Poet Pablo Neruda to be exhumed

A Chilean judge has ruled that the body of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda (right) will be exhumed for an autopsy seeking to determine the cause of his death, the Pablo Neruda Foundation announced on Friday.


A Chilean court has ordered the exhumation of the remains of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda as part of an investigation into the cause of his death, his eponymous foundation said on Friday.

For four decades, conspiracy theories have surrounded the cause of the leftist poet’s death just days after the brutal 1973 military coup ended the life of his close friend President Salvador Allende and brought General Augusto Pinochet into power.

Neruda was hospitalized with prostate cancer at the time, but his friends had a plane waiting to take him into exile when he died in a Chilean hospital.

The official version of his death states that the poet died of natural causes. But some of Neruda’s close associates in the Chilean Communist Party as well as his driver and bodyguard have long maintained that the 69-year-old literary giant died under suspicious circumstances.

According to Manuel Araya, Neruda’s driver, a doctor at the clinic – who was not the poet’s regular medical practitioner – gave him a fatal injection or ordered somebody to do so.

While the Pablo Neruda Foundation and the poet's widow both rejected this theory, lingering doubts and widespread suspicion suggest that the full story behind Neruda's death, as well as the coup and the dictatorship, remains untold. Many Chileans are still haunted by the events of this period.

Neruda is buried next to his wife Matilde Urrutia in Isla Negra, 120 kilometers west of the capital Santiago. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971.

Reacting to the court’s decision Friday, the Pablo Neruda Foundation nevertheless announced that it supports Judge Mario Carroza's investigation.

In a statement released on Friday, the foundation said it learned a few days ago from Judge Carroza of his decision to have the poet's remains exhumed. The foundation expressed the hope that the exhumation would be conducted "with the greatest possible respect and care" and that it would clear up "any doubts that might exist" as to how Neruda died.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)


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