SANTIAGO, CHILE - The body of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda will be exhumed on April 8. The move stems from claims by his former driver that the poet was poisoned under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Neruda is presumed to have died of prostate cancer in 1973. But his former chauffeur and others believe someone injected poison into his stomach during a stay at a clinic in Santiago.
"I maintain Neruda did not die from illness as they said," the poet's former driver, Manuel Araya, said. "Neruda was not sick enough to die. His cancer was under control and he could have lived for eight, 10 more years. His illness was not that serious. When he left here on (September 19, 1973), he walked out, sad because of the death of Allende. But it's not true that Neruda couldn't walk and was, as they say, full of tubes. He never had a tube in his body, never."
According to Eduardo Contreras, a lawyer who worked to have the case reopened, "Neruda went into the Santa Maria clinic on September 19 and the doctor who gave the order for his injection, curiously, started on September 20. The day after Neruda showed up as a patient this doctor comes into the Santa Maria clinic as an employee."
Neruda was a supporter of socialist president Salvador Allende who was toppled in a military coup supported by the CIA nearly two weeks before Neruda's death. Neruda is known for his passionate love poems and staunch communist views.
His nephew, Rodolfo Reyes, told NBC News, "There seems to be participation by third parties. That would have to be corroborated by Neruda's body when they exhume him and do the biopsy to see whether he died from cancer, as the official story goes, or whether there was a drug or some other strange element that may have caused his death. The process up until now has been going very well led by the minister (Mario) Carroza. We hope that it arrives to a good conclusion. Neruda deserves it, and the world deserves to know the truth."