Famed poet Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer after Chile's 1973 military coup, experts say

One of the world’s most famous poets,Pablo Neruda, died in the chaos following Chile’s 1973 military coup but it wasn’t cancer or malnutrition that killed him, forensic experts say.

The 69-year-old Nobel Laureate was said to have died of complications from prostate cancer but a panel of scientists who examined his exhumed body have rejected that finding.

Some people have speculated that Neruda was killed by agents of Gen. Augusto Pinochet after the coup that brought him to power 44 years ago.

“We still can't exclude nor affirm the natural or violent cause of Pablo Neruda's death,” Aurelio Luna, one of the panel's experts, said Friday.

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Luna told a press conference that the experts were “100% convinced” that the death certificate “does not reflect the reality of the death,” the BBC reported Saturday.

The experts will continue to carry out tests on pathogenic bacteria that might have caused Neruda’s death to determine if a third party was involved.

Neruda's body was exhumed in 2013 to determine the cause of his death but those tests showed no toxic agents or poisons in his bone. His family and driver demanded further investigation.

In 2015, Chile's government said that it's "highly probable that a third party" was responsible for his death. Neruda was reburied at his favorite home overlooking the Pacific Coast last year.

Neruda was best known for his love poems. But he was also a friend of socialist President Salvador Allende, who killed himself rather than surrender to troops during the Sept. 11, 1973, right-wing coup led by Pinochet.

Neruda was traumatized by the military takeover and the persecution and killing of his friends. He planned to go into exile, where he would have been an influential voice against the dictatorship. 

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But a day before his planned departure, he was taken by ambulance to a clinic in Santiago where he had been treated for cancer and other ailments. Neruda officially died there Sept. 23 from natural causes. But suspicions that the dictatorship had a hand in the death remained long after Chile returned to democracy in 1990.

His driver believes the poet was murdered.

“Until the day I die I will not alter my story,” Manuel Araya told the BBC in 2013. “Neruda was murdered. They didn’t want Neruda to leave the country so they killed him.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.