On this day in 1973, the great poet of love and revolution Pablo Neruda died. Most biographical material reports that he succumbed to leukemia. And yes, he was sick. But the better likelihood is that he was killed by the Pinochet junta that had taken over Chile 12 days earlier in a coup, assassinating President Salvador Allende and ushering in a bloody fascist era that claimed some 30,000 lives. Ramsey Clark, U.S. attorney general under Lyndon Johnson who had moved swiftly to the left after leaving government, went to Chile on a fact-finding trip in those early days after the coup. He has told of visiting Neruda's house soon after the poet's death and finding it in the sort of violent disarray--furniture thrown about, file drawers open and emptied, etc.--that obviously resulted from a military assault. Did the fascist thugs murder Neruda, did he have a heart attack as they assaulted him and his household? The answers lie buried with the 30,000, but one way or another the Pinochet forces killed this people's poet.
Today in Honduras another fascist junta is trying desperately to hold onto power nearly three months after its coup ousting the popularly elected president, José Manuel Zelaya. The workers, students and progressive movements of Honduras have been in the streets every day of these three months fighting the golpistas. The situation is now at a crisis point, as President Zelaya has returned to his country and is currently, along with his immediate family and staff, barricaded inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Yesterday golpista troops assaulted the tens of thousands of Hondurans massed outside the embassy in support of Zelaya, with tear gas and bullets, injuring and killing an at this point unknown number of people. The people, despite the attack, remain, and so does Zelaya.
Urgent demonstrations in support of the struggle in Honduras are set for this afternoon in cities around the country. Here in NYC, it'll be at 48th Street and First Avenue from 5 to 7 p.m.
By way of inspiration as we fight yet another counterrevolutionary assault, here is Neruda's poem "To Fidel Castro."
Fidel, Fidel, the people are grateful
for words in action and deeds that sing,
that is why I bring from far
a cup of my country's wine:
it is the blood of a subterranean people
that from the shadows reaches your throat,
they are miners who have lived for centuries
extracting fire from the frozen land.
They go beneath the sea for coal
but on returning they are like ghosts:
they grew accustomed to eternal night,
the working-day light was robbed from them,
nevertheless here is the cup
of so much suffering and distances:
the happiness of imprisoned men
possessed by darkness and illusions
who from the inside of mines perceive
the arrival of spring and its fragrances
because they know that Man is struggling
to reach the amplest clarity.
And Cuba is seen by the Southern miners,
the lonely sons of la pampa,
the shepherds of cold in Patagonia,
the fathers of tin and silver,
the ones who marry cordilleras
extract the copper from Chuquicamata,
men hidden in buses
in populations of pure nostalgia,
women of the fields and workshops,
children who cried away their childhoods:
this is the cup, take it, Fidel.
It is full of so much hope
that upon drinking you will know your victory
is like the aged wine of my country
made not by one man but by many men
and not by one grape but by many plants:
it is not one drop but many rivers:
not one captain but many battles.
And they support you because you represent
the collective honor of our long struggle,
and if Cuba were to fall we would all fall,
and we would come to lift her,
and if she blooms with flowers
she will flourish with our won nectar.
And if they dare touch Cuba's
forehead, by your hands liberated,
they will find people's fists,
we will take out our buried weapons:
blood and pride will come to the rescue,
to defend our beloved Cuba.