literary murder
June 3, 2013 11:11 PM   Subscribe

"Look around—there's only one thing of danger for you here—poetry." The Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda, died 40 years ago of prostate cancer/heart disease, coincidently just 12 days after the military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet (Neruda did not support Pinochet). A few months ago, a Chilean judge ordered his body exhumed, and two days ago

"issued an order for police to make a portrait of and find the man who prosecutors allege may have poisoned him," presumably an agent working for Pinochet. The description of a blond, blue eyed, tall man named "Dr. Price", matches Michael Townley, the CIA double agent who worked with Chilean secret police under Pinochet, and who is currently under US witness protection. The "clinic" where Neruda died, and where Dr. Price plied his trade as a professional poisoner to "cure" high profile patients, has been under scrutiny recently. Last year, six people, including Pinochet agents, were arrested for allegedly poisoning former president Eduardo Frei there in 1981.

Neruda famously said the first quote of this OP when Pinochet soldiers came to pick him up and take him to the clinic.

Pablo Neruda reads his poem "La Poesía." (2m22s)
posted by stbalbach (55 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
What's an "OP"?
posted by thelonius at 11:13 PM on June 3, 2013


What's an "OP"?

"Original post," which is sort of a weird way to say to "this post" right in its own body.
posted by mph at 11:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


A bunch of years ago I was in one of those stupid long distance relationships lonely kids have and the girl sent me a Neruda poetry book on my birthday and it was spring and I got all sappy about it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:28 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


So obviously, we're going to extradite this international terrorist, who is responsible for bombings and assassinations of political and social luminaries, and who is wanted by two of our allies (Italy and Argentina), right?

Oh wait, it's an American CIA agent with political connections...

This matter casts the hypocrisy of the US government in crystal clear terms.

When we assist kidnapping schemes and the murder of diplomats with car bombs, it's freedom fighting. See Operation Condor for more details.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 11:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


Jesus, sickening if true.
posted by bardic at 11:52 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


There's also the case of Luis Posada Carriles.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:05 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


currently under US witness protection

What did he witness other than his own crimes?
posted by pracowity at 12:06 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


He witnessed other peoples' crimes, which, if the crimes were big enough, warrants protecting him as a witness, even if he witnessed his own crimes.

I think that's how the logic works.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:37 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Henry!...Henry Kissinger! ...its that you?
hmmm? where did he go?... He seems to have slipped back into the shadows.
posted by quazichimp at 12:57 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Chile coup. The original 9/11 that the rest of the Americas never forgets.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 12:57 AM on June 4, 2013 [31 favorites]


Kissinger? He was busy partying the night away.
posted by chavenet at 1:11 AM on June 4, 2013


Townley was involved in the assassination in Washington, D.C. of a former Chilean ambassador, Orlando Letelier, who (Townley testified at trial) had been targeted by Pinochet. The FBI investigated this and Chile extradited him to the US, where he was tried and convicted and served 62 months, then went into witness protection.

So Chile originally had him and they gave him up.

The whole Letelier thing is weird — supposedly Townley had no longer been operating as a CIA agent, which absolutely defies credulity. He'd been long doing the same sort of thing, assassinating Pinochet's opponents, with CIA coordination because this served US interests in the region.

The only way to make sense of what happened with Townley is that the CIA violated a basic rule — also an important US law, the CIA can't operate domestically; but, hey, this is the CIA — when he was in any way involved in this assassination on US soil which also happened to kill Letelier's young, American, female assistant. The FBI had to investigate this crime, once they had Townley's name, they were probably pretty pissed-off. So for turf reasons and to minimize the political damage, it was decided by all to agree that Townley was a "former" CIA agent and he'd be extradited and tried in the US, providing evidence only about this operation, would serve his sentence and then conveniently disappear into witness protection. That's my read.

So, he'll never be heard from again.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:21 AM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Nature's Newsblog reported in May that the preliminary reports from examining Neruda's body were that he had advanced prostate cancer at the time of his death.

Pinochet and the CIA were doing all sorts of horrible things in Chile back then, but I don't see any strong evidence that Neruda was poisoned. As for Price, we should remember that eyewitness testimony can be very unreliable and these particular descriptions are based on 40 -year-old memories.
posted by Area Man at 2:00 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Henry!...Henry Kissinger! ...its that you?
hmmm? where did he go?... He seems to have slipped back into the shadows.


