The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), a Nobel laureate long regarded as one of the finest Latin American poets, was a fierce opponent of the 1973 military coup which toppled the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. Neruda’s death in mysterious circumstances in the aftermath of the coup has sparked suspicions that he was murdered.

They receive instructions against Chile

Pablo Neruda

But we have to see behind all them, there is something

behind the traitors and the gnawing rats,

an empire which sets the table,

and serves up the nourishment and the bullets.

They want to repeat in you their great success in Greece.

Greek playboys at the banquet, and bullets

for the people in the mountains: we’ll have to destroy the flight

of the new Victory of Samothrace, we’ll have to hang,

kill, lose men, sink the murderous knife

held to us from New York, we’ll have to use fire

to break the spirit of the man who was emerging

in all countries as if born

from the earth that had been splashed with blood.

We have to arm Chiang and the vicious Videla,

give them money for prisons, wings

so they can bomb their own populations, give them

a handout, a few dollars, and they do the rest,

they lie, bribe, dance on the dead bodies

and their first ladies wear the most expensive minks.

The suffering of the people does not matter: copper

executives need this sacrifice: facts are facts:

the generals retire from the army and serve

as vice-presidents of the Chuquicamata Copper Firm,

and in the nitrate works the ‘Chilean’ general

decides with his trailing sword how much the natives

may mention when they ask for a raise in wages.

In this way they decide from above, from the roll of dollars,

in this way the dwarf traitor receives his instructions,

and the generals act as the police force,

and the trunk of the tree of the country rots.

Translated by Robert Bly and James Wright

*Third World Resurgence No. 341/342, 2019, p 68