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Chile exhumes Neruda’s body

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Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda

Chilean forensic experts have exhumed the body of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda to solve a four-decade mystery about his death.

The official version is that the poet died of cancer, but his driver and others believe he was poisoned by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Patricio Bustos, head of Chile’s medical legal service says Neruda’s body is in good shape after the one-hour exhumation on Monday. His remains are being taken to the capital for tests.

Neruda was also a leftist politician and he would have been an influential voice in exile against the dictatorship, but he died 12 days after the 1973 military coup at a Santiago hospital.

Neruda won the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature and is best known for his love poems and his “Canto General” — an epic poem about South America’s history and its people.

The Chilean justice system gave the go-ahead for the probe in June 2011 after a complaint was filed by the Chilean Communist Party, of which Neruda was a member.

In addition to the driver’s accusations, the official complaint cites witnesses who say Neruda was healthy up until the day before his death and did not exhibit symptoms consistent with advanced cancer.

The results of the inquiry — not expected for at least three months, judicial sources told AFP — are expected to support or refute the charge made by Neruda’s driver and personal adviser, Manuel Araya, who believed the poet was slain. Mr. Araya’s claims spurred on the Communist Party’s complaint.

Araya says Neruda died after receiving what the driver believed was a suspicious injection at Santiago’s Santa Maria Hospital days after the coup that brought Pinochet to power.

Neruda’s death certificate says he died of complications of prostate cancer. — AFP, AP

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