Wed, Dec 07, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Chile party asks for exhumation of poet Neruda’s remains

AP, SANTIAGO

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

Party member Juan Andres Lagos said on Monday that the request will be reviewed by Judge Mario Carroza, who is probing deaths allegedly caused by abuses during the rule of former Chilean president 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 telephone 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 then-president Salvador Allende, a socialist who was a friend of the poet.

The Communist Party, to which Neruda belonged, is asking that his remains be exhumed because of 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 Chilean president Eduardo Frei died in 1982 while recovering from a hernia operation. A judge is investigating claims by Frei’s family that he might have been poisoned by government agents just as he appeared to be emerging as a prominent opponent of Pinochet’s regime.

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