Chile plans new investigation into death of Pablo Neruda

Pablo_Neruda_(1966)

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.)