New Evidence Points to Foul Play in Death of Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda

Posted by Michael Withey

Many Chileans and human rights advocates have long suspected foul play in the death of the poet Pablo Neruda, who died 12 days after the 1973 coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Now, the government of Chile has said it is “highly probable” that those suspicions are correct.

The Interior Ministry released a statement on Thursday November 6th, 2015 stating that “it is clearly possible and highly probable” that the death of Mr. Neruda “was caused by third-party intervention.”

Mr. Neruda was a literary giant, diplomat and lawmaker whose death has been one of many from the repressive Pinochet years hanging over Chile.

He was a poet known primarily for his love poems, and a Communist who was close friends with Salvador Allende, Chile’s socialist president. Allende committed suicide in the presidential palace in September 1973 rather than surrender to the leaders of the U.S.-backed military coup.

Mr. Neruda planned to flee the country after the coup and speak out against the new regime from exile, but one day before he was supposed to leave, he was taken to a clinic in Santiago, the capital, where he died. He was 69.

He was a poet known primarily for his love poems, and a Communist who was close friends with Salvador Allende, Chile’s socialist president. Allende committed suicide in the presidential palace in September 1973 rather than surrender to the leaders of the U.S.-backed military coup.

Mr. Neruda planned to flee the country after the coup and speak out against the new regime from exile, but one day before he was supposed to leave, he was taken to a clinic in Santiago, the capital, where he died. He was 69.

The official cause of death was prostate cancer, but doubt about the government’s version of events set in amid the authoritarianism of the Pinochet years.

Salvador Allende, Chile’s 1st Democratically Elected Socialist President

An official inquiry into Mr. Neruda’s death was opened in 2011 after several witnesses, including his longtime driver, Manuel Araya, challenged the idea that he had died of natural causes. Mr. Araya said he believed that the military might have poisoned Mr. Neruda. A judge ordered the poet’s body to be exhumed in 2013.

The government statement – came in response to a report in the Spanish newspaper El País that included an Interior Ministry document on Mr. Neruda’s death. That document, dated March 25, 2015, said in part, “The poet was injected with a pain killer that produced the cardiac arrest that would cause his death….What we do know is that the state of Mr. Neruda’s health “worsened rapidly after the injection and that his death occurred only six hours and thirty minutes afterward.”

Neruda’s murder, if proven, would confirm the belief that the right-wing military dictatorship of General Pinochet was intent on silencing Chilean artists and professionals who were planning to speak out against the regime from exile abroad.
Charles_Horman_Frank_Teruggi

From Left to Right: Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi

Two Chilean military intelligence officers were recently convicted of murdering U.S. journalists Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, with the assistance of a U.S. Navy Captain by a Court in Santiago shortly after the coup. Read our blog post covering this recent finding.

The widow and daughters of famed Chilean Songwriter and Poet Victor Jara have brought a lawsuit in the U.S. against the Chilean Army Lieutenant accused of killing Jara in Santiago’s infamous soccer stadium on September 13, 1973. The Jara family is represented by Human Rights Attorney Almudena Bernabeu of the Center for Justice and Accountability in San Francisco. See www.cja.org for a list of its human rights cases including the cases it calls “The Pinochet Caravan of Death.”

It would surprise no one if the great Poet Pablo Nerudo was added to this sordid caravan. Unfortunately the U.S. government and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who directly supported the Pinochet coup, have yet-to-be held accountable for their crimes. This is a paramount unfinished task of the human rights community as is exposing the U.S. role in the murders of anti-Marcos activists Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes in 1981 and its cover up. See www.michaelwithey.com.
The world should not have to wait 30 or 40 more years before the U.S. Government’s nefarious role in supporting right-wing military dictatorships like Pinochet’s and Marcos’ and their “caravans of death” is exposed and those responsible held accountable.

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