The remains of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) were exhumed here Monday to determine if he died of cancer or was murdered by agents of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
After several months of preparations, the procedure to extract the remains of the 1971 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature took no more than an hour.
Neruda died on Sept. 23, 1973, 12 days after Gen. Augusto Pinochet toppled Chile's Socialist government in a bloody coup.
The poet and former diplomat's death was officially blamed on cancer, but an investigation was opened in mid-2011 after a complaint was filed by Neruda's Communist Party colleagues based on charges by former chauffeur Manuel Araya that Neruda was murdered on Pinochet's orders.
Neruda passed away in the same Santiago clinic where former President Eduardo Frei Montalva died in 1982. The erstwhile head of state's death was also attributed to natural causes, but a 2009 probe determined that he was poisoned.
Neruda's remains were immediately transported to Santiago where a dozen Chilean and foreign experts will perform "all the tests that may be necessary," according to the judge's order.
Witnessing the exhumation were Chilean Communist Party leader Guillermo Teillier, plaintiff's attorney Eduardo Contreras, Araya, relatives of the poet and representatives of the Pablo Neruda Foundation.
"Neruda received an injection on Sept. 23 (1973). If they would not have given him that injection, Neruda would not have died," Araya insisted.
"He had to travel on the 24th to Mexico, and on the 23rd he received this injection and died six hours later. Besides, there is the coincidence that they sent me to find a medication and detained me and left Pablo Neruda alone. There is sufficient evidence that Neruda was murdered," he said.
Contreras said that "this is not just about the scientific (aspect of the case), which certainly would help a lot, but also about the strange circumstances revealed in the process, contradictions, doctors who didn't exist, files that aren't showing up, that were lost." EFE