In Brief

Chile admits that Pablo Neruda was probably murdered

It is 'clearly possible and highly probable' Chile's best-loved poet was killed under Pinochet's regime

The Chilean government has admitted that Pablo Neruda might have been murdered shortly after the coup that ushered in the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The Nobel Prize-winning poet and political activist supposedly died of cancer in 1973, but rumours that he was killed by Pinochet's troops have lingered for decades. 

The country's Interior Ministry has now said "it's clearly possible and highly probable" that a third party was responsible for his death, the Associated Press reports. However, it warned that an official investigation into his death had not yet reached its conclusion.

Who was Pablo Neruda?

His best-know work – Twenty Love Poems and a Desperate Song –was first published when Neruda was just 19. He went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971 for poetry that "brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams". Neruda was famed for his passionate love poems but equally well known for his fervent Marxist views.

He was a lifelong member of Chile's Communist Party, a former diplomat and a close friend of socialist President Salvador Allende, who committed suicide as Pinochet's troops stormed the presidential palace. Neruda intended to go into exile shortly after Pinochet came to power, but died a day before his planned departure.

What happened to him? 

Officially, Neruda died of prostate cancer in a Santiago hospital on 23 September 1973, aged 69. But his chauffeur, Manuel Araya, has long alleged that he was murdered by Pinochet's agents who took advantage of his illness. He claims they gave him a lethal injection while he was in hospital over fears that he could become the leader of the opposition to the dictatorship.  

"Until the day I die I will not alter my story," Araya told the BBC. "Neruda was murdered. They didn't want Neruda to leave the country so they killed him."

The official investigation into Neruda's death continues.

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