Party asks to exhume Neruda's remains in Chile

AP News
Posted: Dec 05, 2011 6:19 PM
Party asks to exhume Neruda's remains in Chile

Chile's Communist Party is asking a judge to order the exhumation of the remains of famed poet Pablo Neruda due to allegations that he may have been poisoned.

Party member Juan Andres Lagos told The Associated Press on Monday that the request will be reviewed by Judge Mario Carroza, who is probing deaths allegedly caused by abuses during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990.

Manuel Araya, who was Neruda's chauffeur and assistant, has told reporters in recent months that he and Neruda's wife received a phone call from him on the day of his death from a hospital where he was being treated for late-stage prostate cancer.

Araya reported that Neruda said to "come quickly, because while I was asleep a doctor entered and gave me a shot."

Araya said they received the call while he and Neruda's wife were at the poet's seaside home in Isla Negra, where they had gone to gather belongings a day before they planned to travel to Mexico and go into exile.

The 69-year-old poet, who had won the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Sept. 23, 1973, in the Santa Maria Clinic in Santiago.

Neruda died 12 days after the military coup that swept Pinochet to power and ousted socialist President Salvador Allende, who was a friend of the poet.

The Communist Party, to which Neruda belonged, is asking that his remains be exhumed due to the account of Araya, "who was someone very close to him," Lagos said.

The Pablo Neruda Foundation, which promotes the poet's artistic legacy and runs three museums, has discounted the theory raised by Araya. The foundation said in a statement in May that he has been "insisting without any proof other than his own belief."

Neruda died in the same hospital where former President Eduardo Frei died in 1982 while recovering from a hernia operation. A judge is investigating claims by Frei's family that he may have been poisoned by government agents just as he appeared to be emerging as a prominent opponent of Pinochet's regime.

The Communist Party in May asked Judge Carroza to investigate Neruda's death. The judge is also handling an investigation into Allende's death and those of 725 others during the dictatorship.

Allende's remains were also removed from his tomb in May for an autopsy, which confirmed he committed suicide during the coup. Allende's remains were reburied in September.