He is at the Bilderberg conference this week in fact. So yup - old but still in the shadows.
posted by rongorongo at 2:02 AM on June 4, 2013


Finally the times in which the USA gets to play terrorism victim are at an end.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:58 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. I live in Santiago. Just wow.

This is fucked up.
posted by saul wright at 4:18 AM on June 4, 2013


I was disappointed when Kissinger was invited on Colbert for something other than a grilling.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:21 AM on June 4, 2013


As more and more of the USA's South American Activities come to light, its claim to be following some sort of "Manifest Destiny" look lamer and lamer. Democracy? Freedom of Choice? American Dream? lol.

Please world, wake up to the fact that America has acted fucking evilly and vilely since world war 2. Just ask, well, Indonesia, Greece, South America etc etc. Makes me laugh when there is an Assange/wikileaks thread and people (Americans mainly) are telling us all how nasty and evil and morally wrong their actions are. hahahahaha really? Compared to the actions of the USA that all those Ivy League educated posh kids who come up with, wiki/assange are small fry, n00bs. Seriously, the day they overthrow a democratically elected socialist leader and put a fascist dictator with US funded death squads on the throne, then they will have take a small step in catching up.

Down With the Evil Empire. Seriously, we have it as a joke, but it looks more and more like the world actually was better when we ran the place.
posted by marienbad at 4:34 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


We killed Pablo Neruda?!? Fuck.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:43 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]




Wikipedia says that the "Pablo Neruda Society" opposes the exhumation. I wonder why? They could think that these allegations are not credible, or that the grave of the great man should not be desecrated.

It certainly seems possible to me that this regime would have killed a prominent Communist writer and cultural hero. The prosecutors seem to think that there is enough evidence to proceed. Exhumation is a distasteful thing but I think it is worth it sometimes.
posted by thelonius at 5:06 AM on June 4, 2013


"Please world, wake up to the fact that America has acted fucking evilly and vilely since world war 2."

The US has been evil in Latin America for well more than a hundred years, not just since WWII. The chief motivations changed during the Cold War from economic exploitation to countering Soviet influence (not that we stopped economic exploitation), and the methods became less overt and more covert, but otherwise it was just more of the same.

Really, things have been better, from a particular point of view, since the fall of the USSR. Without the paranoia concerning Soviet influence, the US has lost much of its geopolitical interest in Latin America (relative to the Cold War period) and it couldn't really go back to the days of gunboat diplomacy and militarily-enforced puppet governments. The geopolitical stuff was the CIA's bailiwick, I'd wager that, proportionally, the amount of CIA activity in Latin America has greatly decreased.

But that point of view doesn't include the fact of the worldwide turn toward neoliberalism, and that this is especially true in Latin America absent the socialist influence of the USSR. (Of course, there's been a corresponding benefit in the other direction, too, as there's been less indigenous and US-backed tendency toward right-wing authoritarianism for the same reason.) So the US has still managed to have enormous distorting influence in Latin America via nominally legitimate channels.

I think it's almost certainly the case that the US has more influence now in the region than it did before — but it's limited in some respects by fewer effectively client states and an increase in prosperity with a corresponding increase in general autonomy. I think it's a net positive, but that's far, far from claiming that the US influence isn't still pernicious and very self-serving and hypocritical.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:13 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


but it looks more and more like the world actually was better when we ran the place.

Listen I am as much a critic of our foreign policy as anyone, but seriously Brits don't really have much room to criticize.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:23 AM on June 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I think I must have edited from my memory that concluding sentence of his comment because it's not just wrong, it's offensively wrong. I mean, wow. It's been my understanding that many people in Europe have forgotten the evils of colonialism, but again, wow. We can just start with the East India Company and then go on to about a million other things.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:35 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Start with the Roman Republic, at least
posted by thelonius at 5:38 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


but it looks more and more like the world actually was better when we ran the place.

Listen I am as much a critic of our foreign policy as anyone, but seriously Brits don't really have much room to criticize.


Yeah this. "when we ran the place" on the part of Brits ignores a lot of history and is actually pretty gross and paternalistic.
posted by sweetkid at 5:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there an active arrest warrant for Henry Kissinger?

The thing that amazes about Kissinger is that he was in the white house with Nixon the entire time Watergate and the coverup and the scandal went down and every single person in the administration of any prominence was either fired or resigned or prosecuted or disgraced and he came out smelling like a rose. Seymour Hersh's biography isn't in print any more (you can get a copy for one penny + shipping at Amazon) but that is nearly the greatest hatchet job I have ever seen. It seems Chile was almost nothing to Kissinger. Like, what's the big deal?
posted by bukvich at 5:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


the world actually was better when we ran the place.

