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Deficiencies regarding the Rhoads case in Nelson Denis’s book WAAPR

Here are my comments about the few lines in which Nelson Denis barely covers the historical Rhoads case, a case which, in my opinion,was one of the events that exerted heavy influence upon the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico’s decision to discard the electoral polls and resort instead to armed struggle. I expressed my views on this matter 30 years ago in “El partido Nacionalista y la lucha armada” (Claridad, 22–28 febrero 85, pp. 16-17).

On page 34 Denis says that […] “Dr. Cornelius Rhoads arrived in Puerto Rico and made a brilliant career move”. Let’s divide this apparently innocuous statement in two parts. The first one, “Dr. Cornelius Rhoads arrived in Puerto Rico” does not say the reason for him coming; when he arrived; with whom; and under what circumstances. Thus, it omits important details. Such details are important because he was sent here with other researchers to conduct experiments with humans by none other than the notorious Rockefeller Foundation (RF), a politically influential entity based in the City of New York.

Those who have read The Unsolved Case of Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads: An Indictment, as Denis himself has, know that there is ample evidence supporting the fact that the RF played a prominent role in the process of whitewashing the murders Rhoads committed. Of course, it is not PC for a politician involved in New York politics to expose the RF’ role in such delicate issue, a matter that even sprinkles Theodore Hesburgh, as the book mentioned above shows.

The date of his arrival is important in reference to ND’s fantastic allegations regarding the cause of the throat cancer that indeed caused Águila Blanca’s death, for at the time when Denis claims that Rhoads injected him with cancer, the serial killer had not been sent to Puerto Rico yet for the purpose of replicating here the anemia research that others had done in California. However, I have known for decades that Nationalist militants long ago strongly suspected that Rhoads had caused Águila Blanca’s cancer and subsequent death, but it has not been possible to responsibly assert that such was the case.

As to the second part of the statement, it must be connected to the one at the end of page 36, where Denis says that “Many Puerto Ricans, to their astonishment, realized that ‘exterminating eight Puerto Ricans and transplanting cancer into several more’ had been an excellent career move for Rhoads in the long run.” Keep in mind that coming to do research in P. R. was not a career move of his choice. So, on the basis of what does this author make this assertion? Is it a figment of his imagination? It seems to derive from the following quote from The Unsolved Case of Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads: An Indictment, p. 19, where I say: “Colonel Cornelius P. Rhoads earned so much prestige in the scientific community through his involvement with the Rockefeller entities and the military establishment after literally getting away with murder, that the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) instituted in 1979 an award on his name with money donated by an entity that, contrary to what is customary, requested and was granted anonymity”.

Furthermore, in my story “Carta de un abuelo” (Pedro Aponte Vázquez, Transición. San Juan: Los libros de la iguana, 2010, pp. 49-56), the protagonist says: “En el curso de mis investigaciones, me refiero a las que hice durante mis años con el FBI, me enteré de que él se entregó de lleno a su nueva encomienda y de que estaba bastante orgulloso cuando al final el Ejército le otorgó la Legión del Mérito por diseñar nuevos medios de matar enemigos por medio de compuestos químicos. A él no le cabía la menor duda de que tan importante reconocimiento le había abierto las puertas a los subsiguientes proyectos altamente secretos de nuestro Gobierno, pues no había duda en su mente calculadora de que el impactante asunto de hecho había aumentado su prestigio ante la comunidad científica”.

Denis goes on to say on page 35 that “On the night of November 10 , 1932, Rhoads got drunk at a party. He emerged to find his car stripped and the tires flat. When he returned to his lab that night, in a foul mood and still drunk, he scrawled a note to a friend named Fred Stewart, who was a medical researcher in Boston”. These data (except for the fact that the letter was addressed to his friend Fred W. Stewart), are false. There is no evidence whatsoever to that effect, but rather to the contrary. (See: The Unsolved Case of Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads: An Indictment, pp. 57-58). Moreover, Rhoads did not “scrawl a note”. He wrote a quite thought out and well written letter. The choice of words can’t have any other intention in this instance than to diminish the significance of the letter’s content, most of which Denis chose to omit.

Also on page 35, Denis quotes a segment of the letter and his source is the worst one available. In The Unsolved Case of Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads: An Indictment, (pp. 132-133, 153-154) I say on pages 153-154: “Let’s turn to Dr. Truman R. Clark, who is among the worse sources ever –perhaps even the worst– on the Rhoads affair and whom Briggs mentions as one of those who ‘read parts’ of her book. He is one of those researchers who have disseminated the convenient version according to which Rhoads’s confession of murder was only a ‘playful composition’ written for his solace and entertainment, and that he ‘discarded’ the note only to be found in a waste basket by one of his ‘servants’. But Clark was not to allow anyone ever to even come close to surpassing his creativity and asserted, in anticipation, that Rhoads ‘wrote fictitious letters expressing the anti-Puerto Rican sentiments of some continental residents he knew, intending to use the material some day in a novel’ — a plot that escaped even Ivy Lee’s fertile imagination.”

On that same page 35 Denis says that “copies [of the letter] were sent to…” but he does not say by whom. It was the Nationalist Party who sent them.

Then Denis says on that very page, without mentioning his source: “Rhoads called his letter ‘a fantastic and playful composition written entirely for my own diversion’. His peers laughed along with him.” This last statement, that “his peers laughed along with him”, is Denis’s pure invention. It may have originated in my story, “Carta de un abuelo” mentioned above, in which the abuelo says: “Los agentes que vimos la carta estábamos sorprendidos por el hecho de que a él ni siquiera lo interrogaron y mucho menos lo acusaron, luego de la genial coartada que le envió por cable desde Nueva York al Gobernador alegando que la carta en realidad no era una carta, sino meramente una parodia que había escrito para su propio y personal entretenimiento. Ese ardid permaneció por años como motivo de incontrolables risas en El Negociado”.