chi Minh 
Hitting Vietnam 
To all mankind 
No cannon will erase 
The furrow of your paddy 
The right to live in peace 

 

 

A performance in Peru during their military rule between 1968 and 1980, Jara performed pieces from across his ouevre, including his most politically challenging, El derecho de vivir en paz (The Right To Live In Peace) – filmed just months before the Chilean coup.

Jara was captured just days after Pinochet’s Coup and was held at the Estadio Chile; Jara was beaten and his hands were broken; forced to play guitar by the guards. He was taken to a unknown location after this and executed; his body was found riddled with 44 bullets and was returned to the morgue. His body was spotted amongst many by a guard and informed Jara’s wife, who was to come to the morgue to collect himto avoid being put into the communal burial grounds.

 

 


Quilapayún

 

Chilean band Quilapayún is one of the longest running groups of the Nueva Canción movement who have been active since 1965. Quilapayún is taken from the Mapuche language which translates to “The Three Bearded Men” founded by three university students at the time including the two brothers Eduardo and Julio Carrasco, and Julio Numhauser.

Quilapayún hold great importance for their political works which were in support of Allende’s UP party and general progressive policies worldwide inspired by the works of Conjunto Cuncumén and other Nueva Canción groups at the time. As the band evolved in their early years, they had introduced a fourth member to the band – Patricio Castillo a student of Philosophy and this then begun their work and collaboration with artists such as Jara and Ángel Parra, which helped to shape the band’s image and sound. Quilapayún would begin to dress in black ponchos to draw attention to their Andean roots and this dress and their performance was coordinated by Jara and his background in staging and theatre. Quilapayún’s first album was recorded and released in 1967.

The following year they had recorded an album alongside Victor Jara titled ‘Canciones Folklóricas De América’ and featured new musicians who had joined Quilapayún to  replace Julio, who had left the band just shortly after their debut release on the grounds of artistic differences. The new artists were Carlos Quezada, Willy Oddo (who many speculate was assassinated on his return to Chile in 1991 by Pinochet’s secrete police, DINA) and Patricio Castillo – all students at the time.

Quilapayún’s work would continue to be influential and would become a well recognised voice in the Communist Movement in Chile. They had formed the Juventudes Comunistas Chilenas (Chilean Communist Youth) label Jota Jota in 1968, which would then become known as DICAP (Discoteca Del Cantar Popular) that released existing and upcoming artists that displayed unity in support of the Communist movement.

Whilst the band were touring France they had been informed of the Coup, and this then begun their exile of Chile which would last around 15 years, they returned at around the time of Pinochet’s collapse and reinstatement of democratic procedures. They  continued recording in France during this period, including my favourite release El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido (The People United Will Never Be Defeated),  their message was aimed at the struggle of the Chilean people, but it’s strict censorship and control of media by the regime meant that it was difficult to obtain their music.

 

 


Isabel Parra

 

Isabel is the sister of Ángel Parra and daughter of Violeta Parra, they were a family of incredibly talented musicians who had a strong influence on the new music movement in Chile, and Isabel was no exception.

Isabel is still active today, and since 1959 has featured on a broad depth of works which include performances with her brother Ángel, Quilapayún (in which the album was recorded in the German Democratic Republic / East Germany in 1971) and Jara.

She was politically vocal like the rest, and her passion to share her mother’s works were taken internationally during her exile after the coup, living in both Argentina and France.

The selected recording below features her recordings and odes alongside Quilapayún’s Patricio Castillo.

 

 


Mariela Ferreira

 

Mariela came on board to the Conjunto Cuncumén group during the early 1960’s and became director of the group from around 1962 after the recording ‘The folklore of Chile vol. IX’. During her time with Cuncumén she had noted the groups dedication to collecting props and practising rituals within the Folkloric community that would then be woven in to their performances. Her professional relationship with Jara was spoken with much esteem, given that he helped to promote and refine their theatrical appearance during performances.

Conjunto Cuncumén were not a particularly political group in their content, and were mostly centralised on exposing the Chilean population to a mix of Folkloric tradition and experimenting with new sounds, but, with the association with Jara, Rolando Alarcón and their strong support of the UP party and of general Left leaning outlooks – Ferreira was implicated alongside them and her home raided by soldiers in 1973 after the coup, she was then exiled to Sweden.

Her solo material had begun emerging in the later 1970s with Por Chile signalling her frustration and sadness of the state of the country during this time, but this album is difficult to get hold of and I have yet to come across any sign of it – so I have earmarked her later recording below titled “Exile and Hope” which was released in 2009.

 

 


Alvaro Peña-Rojas

 

Alvaro is different in his approach to music regarding the Nueva Canción movement that we have looked at with the previous artists. His music explored the avante-garde and punk influences at the time, spending his time accompanied by Joe Strummer in a squat in London during the 1970’s under his own imprint Squeaky Shoes Records. His first solo album Drinking My Own Sperm was recorded in London, and certainly has elements of desperation, frustration and a sarcastic anger towards the Chilean political situation at the time, one that left so many displaced.

That albums instrumentation is loose in it’s performance, there is a lot of space, and in this space Alvaro’s voice howls against a stock honky-tonk piano, one that is played in a rather clumsy fashion and is frequently accompanied with sporadic percussive play, this is recognisable on multiple tracks throughout the record. These sounds reflect Alvaro’s sarcastic and eccentric lifestyle,his content still contains a meaningful message as does all punk and it’s associated subsidiaries even if it is deeply embedded, but on Drinking My Own Sperm it is also found in the instrumentation.

Alvaro still writes and performs to this day.

 

 


Nae Pasaran (Upcoming Documentary)

 

Nae Pasaran has been a documentary long in the making of nearly six years that focuses on the efforts by Scottish workers in the Rolls Royce factory who had valiantly decided to sabotage the supply line to Chile when they discovered the human rights violations carried out by the Pinochet regime against the Unions, who protected workers much like themselves before the coup.

In the Guardian they had spoken to the workers at the factory during this time;

 

“I told Bob, ‘Right. That’s it. We’ll black the fuckers.’” Blacking entailed attaching labels with the word “black” on them to each contested part, warning everyone in the plant to steer clear of them. The four engines – which had likely come from the Hawker Hunters involved in the attack on the presidential palace in Santiago – were eventually dumped outside in crates. Without protection from the elements, they were useless within a year.”

 

 

Plenty of ground has been covered on the Pinochet case and has featured more prominently in international news as of late, but there is certainly a lot more hidden in the depths of the government archives worldwide. The alarming rise of right-wing parties is something we need to challenge every day, not just for election build ups to update your social media on your quasi-political agenda, but something we must fight with our voice, through and with the arts and it’s surrounding communities, with the ones who are projecting their voice against the oppressive policies and governments currently putting in place measures that go beyond our boundaries of acceptance, ones that go against our morals and lifestyle choices – ones we have a right to pursue without interference or fear.

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