Friday 24 January 2020

Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda's body could be exhumed

Pablo Neruda died at the age of 69 on Sept. 23, 1973
Pablo Neruda died at the age of 69 on Sept. 23, 1973

Amy Willis

The body of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda could be exhumed for medical tests to identify whether he was a victim of murder.

The 69-year-old laureate, who was a leading communist politician in Chile, died on September 23, 1973, just 12 days after the military coup that ousted socialist President Salvador Allende – a close friend of the writer.

The coup resulted in dictator General Augusto Pinochet seizing power over the South American nation in a controversial 17-year rule.

Now officials want the much-loved poet's body exhumed to answer allegations that the poet was poisoned by General Pinochet's regime. If the allegations are proved true it is likely to cause widespread outrage due to the poet's popularity.

Pablo Neruda officially died from prostate cancer according to his death certificate, but a subsequent investigation into his death found that he had suffered a fatal heart attack, according to Eduardo Contreras, a lawyer for Chile’s communist party.

The prize-winning poet's chauffeur Manuel Araya has claimed his boss had received a “mysterious injection” when he took him to hospital for his routine cancer treatment.

The former aide told reporters that the poet had phoned him and his wife from his hospital bed the day he died saying “come quickly, because while I was asleep a doctor entered and gave me a shot.”

Members of Chile's communist party have filed a motion to a court investigating human rights abuses under General Pinochet’s dictatorship, demanding that the writer’s remains are exhumed to find out if he was poisoned.

"The only way to know what they injected Neruda with is to perform an exhumation and forensic examination," communist party lawyer Eduardo Contreras said.

The court is probing more than 725 deaths caused by alleged abuses during General Pinochet’s dictatorship between 1972 and 1990.

The poet, who had won the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature, died in the same hospital in Sandiego where former President Eduardo Frei died in 1982 while recovering from a hernia operation.

A judge is investigating claims by Frei’s family that he may have been poisoned by government agents just as he appeared to be emerging as a prominent opponent of General Pinochet’s regime.

The Pablo Neruda Foundation, which promotes the poet’s artistic legacy and runs three museums, has discounted the theory raised by the writer’s chauffeur. The foundation said in a statement in May that he has been “insisting without any proof other than his own belief.”

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