Chile to Exhume Nobel Prize Winner Neruda in Pinochet-Era Probe

A Chilean judge ordered investigators to exhume the remains of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda to determine whether the author of “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair” was murdered after the 1973 military coup,

“Hopefully the examination will help clarify any doubts remaining about the poet’s death,” the Pablo Neruda Foundation’s press office said in an e-mailed statement today.

Neruda died in September 1973, 12 days after military forces led by Augusto Pinochet overthrew the administration of the poet’s friend President Salvador Allende. Even though the official cause of death is complications from prostate cancer, Neruda’s driver at the time, Manuel Araya, believes he may have been poisoned because of his allegiance to the toppled government.

The probe comes as Chilean courts investigate a series of high-profile cases of alleged human rights abuses during Pinochet’s dictatorship including the murder of two U.S. journalists in a story made famous by the movie “Missing.”

“There is no other way to resolve the tremendous doubt that has arisen,” Eduardo Contreras, a lawyer for the Communist party that requested the probe, said in a statement on the party website. “There is a real possibility that outsiders were involved in the death of the great poet.”

Communist Lawmaker

Authorities haven’t yet set a date for the exhumation, the Foundation’s press office said. The judiciary’s press office was unable to confirm the decision when contacted by Bloomberg because the judge in charge of the investigation is on vacation. Chilean newspaper El Mostrador reported the news earlier today.

Neruda, whose real name was Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was born in 1904 in the southern town of Parral and is buried at his seaside home on central Chile’s coast alongside his wife Matilde Urrutia. A Communist elected to the Senate in 1945, Neruda said his poetry reflected his political consciousness.

“My duties as a poet involve friendship not only with the rose and with symmetry, with exalted love and endless longing, but also with unrelenting human occupations,” he said in his 1971 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. “I was the most forlorn of poets and my poetry was provincial, oppressed and rainy. But always I had put my trust in man.”

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