Pablo Neruda’s death is next to be investigated as Chile exhumes its past

Daniel Hernandez

Pablo Neruda 1971 getty images

Was Pablo Neruda poisoned?

A judge in Chile has opened an investigation into the death four decades ago of the Nobel Prize-winning poet in response to allegations by his former driver that Neruda was poisoned by agents acting for Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The general led the military junta and coup that toppled President Salvador Allende in 1973.

Neruda’s estate has long maintained that the poet’s death on Sept. 23, 1973 — just 12 days after the Sept. 11 coup — was due to prostate cancer. Yet Neruda’s former driver and associate, Manuel Araya, has repeated claims recently that Neruda was assassinated for his activism as a Communist Party member and supporter of Allende, a democratically elected Marxist.

Days before his death, Neruda published an impassioned critique of the coup. Araya told reporters Neruda was probably poisoned to prevent him from traveling to Mexico, where the poet could position himself safely as a vocal opponent to the dictatorship.

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