Chile court orders exhumation of poet Neruda

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A Chilean judge has ordered the remains of poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda be exhumed as part of a probe into whether he died of cancer or was killed by agents serving Augusto Pinochet.

The leftist poet, who died 12 days after the 1973 military coup that ousted socialist president Salvador Allende and brought General Pinochet to power, is believed to have died of prostate cancer.

But in 2011 officials started looking into the possibility he was poisoned by agents of the Pinochet regime, as claimed by Neruda's driver and aide.

Neruda is best known for his love poems as well as his Canto General, an epic poem about South America's history and its people.

A senior member of Chile's Communist Party, his writings were banned during Pinochet's military dictatorship, which ended in 1990.

An exhumation date will be decided in March.

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

The Pablo Neruda Foundation said it learned a few days ago from judge Mario Carroza of his decision to have the remains of the poet exhumed.

The investigation began after a complaint was filed by the Chilean Communist Party.

The complaint came after Neruda's driver, Manuel Araya, declared publicly that Pinochet agents poisoned Neruda while he was hospitalised with cancer.

Mr Araya, who is now 65, said Neruda had been at home in Isla Negra but was taken to a clinic in Santiago when his condition worsened.

While in the clinic regime agents gave him a lethal injection, Mr Araya claims.

According to Mr Araya, Pinochet ordered Neruda killed to keep him from travelling to Mexico, where he could speak out and lead opposition to him.

“For years, I knocked on doors and no one listened to me,” Mr Araya said.

“I always thought I would die without this truth being known.”

The Pablo Neruda Foundation has denied Neruda was murdered, and says it still believes he died of cancer.

The foundation expressed hope the exhumation would be conducted “with the greatest possible respect and care” and would clear up “any doubts that might exist” as to how Neruda died.

Chilean officials are also investigating the death of a former president, Eduardo Frei, during the regime years.

Frei, who served from 1964 to 1970, died in 1982 in the same hospital as Neruda when complications arose during routine surgery.

source: ABC News   Chile court orders exhumation of poet Neruda Updated Sat Feb 9, 2013 9:33pm AEDT