Work under way for exhuming poet Neruda's remains



- VAR of forensic workers preparing exhumation site, bringing ladders and setting up tent for exhumation site

SOUNDBITE 1 Rodolfo Reyes (man), Pablo Neruda's nephew (Spanish, 12 sec):

"It is not easy to explain what are they going to do [to Neruda's remains], but I think it is necessary. We are distressed because he (Neruda) was a very close relative, and loved not only by the family, but also by the world."

[Spanish: No es cómodo señalarle lo que se le va a hacer, pero creo que es necesario. Tenemos un grado de congoja porque es un pariente muy directo, y no tan solo querido por la familia sino que querido por el mundo.]

SOUNDBITE 2 Rodolfo Reyes (man), Pablo Neruda's nephew (Spanish, 8 sec):

"We have to remember that during the military regime we only knew the official version, which was that Pablo Neruda died of cancer."

[Spanish: Debemos recordar que en tiempos del golpe militar conocíamos exclusivamente la versión oficial , que había muerto Pablo Neruda de cáncer.]

SOUNDBITE 3 Rodolfo Reyes (man), Pablo Neruda's nephew (Spanish, 12 sec):

"We simply want to learn the truth, to get to the bottom of the family truth. Neruda's family wants to know the truth, regardless whether he died a natural death or was killed."

[Spanish: Nosotros lo único que esperamos es que se conozca la verdad, llegar al fondo de la verdad familiar. La familia de Neruda quiere que se conozca la verdad, independientemente si murió por muerte natural o si fue asesinado.]

- Overlay of photos of Neruda

- Overlay of the house where Neruda spent his final years (including during the coup d'etat of Augusto Pinochet)

- Overlay of the bottles which Neruda collected, displayed in cases

- VAR of grave of Neruda and wife Matilde Urrutia, which face the Pacific ocean





Work under way for exhuming poet Neruda's remains

by Miguel Sanchez

ISLA NEGRA, Chile, April 7, 2013 (AFP) - Experts on Sunday started work on opening the tomb of Chilean Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, to uncover his remains and determine if he died of cancer or was poisoned.

The leftist author, who died 12 days after the 1973 military coup that ousted socialist president Salvador Allende and brought General Augusto Pinochet to power, was long believed to have died of prostate cancer.

But officials in 2011 started looking into the possibility he was poisoned by agents of the Pinochet regime, as claimed by Neruda's driver.

"We are here basically to get started with the activities related to the poet's exhumation. We started with the digging, and we are getting close to the tombstone," investigating Judge Mario Carroza told reporters at a briefing.

Neruda's body officially was to be exhumed Monday at 8 am local time (1100 GMT), but tomb opening preparations began Sunday. His remains are in a tomb at one of his homes, which was turned into a museum, in Isla Negra.

Police investigators and government forensic experts were on the scene Sunday. Around 1700 local time (2000 GMT) they set up a special tent to shield proceedings from public viewing of the tomb where the remains of his third wife, Matilde Urrutia, also are interred.

Neruda won the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature and is best known for his love poems, as well as his "Canto General" -- an epic poem about South America's history and its people.

The Chilean justice system gave the go-ahead for the probe in June 2011 after a complaint was filed by the Chilean Communist Party, of which Neruda was a member.

In addition to the driver's accusations, the official complaint cites witnesses who say Neruda was healthy up until the day before his death. They said he did not exhibit symptoms consistent with the advanced cancer to which he was said to have lost his life.

The results of the inquiry will find in favor of, or against, the charge made by Neruda's driver and personal adviser Manuel Araya, who believed the poet was slain. Araya's claims spurred on the Communist Party's complaint.

Araya says Neruda died after receiving what the driver believed was a suspicious injection at Santiago's Santa Maria Hospital days after the coup that brought Pinochet to power.

Neruda's death certificate, to which AFP obtained access, says he died of complications of metastases of prostate cancer.

Neruda's family and the official foundation that administers his work have both accepted the official cause of death, saying in a 2011 statement that there was "no evidence or proof" to suggest foul play.

Rodolfo Reyes, Pablo Neruda's nephew, speaking at the grave site, said: "We simply want to learn the truth, to get to the bottom of the family truth."