Chilean torture center becomes shelter

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SANTIAGO, Chile : Just days after Chile’s bloody 1973 military coup, popular songwriter and theater director Victor Jara was dragged down to the basement of an indoor stadium that had been converted into a detention and torture center.

The new government considered Jara, a member of the Communist Party, an enemy. Many people believe he could have served as a powerful voice against the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.  

But Jara’s life was cut short inside the scraped concrete walls of a locker room now guarded behind a heavy red door. Pinochet’s agents beat his head and shot his body with 44 bullets.  

Four decades later, eight former army officers have been charged with Jara’s murder. And the infamous Chile Stadium, now renamed Victor Jara Stadium, has become Chile’s largest homeless shelter, housing about 500 people a night during the biting Chilean winter.  

“For me, it’s a miracle to be here where they are now giving shelter and food to everyone and where they killed Victor Jara,” said Ana Luisa Villaroel, 78, who lived through the dictatorship.  

Such shelters have been improved under President Sebastian Pinera’s government.  

A census for the homeless says 12,225 people were living on the street last year. The number of homeless people who died on the street because of the cold fell from 150 in 2010 to 28 last year. --AP

In this May 20, 2013 photo, the name Martin Sepulveda is etched into the wood of a bed frame where Sepulveda sleeps at a homeless shelter at the indoor stadium Estadio Victor Jara in Santiago, Chile. Sepulveda, who works as a welder, studied to be a physical education teacher but dropped out after two years when he could no longer afford his studies. This emblematic stadium, which hosts sporting events throughout the year, was where Chilean folksinger Victor Jara was tortured and killed in 1973, just days after Chile's bloody military coup. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)

In this May 24, 2013 photo, Ana Luisa Villarroel, 78, center right, waits in line to be one of the first to enter the homeless shelter at the indoor stadium Estadio Victor Jara in Santiago, Chile. This is her first night at the shelter after she left what she described as an abusive situation at her family's home. This emblematic stadium, which hosts sporting events throughout the year, was where Chilean folk singer Victor Jara was tortured and killed on Sept. 14, 1973, just days after the military coup. “For me, it's a miracle to be here where they are now giving shelter and food to everyone and where they killed Victor Jara,” said Ana Luisa Villaroel, 78, who lived through the dictatorship. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)


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