All arguments about the relative merits of empires, past present or future, are fundamentally arguments about which groups of people it's OK to brutalize.
posted by aramaic at 6:01 AM on June 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think it is a fundamental mistake to suggest that the problem with U.S. imperialism is that the U.S. is a bad country and what the world needs is a kinder, gentler hegemonic power.
posted by Area Man at 6:09 AM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Nobody in America claims to have a Manifest Destiny anymore, now we call it American Exceptionalism.

Still means "the rules don't apply to us" though.

But seriously, the British Empire was horrifyingly murderous all over the other hemisphere. Monroe Doctrine: we get to have a horrifyingly murderous implicit empire of white people over brown people over here, you keep your horrifyingly murderous explicit empire of white people over brown people over there.

(By "implicit empire" I mean we usually don't make ourselves the actual governing body of the other countries, we just do our best to destroy any government which inconveniences us.)
posted by edheil at 6:15 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the recorded interview, sneebler. (Kissinger walking out of an interview immediately after being asked about his war crimes) That's why questions about his war crimes should be the first questions asked by any reputable interviewer. He should not be given a platform to speak without being called on to answer for his career.

He certainly shouldn't be invited on Colbert for laughs.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:30 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think Berryman was pushed.
posted by clavdivs at 6:59 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


NPR's website now has a story up with this title "Book News: Neruda's Death? Experts Say The Assassin Didn't Do It".
posted by newdaddy at 7:09 AM on June 4, 2013


Everyone is always so surprised about these revelations, which is kind of tragilarious. It's like the world comes home after work and the couch cushions are all chewed up again, and America is sitting in the corner with foam stuffing on its jowls trying to look innocent.
posted by elizardbits at 8:08 AM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Everyone is always so surprised about these revelations

So far we don't have a "revelation"--we have, at best, a "nudge nudge, wink wink" quasi-allegation.
posted by yoink at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2013


So far we don't have a "revelation"--we have, at best, a "nudge nudge, wink wink" quasi-allegation.

Concerning Neruda's death, yes, but if you took the time to read the Michael Townley link there are several "revelations" that your average American is most probably unaware of.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:35 AM on June 4, 2013


Concerning Neruda's death, yes, but if you took the time to read the Michael Townley link there are several "revelations" that your average American is most probably unaware of.

The "average American" is unaware of all kinds of things--but the Michael Townley link is a link to a fricking Wikipedia page, for God's sake. Nothing contained therein is a "revelation" in the sense that it is newly available information. The Michael Townley story has been widely covered in the major US media for decades now.
posted by yoink at 9:40 AM on June 4, 2013


it looks more and more like the world actually was better when we ran the place.

Who counts as the "we" in your equation? The British empire? European empires in general? Because let's talk about, say, the civilized and just manner in which the Belgians helped run the place.
posted by scody at 10:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


that kind of comment is just horrific ("we ran the place") and I'm surprised people feel like they can express it openly.
posted by sweetkid at 10:52 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and let's not forget what happens when imperial powers get a little shirty with each other over exactly who's going to get to be top dog in running the place.
posted by scody at 10:53 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Michael Townley story has been widely covered in the major US media for decades now.

Which was why I put "revelation" in quotes. Obviously I can't speak for all Americans, but I was unaware of the Townley case until this fpp. So in my own personal instance, and I suspect of many other mefites, this fpp was the source of several ugly "relevations" about the actions of our government in the past; the allegations concerning Neruda notwithstanding. The fact of the matter is that our government and many of its supporters constantly try and justify our actions on moral grounds. Historical episodes such as the Townley case illustrate that this is, for the most part, rank propaganda aimed at an uninformed and gullible populace. The Posada case I linked to above is another such example of our hypocrisy.

On a semantic point a "revelation" does not necessarily constitute "new information," but rather the revealing of generally unknown information; publicly available or not.

On the whole this seems to be a derail so I won't pursue it further other than to note that there is a pretty large body of evidence that illustrates the moral depravity of our foreign policy. Much of this evidence is publicly available information. The fact that most Americans are unaware of this evidence says more about the success of the MSM propaganda machine that it does about the individual morality of most Americans.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:14 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, sickening if true.

