3 Jun 2011

Judge orders inquiry into Pablo Neruda's death

8:34 pm on 3 June 2011

A judge in Chile has ordered an investigation into the 1973 death of Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda following allegations he may have been poisoned.

Neruda, a Communist and friend of former President Salvador Allende, died in the immediate aftermath of the military coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power.

Neruda's family and the foundation that guards his legacy has always maintained that the politically outspoken poet died in a clinic in Santiago of advanced prostate cancer when he was 69, the BBC reports.

However, pressed by Chile's Communist Party, a judge has now ordered a murder investigation, following allegations from his former driver that agents injected him with poison at the clinic on General Pinochet's orders 12 days after the coup.

Neruda had severely criticised the military for what he saw as a betrayal of his country.

In April, the remains of President Allende were exhumed on the orders of the same judge, in an effort to clarify whether he committed suicide - as is widely believed - or was killed by soldiers who stormed the presidential palace during the coup.