Forty years after his death, questions still remain concerning the cause of the famous poet’s death.
A judge in Chile has ordered the body of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pable Neruda be exhumed and autopsied. Neruda, who was a member of the Communist Party in Chile and close friend and staunch supporter of socialist President Salvador Allende died under what some claim were mysterious circumstances only 12 days after the 1973 coup that removed Allende from power. As Time reports, Neruda, who was an outspoken critic of the Chilean military had already been hospitalized due to advanced prostate cancer before the coup occured on September, 11, 1973. His family has “long maintained” that Neruda died as a result of the prostate cancer, but many have questioned if he was actually assassinated because of his political beliefs. Manuel Araya, Neruda’s assistant has said that he believes the poet may have been poisoned, “injected with a substance that sent him into cardiac arrest.”
An investigation into Neruda’s death was originally launched in 2011, but forensic scientists have told the Associated Press that even with an autopsy it will be difficult to determine after all this time whether or not “drugs were given in big enough doses to kill him.” The AP also reports that at the time of the coup Nerudo’s friends had a plane waiting “to carry [him] into exile,” for his protection, given that General Augusto Pinochet’s followers were “killing prominent leftists.” These same friends told the Associated Press that “the official cause of extreme malnutrition makes no sense because Neruda weighed 220 pounds.”
The Pablo Neruda Foundation originally released a statement in May, 2011, saying there was “no proof whatsoever that suggests Pablo Neruda died of causes other than cancer,” but according to a Huffington Post report from earlier this month they have changed their stance and now “support the judge’s investigation.”
The body of Neruda’s friend, former President Allende was exhumed in May, 2001, after an inquiry into whether the cause of his death was actually suicide, as was reported at the time of his death, or if he was assassinated. Forensic analysts examined the remains and determined he did, in fact take his own life.
There is no question, that with so many different accounts as to the cause of the poets death, that the judge made the correct decision in ruling that Neruda’s body should be examined by forensic experts. However, with so much time having passed it is yet to be seen how much, if anything will be learned from the new autopsy.