Torture Then and Now

By Rebecca Gordon
Dec 23, 2010

Long before 2001, the day September 11 held tremendous significance for friends of justice and democracy around the world. It was on September 11, 1973 that a U.S.-backed coup in Chile deposed the elected president, Salvador Allende, and began a 17-year reign of terror under General Augusto Pinochet. In the days immediately following the coup, 5,000 people were rounded up, herded into a Santiago stadium, tortured, and murdered.

Among them was the great singer of nueva cancíon, Victor Jara. In this video, he sings one of his best-loved pieces, Plegaria a un labrador ("Prayer to a Worker").

Now the Washington Post reports that a Chilean attorney is calling for the arrest of four men he believes are directly responsible for Jara's torture and murder. Will they be prosecuted? That remains to be seen.

But if Chile can prosecute torturers almost 40 years later, perhaps people in this country will find the courage to prosecute torturers whose crimes are only a few years old.

Perhaps we will also find the courage to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to shut down CIA torture centers in Bagram, Afghanistan, Diego García, and around the world. Several groups in this country are working to make that happen, including the National Religious Campaign Against Tortureand Witness against Torture.

This January 11 - 22, Witness against Torture has planned a series of actions to close Guantánamo, including demonstrations and fasts in Washington. Click on the image on the left to see how you can get involved.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Rebecca Gordon is a member of the War Times/Tiempo de Guerras organizing committee. She has been a political activist for more years than she cares to remember, working on issues of feminism, war and peace, economic and racial justice, and specifically torture in the post-9/11 United States. Rebecca's new book, Mainstreaming Torture comes out in May 2014 from Oxford University Press. She's also the author of Letters From Nicaragua, a record of six months spent in the war zones during the contra war.

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