ONTARIO – The remains of Pablo Neruda have arrived in Canada. In the next months, they will be investigated to determine the cause of death of Neruda. Family members claim the Chilean poet was killed by the military dictatorship.
Pablo Neruda died twelve days after Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile. His family members have always claimed the Nobel Prize winner was assassinated with poison. To clarify what killed Neruda, his remains have arrived today at the MacMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where specialists will investigate the cause of death.
Pablo Neruda was an active member of the Communist Party, which made him a threat to Augusto Pinochet. Twelve days after Pinochet came to power by overthrowing the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende, Neruda died in the Santa María clinic in Santiago. On his death certificate was established the poet had died of heart failure due to cancer cachexia.
Claims of Poisoning
In 2011, Manuel Araya, former driver of Neruda, claimed in an interview that Neruda had been poisoned by doctors in the Santa María clinic. According to Araya, they had injected a substance in Neruda’s stomach. In a 2013 interview with the BBC, Araya confirmed the allegations:
“On the morning of 23 September, Matilde (Neruda’s wife) and I went back to Isla Negra to collect some of his belongings. While we were there, we received a phone call from Neruda in the clinic. He said ‘Come back here quickly! While I was sleeping a doctor came in and gave me an injection in the stomach.'”
Araya and Neruda’s wife drove back to Santiago. Pablo Neruda would die that same night.
So Who (or What) Killed Pablo Neruda?
After the interview, family members of Pablo Neruda started a legal battle to have Neruda’s remains exhumed and examined to determine the cause of death. In 2013, the remains of Neruda were sent to forensic laboratories in four different countries.
In 2017, the experts unanimously rejected that it had been cancer cachexia that killed Neruda. A Spanish expert claimed according to The Guardian that the death certificate “does not reflect the reality of the death”, while Danish experts said that there were no signs of weight loss, one of the side effects of this type of cancer.
Although Neruda has been reburied on Isla Negra, samples of his body are still finding their way to forensic laboratories all over the world. Without medical records of his time in the Santa María clinic and with over 45 years passed since his death, determining the cause of death is no minor challenge. But his family members will not stop until they have found the answer on the question: what killed Pablo Neruda?
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.