TAMPA, Fla. — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa’s Space Coast office apprehended a Chilean national wanted in connection with his involvement in torture and extrajudicial killings during the aftermath of a military coup in 1973.
HSI Space Coast special agents, fugitive operations officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Miami’s Orlando suboffice, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office’s Volusia Bureau of Investigation, Melbourne Police Department Task Force officers, and members of the Florida Highway Patrol arrested Pedro Paulo Barrientos Nunez in Deltona on Oct. 5.
On Sept. 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet led a violent coup against Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile. In the following weeks, many people were detained and tortured in Chile Stadium, an indoor sports facility that the military commandeered as a de facto detention center. Many disappeared or were executed. Victor Jara, a popular folk musician, was among the most famous victims.
In 2016, a jury in a civil case before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida found Barrientos liable for Jara’s torture and killing.
The court revoked Barriento’s U.S. citizenship on July 14 based on a complaint filed by the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation. The court found Barrientos willfully concealed material facts related to his military service in his immigration applications, prompting an HSI investigation.
“Barrientos arrest is a testament to the strong law enforcement alliances forged over years of service with our state, local, and federal partners,” said HSI Tampa Special Agent in Charge John Condon. “Barrientos will now have to answer the charges he’s faced with in Chile for his involvement in torture and extrajudicial killing of Chilean citizens.”
Barrientos is currently in ICE custody.
This case was supported by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) and HSI Buenos Aires. Established in 2008, the HRVWCC furthers HSI’s efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Currently, HSI has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,700 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, HSI has arrested more than 480 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and immigration statutes.
As the principal investigative component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), HSI is responsible for investigating transnational crime. In collaboration with its partners in the United States and abroad, HSI special agents develop evidence to identify and advance criminal cases against transnational criminal organizations, terrorist networks and facilitators, and other criminal elements that threaten the homeland.
Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the HSI tip line at 866-347-2423. Callers may remain anonymous.