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Foundation: Chile to exhume body of Nobel laureate

By CNN Staff
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 2326 GMT (0726 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pablo Neruda died in 1973, just days after a right-wing military coup
  • His death certificate says he died of prostate cancer
  • Neruda's former chauffeur alleges that the poet was killed by an injection

(CNN) -- Chilean authorities will exhume the body of poet Pablo Neruda as part of an investigation into his 1973 death, a foundation said Friday.

Neruda is buried alongside his wife, Matilde Urrutia, in Isla Negra, a coastal area in central Chile.

He died on September 23, 1973, just 12 days after a right-wing military coup ousted socialist President Salvador Allende.

"We hope that the exam will help to clarify doubts that might exist with respect to the poet's death," the Pablo Neruda Foundation said in a statement.

It said a date for the exhumation has not been set.

The Nobel Prize-winning poet's death certificate says he died of prostate cancer, but Neruda's former chauffeur alleges that he was killed by an injection in the clinic where he was undergoing treatment, according to Chile's Communist Party, which called for Neruda to be exhumed.

Neruda, a Communist Party member, was also a lawmaker and served as Chile's ambassador to France.

Internationally, he is best known for his writing.

Neruda received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971 "for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams."

The investigation into his death follows another high-profile exhumation.

As part of a massive probe of 726 reported human rights violations during Gen. Augusto Pinochet's rule, Chilean authorities exhumed Allende's body in 2011.

Official accounts ruled the leftist leader's death a suicide, saying that he shot himself -- with a gun that was reportedly a gift from Fidel Castro -- as Pinochet's troops closed in on the presidential palace.

In July 2011, Chile's Legal Medical Service confirmed that suicide was the cause of Allende's death.

CNN's Dana Ford and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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