A long-time associate of Pablo Neruda has caused a media stir after claiming that the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet was assassinated by the regime of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet.
The Pablo Neruda Foundation still insists the poet died on Sept. 23, 1973, from prostate cancer aggravated by emotional distress, after seeing Pinochet overthrow Neruda’s friend president Salvador Allende in a coup 12 days earlier.
However, Manuel Araya, Neruda’s secretary, personal assistant and driver, has alleged in recent interviews that the poet was assassinated by the new military regime, which feared he would go into exile as a high--profile dissident.
“Pinochet was a murderer. He killed Neruda so he wouldn’t leave the country, because he was an intellectual that [Pinochet] did not want to have as an opponent,” Araya, 65, said on Wednesday.
Araya, who was at the poet’s bedside until a few hours before his death at the age of 69, said that he had been hospitalized at the Santa Maria Clinic in Santiago “not because of worsening health, but for his security.”
He said Neruda was “anxious and tense,” that he believed the new regime was bent on eliminating him and was alarmed by an injection administered at night by a doctor.
Araya said Neruda had planned to fly to Mexico on Sept. 24, but died the night before.
The Pablo Neruda Foundation, which owns the rights to the poet’s work and is charged with maintaining his legacy, has denied he was murdered.
“There is no indication and no proof whatsoever that suggests that Pablo Neruda died of causes other than the cancer, at an advanced stage, that he had suffered from,” it said in a statement.
“It does not seem reasonable to construct a new version of his death solely based on the opinion of his driver,” the foundation said.
Neruda, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971, is best-known for his love poems as well as his Canto General — an epic poem about South America’s history and its people.
He was a senior member of Chile’s Communist Party and his work was banned during Pinochet’s 1973 to 1990 military dictatorship.