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New inquiry: was poet, Nobelist Neruda poisoned?

He died 12 days after Gen. Augusto Pinochet overtook the Chilean government.

By Ed Adamczyk
New inquiry: was poet, Nobelist Neruda poisoned?
Poet and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda in 1966 (CC/ Library of Congress)

SANTIAGO, Chile, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Chilean officials revealed the 1973 death of poet and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda will again be investigated to learn if he was poisoned.

Government human rights chief Francisco Ugas specifically mentioned the suspicion of poisoning in announcing the reopening of the case.

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Best known for his poetry and his 1971 Nobel Prize, Neruda, whose real name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was also a Chilean Communist Party member, a legislator and Chilean ambassador to France. Neruda died 12 days after Gen. Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile by military coup, his death certificate claiming he died of prostate cancer with no mention of poisoning.

A 2013 test of Neruda's exhumed body sought traces of poison but was negative. Upcoming tests will seek inorganic or heavy metals in his remains, officials said, and will focus on possible cellular or protein damage caused by chemicals.

"There is initial evidence that he was poisoned and in that sense the signs point to the intervention of specific agents," Ugas added.

Hospitalized immediately to his death, Neruda told an associate he felt sick after receiving an injection to his stomach. Some in Chile believe Neruda, a supporter of deposed President Salvador Allende, was poisoned to keep him from leading opposition to Pinochet's dictatorship.

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