Latin America & Caribbean

Chile to reopen investigation into death of poet Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda in 1971
Image caption Pablo Neruda was a staunch supporter of deposed left-wing President Salvador Allende

Chile has announced a fresh investigation into the death in 1973 of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.

Government spokesman Francisco Ugas said there were indications that he could have been poisoned.

Tests on Neruda's exhumed body in 2013 found no trace of poison but more will now be done. His death certificate says he died of prostate cancer.

Neruda died 12 days after the military coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power.

Although he was best known for his poetry, Neruda was a lifelong member of Chile's Communist Party, a lawmaker and a former ambassador to France.

He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

New forensic tests on Neruda's remains will be looking for inorganic or heavy metals to try to determine a direct or indirect cause of death, officials said.

'Specific agents'

The investigation will focus on detecting if chemical agents caused any cellular or protein damage.

The previous tests looked specifically for the remains of poison.

"There is initial evidence that he was poisoned and in that sense the signs point to the intervention of specific agents," Mr Ugas, who is head of the government's humans rights department, said.

Neruda's body was exhumed in April 2013 to establish whether he died of poisoning, as his driver Manuel Araya and others suspected.

Mr Araya said Neruda, who was 69, had called him from hospital in Santiago, and told him he was feeling sick after having been given an injection in the stomach.

Some believe he was poisoned because he was a staunch supporter of deposed President Salvador Allende and it was believed he would become a leader of opposition to the dictatorship.

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