PABLO NERUDA´S DEATH, NEW INFORMATION
According to his nephew, the poet and diplomat was likely killed by the Pinochet regime
Neruda's house in Valparaiso has become a national monument to the writer.
Photo: RODRIGO GARRIDO (Reuters)
Pablo Neruda died of poisoning just days after the 1973 coup that
removed Salvador Allende from power, according to an international forensic
report delivered to a top Chilean judge on Wednesday (Feb 15).
This finding contradicts the state’s long-held
position that Chile’s most famous writer died of prostate cancer. Neruda’s
nephew Rodolfo Reyes, a plaintiff in the case, shared the initial findings,
while the full report will be made available to the public on March 7.
Specifically, a team of forensic scientists
from Denmark, Canada, and Chile found clostridium botulinum in Neruda’s
remains, a neurotoxin that can cause Botulism. Many have theorized that Neruda,
a close ally of Allende, was killed by Augusto Pinochet—the leader of the military
coup—to prevent a political challenge from the beloved left-wing writer.
Neruda’s relatives have been working to bring
light to the circumstances surrounding his death for years, with public
pressure mounting after his personal driver in 2011 publicly recounted Neruda
telling him a man had injected a foreign substance into his stomach just hours
before his death.
The findings have wide-ranging implications in
a country still grappling with a brutal military dictatorship that lasted for
decades. In addition to his writing, Neruda was a senator in Chile’s national
assembly and one of the most influential Marxists in Latin America. After the initial
coup, Neruda had planned to go into exile, where he would have been an
influential critic of the Pinochet regime, and perhaps even a political rival.
overshadowed political career
1927: Neruda begins his diplomatic career with an unglamorous
posting at the consulate in Rangoon, the capital of the British colony of
Burma. He bounces around in South and East Asia in the years after, including
postings in Ceylon, New Delhi, Java, and Singapore, as well as a short stint in
1934: Neruda is appointed to the Chilean consulate in Madrid, where he becomes immersed in a group of radical poets, including Federico García Lorca and Cesar Vallejo. He becomes increasingly political against the backdrop of the looming Spanish Civil War, and is removed from his post in 1936 after announcing his support for the Spanish Republic.
1938: Neruda is posted to a consulate in France, where he oversees
the transport of 2,000 Spanish refugees fleeing fascism to Chile, a task he
later calls “the noblest mission I have ever undertaken.”
1940: Neruda is appointed the Consul General in Mexico City, where
he befriends Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros. A few months later,
Siqueiros attempts to assassinate Soviet dissident Leon Trotsky on the orders
of Joesph Stalin, before escaping authorities with the help of Neruda, who
denies being part of the conspiracy.
1945: Neruda is elected to the Chilean Senate as a member of the
Communist Party. A few years later he writes an open letter criticizing the
right-wing president Gabriel Videla, who then expels him from the Senate and
orders his arrest. He evades the authorities for a year, hiding in the homes of
supporters, before leaving Chile by horseback, crossing the Andes Mountains
1969: After returning to Chile under more favorable political
conditions, Neruda campaigns for Salvador Allende in the 1970 presidential
election. After Allende is elected, he appoints Neruda ambassador to France.
There, Neruda falls ill with prostate cancer and is forced to return to Chile
for treatment shortly before the 1973 coup.
of murdering political opponents
If Neruda was in fact murdered on the orders of the new Pinochet
regime, he would be one of more than 40,000 political dissidents and activists
who were tortured and murdered in the aftermath of the US-backed coup.
While the exact numbers are difficult to verify, Pinochet’s
security forces specifically targeted writers and artists with socialists
loyalties, including novelist Roberto Bolano and folk singer Victor Jara, in the
months after he took power.
Supported by the Nixon administration and partially funded by the
CIA, the right-wing government would continue a pattern of political repression
and human rights abuses for almost two decades. Pinochet was eventually
arrested in 1998 while visiting London and was eventually charged with crimes
against humanity. He died in 2006 while the charges were still pending.