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Chile's Pablo Neruda: from Nobel laureate to center of suspected murder plot

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(Read caption) This 1952 file photo shows Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in Capri, Italy.

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When Pablo Neruda died in 1973, the bookish boy from a sleepy town in southern Chile had already played many roles. He was a Nobel laureate in literature. A diplomat to Spain, France, and Burma (today Myanmar). A senator who fled his homeland on horseback when his Communist Party was banned, and later a presidential candidate. A husband to two women, a father to a daughter.

And now, four decades after his death, Mr. Neruda is at the center of a murder mystery. Was he killed in the early days of Chile’s military dictatorship?

Neruda’s widow, Matilde Urrutia, never accepted the consensus story that he died of heart failure as a result of advanced cancer. But she never came forward with the bombshell dropped a couple years ago by his assistant and driver, Manuel Araya: that Neruda had been in decent shape and was planning to fly into exile – until he was injected with an unknown substance on the day he died.

The BBC interviewed Mr. Araya, who said he remembers that day:

Despite the passage of time, Mr. Araya says he remembers clearly what happened in the days after the military coup.


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