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News > World

Chile: Poet Neruda Reburied, Pinochet Still Suspected of Murder

  • Chilean poet Pablo Neruda recording his poetry at the U.S. Library of Congress in 1966.

    Chilean poet Pablo Neruda recording his poetry at the U.S. Library of Congress in 1966. | Photo: Wikimedia commons

Published 26 April 2016

Despite being exhumed and examined specialists say it will be difficult to determine if the famous poet was poisoned.

Chile reburied Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda's remains Tuesday after exhuming them to determine whether he was assassinated by late-dictator Augusto Pinochet's regime, a mystery that still lingers.

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Three years after they were disinterred to be tested for traces of poison, a casket bearing Neruda's remains was reburied at his former home in the resort town of Isla Negra, facing the Pacific ocean in line with his last wishes.

Neruda, a celebrated poet, politician, diplomat and bohemian, died in 1973, aged 69, just days after Pinochet, then-head of the Chilean army, overthrew Socialist President Salvador Allende in a bloody coup.

The writer, who was also a prominent member of the Chilean Communist party, had been preparing to flee to Mexico to lead the resistance against Pinochet's regime.

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He died in a Santiago clinic where he was being treated for prostate cancer, the official cause of his death. But doubts have surrounded his death since his former driver claimed Neruda was given a mysterious injection in his chest.

An international team of specialists who examined the remains are due to release their findings in May.

Forensic scientists at the University of Murcia in Spain said last year they had identified a massive, unexplained bacterial infection in Neruda's remains, rekindling his family's suspicions.

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The Chilean Interior Ministry said the strain of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, does not occur naturally and may have been grown in a lab.

Neruda won the Nobel prize in 1971 "for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams," in the words of the award committee.

The lawyer who brought the case to have the remains examined, Eduardo Contreras, told AFP that since so much time had passed there was a risk the tests would be inconclusive.

"Even though all the evidence points to a crime, it will be technically very difficult to prove," he said.

However, "anyone who sees the thousands of volumes of evidence" will conclude that Neruda was assassinated, he added.

Pinochet, who ruled Chile for 17 years, led a regime that killed some 3,200 leftist activists and other suspected opponents.

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