My poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests.
— Pablo Neruda, Memoirs
by Russ McSpadden / Earth First! Newswire
Depending on who you ask, the Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda either died of prostate cancer or was killed by a CIA double agent as a part of the “tidying up” process of a U.S. backed right wing coup in Chile that ousted the Socialist Salvador Allende in favor of Generalissimo Augusto Pinochet.
Human rights lawyer Eduardo Contreras argues that new evidence suggests that the poet “was likely murdered by agents of dictator Augusto Pinochet” by way of an injection of poison. Neruda, who was radicalized during the Spanish Civil War, was both a world famous poet and an outspoken communist. Now, following new testimony from an old witness, a judge has ordered a search for a potential suspect in his murder, which appears to lead back to the CIA.
Dr. Sergio Draper, who had previously attested that he was at Neruda’s side when he died, September 23, 1973, has recanted that statement, claiming that a “Dr. Price” took over Neruda’s care during the day of his death. Draper provided police sketch artists with details of the man, describing him as a man in his late twenties, with blue eyes, blond hair and white skin. Hospital records from the time record no doctor by the name of Price. Draper says he never saw the man again after Neruda’s death. According to some, Price’s description is a near perfect fit for Michael Townley, a CIA double agent that worked for the Chilean secret police under the new right-wing government. However, one prominent historian of the Chilean dictatorship claims that Townley was in Florida at the time of Neruda’s death.
According to the New York Times:
In 2011, Mr. Neruda’s driver at the time, Manuel Araya, publicly claimed that Mr. Neruda had not been in critical condition beforehand and that a day before his death Mr. Neruda, 69, told him that a doctor had given him an injection in the stomach that made him “burn inside.”
Townley “disappeared” following the coup when he was taken into the U.S. witness protection program. He openly admitted to killing Pinochet critics in Washington D.C. and Buenos Aires, including a Chilean ambassador and a Spanish U.N. official.
The controversy around the poet’s death has carried on for over 40 years. But earlier this year a judge found there was sufficient evidence to warrant Neruda’s body exhumed. On April 8, the great poet was pulled from the ground and is currently being analyzed by Chilean and international forensic specialists.
So what was Neruda doing on the days before his death? According to Contreras, he was “planning for his exile in Mexico, having intercourse with a lover and discussing the chaotic first days of the Pinochet dictatorship.”
Be sure to check out the Warrior Poet’s Society for a more biocentric look at Pablo Neruda, his murder and whaling in Chile.