The older I get, the sicker I get when I hear about this sort of thing. In high school history class you read about the ten of millions of people who died the Second World War, but at that stage of life there is really no touchstone of experience to be able to understand it at all.

Same here, when I read about Pinochet's rise to power, and groups of men who methodically search out anyone remotely suspicious, in order to round them up in a soccer stadium, and then torture them, and bury them in unmarked graves.

The older I get the more sickening and unbelievable it all is.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:42 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Area Man: Pinochet and the CIA were doing all sorts of horrible things in Chile back then, but I don't see any strong evidence that Neruda was poisoned.
Nor will anyone, without toxicology reports. Thus the inquest.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:05 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


marienbad: Seriously, we have it as a joke, but it looks more and more like the world actually was better when we ran the place.
India, China, and numerous other nations strongly disagree.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:08 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this might help you with marienbad's comment / derail but hey anything to get Americas collective mind off it's appalling record in the last 60 years.
posted by adamvasco at 1:22 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nor will anyone, without toxicology reports. Thus the inquest.

Yes, but the judge isn't waiting for the toxicology reports. He's ordered the police to find the supposed poisoner based on the testimony of witnesses recalling events from 40 years earlier, at least one of whom has changed his story. Some people in this thread seem to be assuming that there is strong evidence that Neruda was poisoned. Right now, what we know is that an examination of his body found that he had advanced prostate cancer with extended metastasis.
posted by Area Man at 1:24 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, after 40 years, there are limits to what the toxicologists can discover. I think we'll be left with about the same level of knowledge that we had before this case. Neruda was 69 and had advanced prostate cancer at the time he died. There is some testimony regarding the circumstances of his death that suggests he could have been poisoned, but no direct evidence and at least one of the witnesses has changed his story. The Pinochet regime showed itself all too willing to kill its opponents and the U.S. government cooperated in some instances; however, we don't know whether Neruda was killed by the regime or died as a result of the cancer.
posted by Area Man at 1:32 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


anything to get Americas collective mind off it's appalling record in the last 60 years.

Yes, that's true. Because we dislike comments about missing the good old days of British Empire that must mean we also think the US is blameless for our international policies and/or are asleep or something.

Can't do both at once.
posted by sweetkid at 1:44 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


adamvasco: I think this might help you with marienbad's comment / derail but hey anything to get Americas collective mind off it's appalling record in the last 60 years.
No one is suggesting anything of the sort. And quite often "It's just a joke!" is a poor excuse.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:55 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The leadership role the USA inherited from the colonial powers after WWII was utterly damned by the false borders drawn up by the colonial powers. Look at all those straight or riverine borders in Africa and the Mid-East and imagine they were just and accurate representations of demographic realities.

See the Kissinger thread above. Nobody was being nice or acting justly.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:16 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mr. Yuck: "The leadership role the USA inherited from the colonial powers after WWII was utterly damned by the false borders drawn up by the colonial powers. Look at all those straight or riverine borders in Africa and the Mid-East and imagine they were just and accurate representations of demographic realities.

See the Kissinger thread above. Nobody was being nice or acting justly.
"

Thank you for pointing out the arbitrary borders that the Euro colonial folks dreamed up. Drawing those borders merely to please the colonizing powers while totally ignoring the ethnic, religious, and cultural differences that were there (and still are), is continuing to mess up the world to this day. And I don't see an end in sight. The USA is no saint, and it's done a whole hell of a lot of bad things for which there are no excuses, but I think it can safely be stated that the slicing and dicing of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia was a far bigger fuck up for the entire world.

Still, we're stuck with the world we have, so it's pretty pointless to argue over who best "ran the place" at some previous time.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:46 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh man, Neruda is one of my all-time favorite poets. I am so grateful that one of my English teachers in HS was into him because being able to be exposed to his work made my senior year of high school so awesome. I hope something conclusive comes of this.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:08 PM on June 4, 2013


And I don't see an end in sight.

How about a dozen countries, controlled by corporations, competing for sustainable planets while waging war on earth? That's going to be the end.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:42 PM on June 4, 2013




If this is true, I want someone to write a poem seewhatimsaying because Neruda was/is a titan who could compact thought and feeling like few others. Me, I would think if Angleton knew, he would have stopped it or had the guy who did it whacked. If it is true, I am ashamed for my country today.
posted by clavdivs at 9:36 AM on June 6, 2013


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