Nuevo Culture

Chile Reopens Case Into Pablo Neruda’s Death — Here’s Why

An appeals court in Santiago has unanimously reopened the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of celebrated Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda died on  September 23rd, 1973, only 12 days after the coup that installed dictator Augusto Pinochet into power. Neruda was very vocal against Pinochet’s regime.

The investigation was closed last September, but the appeals court ordered it open once again, considering there are still steps that can be taken to determine if Neruda died of natural causes, cancer or poisoning. Among these is an examination of the poet’s death certificate and interrogation of doctor and retired Army officer Eduardo Arriagada Rehren. 

Arriagada was convicted in 2021 for the murder of communist sympathizer Archivaldo Morales — who was injected with dipyridamole to cause a heart attack, in a story that bears a striking similarity to what happened to Neruda.

Neruda, a well-known friend of Chilean President Salvador Allende, planned to go into exile after the coup. A day before his planned departure, however, the writer, who suffered from metastatic prostate cancer, had to be taken to the hospital via ambulance. He died a day later. For 38 years, cancer was considered his official cause of death.

But suspicions that Neruda’s death had nothing to do with his disease have lingered in Chile since the country returned to democracy. In 2011 his former driver, Manuel Araya, told Mexican magazine Proceso that Neruda had been murdered via injection at the clinic. That’s what led the Chilean government to the investigation into his death.

Three different scientific panels have analyzed the case and arrived at different conclusions, with no certainty being provided that Neruda’s death was natural causes, but the possibility of death by poisoning is not being ruled out either.

Pablo Neruda is one of the most celebrated Latin American writers and Chile’s most renowned poet. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. His Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair are considered one of the pinnacles of romantic poetry.