Suspicions rise in Pablo Neruda's death

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ISLA NEGRA, Chile (AP) — The suspicions have lingered for decades.

Pablo Neruda, Chile's Nobel Prize-winning poet, would have been a powerful voice in exile against the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. But that all changed just 24 hours before Neruda was to flee the country in the chaos following the 1973 military coup.

He was 69 years old and suffering from prostate cancer when he died, exactly 12 days after the brutal coup that ended the life of his close friend, socialist President Salvador Allende.

The official version was that he died of natural causes brought on by the trauma of witnessing the coup and the lethal persecution of many of his friends.

Some Chileans have questioned that official telling of Neruda's death and instead suspected foul play at the hands of Pinochet's regime. Those doubts could get a public airing as Chile's Communist Party asks that Neruda's body be exhumed for testing to address long-simmering suspicions that the poet was poisoned.

The judge investigating his death could rule at any moment that the exhumation go forward....

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