Revisiting Pablo Neruda’s Death [Murder?]

The AP recently ran a fascinating story on the return of allegations that the Pinochet regime murdered Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda:

Pablo Neruda, Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet, would have been a powerful voice in exile against the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. But that all changed just 24 hours before Neruda was to flee the country in the chaos following the 1973 military coup.

He was 69 years old and suffering from prostate cancer when he died, exactly 12 days after the brutal coup that ended the life of his close friend, socialist President Salvador Allende.

The official version was that he died of natural causes brought on by the trauma of witnessing the coup and the lethal persecution of many of his friends. But doubts remained, even after Pinochet relinquished power in 1990 and Chile became one of Latin America’s most stable democracies.

Chilean Communist Party lawyer Eduardo Contreras said he believes the poet was murdered, and he is supported by Manuel Araya, who was Neruda’s driver, bodyguard and assistant in the year leading up to his death.

In December, Chile’s Communist Party asked that Neruda’s body be exhumed for testing. The judge investigating his death has not ruled but could do so at any moment.

While Neruda’s widow and his own foundation have rejected the theory, its resurgence nearly 40 years later reflects the suspicions haunting this nation of 17 million that the full story behind the coup and the dictatorship remains untold.

While some (including Neruda’s driver) insist that he was murdered, the Pablo Neruda foundation has requested that the author be left in peace. While Neruda’s fame certainly makes him exceptional among those who died/were murdered during the seventeen-year dictatorship, the battle over narrating his death gets at the heart of the myriad and complex ways that Chile continues to struggle with the events and legacies of the Pinochet regime nearly forty years after it overthrew democratically-elected president Salvador Allende, and the whole article is worth checking out.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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