Friday, 3 May 2013

Pablo Neruda and Augusto Pinochet

It's funny. Last time I came to Chile, deposed former president Salvador Allende was exhumed the day I arrived, to see if he really had committed suicide and hadn't been the first high-profile victim of the nascent Pinochet era. This time, they exhume former poet and sometime ambassador Pablo Neruda, widely considered to have been, er, the first high-profile victim of the nascent Pinochet era, who was, apparently suffering from prostate cancer when the military junta took over the country on September 11th, 1973. Neruda's former chauffeur had always insisted his employer's state of health was better than officially considered and finally succeeded in provoking an official autopsy. This morning, the government released the verdict that the great man's cancer was far advanced and that, consequently, his death was due to natural causes. A whitewash? Who knows. It's not as if Chile is averse to mental reconstruction: I'm going to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago this morning, a building opened in 2010 by former (and possibly next) president Michelle Bachelet and dedicated to the Pinochet Era, 1973 - 1990, and its attendant atrocities. Should be a fun trip out.

Here's the museum:

God only knows why these collective memory buildings always have to be so ugly.

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