Chile plans new investigation into death of Pablo Neruda


More than 40 years after noted poet, diplomat and politician Pablo Neruda died, Chilean officials say they will begin a fresh inquiry into his death.

Neruda, a Nobel Prize winner considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, died on Sept. 23, 1973, less than two weeks after the military coup that ushered Gen. Augusto Pinochet into power.

Government spokesman Francisco Ugas said there are indications that Neruda could have been poisoned.

Neruda’s body was exhumed in April 2013 and tests conducted on his remains, but no indication of poison was found at that time. However, more tests are planned with scientists looking for traces of inorganic or heavy metals, according to the BBC.

The upcoming investigation will seek to detect cellular or protein damage caused by chemical agents. Previous tests  focused specifically on the discovery of toxins, according to the BBC.

“There is initial evidence that he was poisoned and in that sense the signs point to the intervention of specific agents,” said Ugas, who is head of the government’s human rights department.

Neruda’s death certificate says he died of prostate cancer.

Neruda was a member of Chile’s Communist Party and lawmaker who held diplomatic posts in France, Spain and Mexico. He was a staunch supporter of deposed President Salvador Allende and it was believed he would become a thorn in the side of Pinochet’s regime.

Neruda was hospitalized with cancer at the time of Pinochet’s coup. Pinochet denied permission for Neruda’s funeral to be made a public event. However, thousands of grieving Chileans disobeyed the curfew and crowded the streets.

(Top: Pablo Neruda recording his poetry at the U.S. Library of Congress in 1966. Source: Wikipedia.)

5 thoughts on “Chile plans new investigation into death of Pablo Neruda

  1. I am saddened to think that he may have been not a natural caused death. I admired Pablo Neruda. I have mentioned him on my posts since I loved his melodic poetry, especially when I got better in my Spanish classes. The man was not deserving to die in a dangerous way. You know this reminds me of the over 20 Mexican education students who were slowly massacred last year. They were peaceful protesters and activists. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reminded me of this when they had their faces on Christmas ornaments and their young ages. Too bad that countries seem to not be ‘civilized’ nor respectful to students and artists, poets and musicians.

    • I agree that the entire affair is sad. I do commend the Chilean government for investigating, however. Perhaps, if and when definitive proof is found that he was poisoned, it will further pull back the curtain on the thousands of others who were eliminated by the Pinochet regime. If this happens, Neruda will be able to still positively impact the world, more than 40 years after his death.

  2. Another investigation to coincide with the declining economic output of a great country. Why now? Why not in a prior decade of economic prosperity? I’m all for the investigation – just suspicious of the timimg.

    • I don’t know – some countries never get around to facing up to their past. I understand your suspicion, but Chile did look into Allende’s death in 2011 so I believe that while these investigations are overdue, they are probably par for the course – or perhaps even faster – than what would occur in other nations.

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