As more countries in Latin America move to the Right, there has been a tendency to whitewash the rule by military dictators during much of the 20th century. The following poem by Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) should serve as a reminder of how bloody the rule of these dictators was.

The dictators

Pablo Neruda

An odour has remained among the sugarcane:

a mixture of blood and body, a penetrating

petal that brings nausea.

Between the coconut palms the graves are full

of ruined bones, of speechless death-rattles.

The delicate dictator is talking

with top hats, gold braids and collars.

The tiny palace gleams like a watch

and the rapid laughs with gloves on

cross the corridors at times

and join the dead voices

and the blue mouths freshly buried.

The weeping cannot be seen, like a plant

whose seeds fall endlessly on the earth,

whose large blind leaves grow even without light.

Hatred has grown scale on scale,

blow on blow, in the ghastly water of the swamp,

with a snout full of ooze and silence

Translated by Robert Bly

*Third World Resurgence No. 337/338, January/February 2019, p 64